Friday, December 22, 2006

A Munificent Travesty

(After the style of Robert Browning's "Childe Rowland to the Dark Tower Came")

Upon a building’s rubble he once stood
Then raised a megaphone before his lips
And sent a message in the form of quips
To those he said had done his land no good
He would, he swore, avenge the neighborhood
On those who took advantage of his slips

He maybe thought that he would strike some fear
Into the perpetrators dead below
Some corpses burnt to cinders, smoking slow
Who one would think could hardly see or hear
His threats to kill someone that they held dear:
Identities that he could never know

Yet, still, the ones who did the awful deed
Had Saudi friends – and well-connected, too
Who from the coop straightforward homeward flew
No questions asked of those whom Dubya freed
A bull-horn set to mouth with all mad speed:
“This child will get Saddam Hussein,” he blew

The child apprentice knight errant set out
To prove his mettle in a grand crusade
While posing boldly; stern and unafraid
Advice from wiser men he chose to flout
Believing in a “higher” father’s clout
His earthly dad’s renown he soon unmade

In thrall to visions fed him in the dark
By courtiers who whispered in his ear
He thought himself the point upon a spear
Embarked upon an epic Sunday lark
Deployed to vanquish picnics in the park
On cakewalks such as this, what fool felt fear?

Somehow, he’d got his hands upon a toy
A power dark and dangerous to flaunt
But even worse if loosed upon a jaunt:
A game of chance played by a little boy
He threw the deadly dice; consumed in joy,
Both enemies and friends he chose to taunt

Whatever words he spoke, the press would buy
Although not worth the ink and paper cost
Whatever thoughts he gained he quickly lost
His “mind” as evanescent as a sigh
The word came down from editors on high:
“Portray him as the dew and not the frost”

So, unexamined outside or within
Child Dubya took to walking while asleep
Commander of his clueless castle keep
He sallied forth, his conquest to begin
With trumpet fanfare urging him to win
He rode up to a canyon wide and deep

This great depression had an entry sign
Beside which carving sat a lonely wretch
Who cautioned that an act of faith would stretch
Good fortune past its outer limit line
Advising reason rather less malign,
The wraith read warnings scratched into the etch:

“A child unto the darkened power came
Unbidden but attracted nonetheless
Too innocent of strife to bear the stress
Too inexperienced to know the game
Who entered with excuses long and lame
And smelled some blood – of whom he could not guess”

There at decision’s fork, he barely stayed
To ridicule the one who said “Go back!
Or turn aside for knowledge that you lack
Or else prepare to learn where you have strayed
Into those traps for you that Fate’s arrayed
Too late retreat; too early to attack”

Child Dubya to the crippled beggar lied
With every word that in his mouth congealed
Yet in the wretch’s glance he saw revealed
His own bedraggled bogus baleful pride
Reflecting back at him a taunting snide
That showed what he had from himself concealed

What opportunity lay here at hand!
What challenge for the world’s self-mocking elf!
No weaponry not stocked upon the shelf
No army not awaiting his command
No chance of any needed reprimand
Command thus issued orders to itself

In all the world he had no puerile peer
No younger child nor older fool compared
No losing prospect loomed and so he dared
To sail -- without a star by which to steer
Aboard, a blind Parsee to serve as seer --
With fluttered sails and shivered timbers bared

The sun came up just so that he could see
But then went down for feeling hardly used
In black of day he saw with circuits fused
No breakers tripped, and so the amps ran free
Which boiled his brain into a fricassee:
Stewed meat cut small like those whom he abused

The night came on so he could get more rest
Still feeling tired from all his daytime naps
Untroubled by his military flaps
With all the answers, he still failed the test
Despite all that his “higher” father blessed:
Like deadbeat sons who lose at cards and craps

With sunrise and with sundown impotent
To signal “charge” or sound a wise retreat
He lost a victory but won defeat
The moment he decided to relent
To every wastrel instinct that he spent
By pouring gas on flames to make more heat

