When I think about the president, I don’t typically think about the president as poet. Metrical mastery doesn’t exactly sell, I imagine, when it comes to bids for the presidency. Then again, poets have always been a problematic group in the polity; Plato’s Republic expressly forbids the poet’s practice, ironically, because the poet, as a representer of the world, must always necessarily misrepresent the world. I say that this is ironic because it seems that one of the most commonly levied complaints about American politics is that our politicians, including our presidents — ehem Nixon — aren’t “giving it to us straight.” Who can forget the postmodern poetic stylings of Clinton’s “what ‘is’ is,” or Bush’s masterful use of pronomial confusion in “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful / and so are we. / They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, / and neither do we.”
by Barack Obama
Sitting in his seat, a seat broad and broken
In, sprinkled with ashes,
Pop switches channels, takes another
Shot of Seagrams, neat, and asks
What to do with me, a green young man
Who fails to consider the
Flim and flam of the world, since
Things have been easy for me;
I stare hard at his face, a stare
That deflects off his brow;
I’m sure he’s unaware of his
Dark, watery eyes, that
Glance in different directions,
And his slow, unwelcome twitches,
Fail to pass.
I listen, nod,
Listen, open, till I cling to his pale,
Beige T-shirt, yelling,
Yelling in his ears, that hang
With heavy lobes, but he’s still telling
His joke, so I ask why
He’s so unhappy, to which he replies…
But I don’t care anymore, cause
He took too damn long, and from
Under my seat, I pull out the
Mirror I’ve been saving; I’m laughing,
Laughing loud, the blood rushing from his face
To mine, as he grows small,
A spot in my brain, something
That may be squeezed out, like a
Watermelon seed between
Pop takes another shot, neat,
Points out the same amber
Stain on his shorts that I’ve got on mine, and
Makes me smell his smell, coming
From me; he switches channels, recites an old poem
He wrote before his mother died,
Stands, shouts, and asks
For a hug, as I shink, my
Arms barely reaching around
His thick, oily neck, and his broad back; ‘cause
I see my face, framed within
Pop’s black-framed glasses
And know he’s laughing too.
“A death-bed Adieu. Th:J to MR.”
by Thomas Jefferson
Life’s visions are vanished, it’s dreams are no more.
Dear friends of my bosom, why bathed in tears?
I go to my fathers; I welcome the shore,
which crowns all my hopes, or which buries my cares.
Then farewell my dear, my lov’d daughter, Adieu!
The last pang in life is in parting from you.
Two Seraphs await me, long shrouded in death;
I will bear them your love on my last parting breath.