The earth and sky and waters gathered round
To cheer him on, as his advisor said
Although his thought unwoven had no thread
No warp or woof to weave a fabric sound
His artless tapestry fell to the ground
For having neither rudder, wings, nor head

“Now stab Saddam Hussein!” he heard a voice
From somewhere undisclosed yet nearby still;
“And then upon his folk impose our will!
Call this ‘democracy’ and offer choice:
A Cadillac, Mercedes, or Rolls Royce?
To those who send the others off to kill”

”Those tolling bells that signal the alarm?
Pay them no mind for what do others know?
Who never had the chance this much to blow
Or millions such as we can bring to harm
Or billions we can squander on a farm
That never any profit has to show!”

“Like Ishmael and Queequeg on the town
We have no cause to pay them any heed
These Tom O’Bedlams out to score some feed
These crippled, mad Elijahs always frown
And warn us that with Ahab we might drown
Just syndrome-selling sailors gone to seed”

So down into the murky gloom he slid
Ignoring veterans of such a march
Who pointed to a cave door not an arch
Who saw the trashcan rather than its lid
Who knew the “bad guys” hadn’t run but hid
Who’d seen their friends laid out as stiff as starch

Yet childish Dubya sought a holy grail
Which he had heard lay free for him to find
But which instead made him its grist to grind
So he “decided” he would flop and flail
While “bad guys” poured some salt upon his tail
Which left him flightless; caged in his own bind

At any noble quest, he’d not succeed
Valhalla’s maids pick others from the field
Who fought the losing fight but did not yield
As much as him who gave in to his need
To mouth a motto, making it a screed
Employing symbol soldiers as his shield

Behind the sacred aegis of the troops
Whose nameless features saved for him his face
He found that they had marked for him a place
A sanctuary wherein he rode loops
Around on his bicycle through some hoops;
Where he could disappear without a trace

So as the wars he started fiercely blazed
He grew more insignificant each day
As his incompetence came into play
When seen in public forums badly dazed
He seemed outright and frankly simply crazed
His bafflement loomed large and on display

He kept insisting that he held the reins
No power had, he said, fell from his grasp
And yet events could only make one gasp
To witness all the petty, paltry pains
He took pretending that he felt no strains
As others tried to save him in their clasp

The bugle of the cavalry he heard
Sent on a mission, his bare ass to save
Yet this would not relieve but just deprave
Humiliating help has never cured
A drowning feline rescued by a bird
Who’d rule in Hell before be Heaven’s slave

Content with thoughts of predecessors who
In death long since had earned a fair regard,
No matter how he trashed the playground yard,
Child Dubya just supposed that he would, too;
And won with his wild antics no canard
Just Truth which will forever turn the screw

He’d sought a vast dark tower to accost
Whose terrors he proposed to vanquish quick
With slogans from which he could have his pick
In nightmare tempests soon he turned and tossed
Urged on to more mistakes by one he bossed
Left only with more endless wounds to lick

A travesty of such munificence!
So generous in its monstrosity!
A heaping helping of a perfidy;
Betrayal of a trusting innocence;
Converted now to just incontinence
The duped now see their own stupidity

Now who hurts worse: the liar or his sap?
As those fooled many times much more than once
Have now to face the corner as a dunce
And sit upon a stool with clownish cap
While knowing who has fed them worthless crap
And will again, as will all lying runts

For who has cleaned the leopard of his spots?
Why would success at lying make it cease?
No charges filed? No prisoner release!
Why think of spurting blood that never clots?
Or any corpse that in its shroud now rots?
Who now will dare demand a chance for peace?

Child Dubya to the Dark Power came and cried:
“At last, I can command while in my briefs
And steal not just like other tyrant thiefs
But more because the ones who’ve fought and died
And those upon whose freedoms I have spied
Like all good injuns, need commanding chiefs”

Michael Murry, "The Misfortune Teller," Copyright 2006


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