BOOK III

Over the verdant earth not one kind of Strife brings discord to us,
But three: the first being War, the bastard child of Ares, the greatest of calamities,
Where the drops of young blood, combat’s sad fruit, soak the fields of battle,
Then Politics, in which great leaders marshal armies of analysts and door-knockers
Arguing, reasoning, cajoling for every vote, for the great victory
And finally, the third, football.
And finally, the third, football. For the second and most glorious of prizes
President of all the states united, leadership of all under Olympus
The two candidates embarked on silver wings, leaving their New York homes
Headed for Saint Louis, the archèd city, gateway to the American West.

As the smog-laden fingers of Dawn rose slowly in the East,
Two aircraft took off: one, a rented seven-three-seven, painted blue and white
With Hillary the Chosen on board, and the other, in glistening gold
A seven-five-seven, much bigger, where on a gold-plated throne sat
The Trump, fingering his phone, the tweets wafting in sweet-smelling airs
No apology, no explanation, but attack!
No apology, no explanation, but attack! “No one more abusive,” he typed,
Than me, he thought, “than Bill Clinton,” he typed, “far worse!”

In the cabin, where Armani-clad women compared their purses,
Strode across Persian carpet in Jimmy Choos, sipped fine Chardonnay
And the strong-stomached men drank Macallan 25 from crystal tumblers,
Jared, lovely Ivanka’s mate, asked, “Where, oh where, is the great man?”
Long-toothed Kellyanne, the campaign boss, answered him directly:
“He is on the golden Crapper, tweeting.” And all through the aircraft,
Jetting through the October chill, the word went out, front to back,
From pilot to staff to the adoring reporters of fair and balanced Fox,
“He’s tweeting! He’s tweeting!” All paused, fingers fat and delicate,
Long and diminutive, reached for their phones, to see the Words,
Patiently they waited, for their leader’s missive from the fragrant font
One hundred forty characters direct from the Trump, as if he’d said them
Himself, right to them, as if he were right in front of them, honoring them
Personally, his portentous presence before their very humble selves.

Then on all the glowing screens the brief text appeared,
The murmurs continued, the heads nodded, they smiled in rapturous joy:
“Yes, he’s right! He’s right! Bill abused those women, Paula and Kathleen
Poor Gennifer and dark-haired Monica!” Thus were the minions of the Trump armed
Against the left-leaning reporters and lying liberal analysts
Prepared to whatabout, and they believed it, all of them.
As on the floor of the wine-dark sea, where all manner of detritus falls,
To rest forever, to become homes for crabs and slippery lampreys
So the words of the Trump landed in their receptive minds, floating at first
Then sank, slowly, like the excretions of whales, forever to stay,
Nourishing their bedtime child-scaring tales of evil conspiracy.

Angry Hannity read it, and smiled, readied his nightly rant, and
Stern Lou Dobbs, along with righteous O’Reilly, they too nodded in satisfaction.
Why they hated Hillary of Yale not even they knew, but it was in their bones
Yes, Chicago-born Hillary served as First Lady, true, but what was a First Lady
But one who decided upon flowers for the Blue Room?
But one who decided upon flowers for the Blue Room?But no! Strident Hillary
Dragged them in, the pharma giants, the insurance bosses, to fix healthcare
That poor children could have medicines; how they despised her that!
A woman! An attack on their system! On their portfolios! A woman!
Oh, the salvo they would launch against her this very night, the eve
Of the great debate in the city by the river, Saint Louis of the golden arch.

Unsuspecting, unaware, at peace, confident, the Chosen of blessed Obama
Passed the time on her plane, chatting with her friend Huma, Weiner’s wife,
Through the window she peered, looking down, planning,
How she could help the dairy farmers below, in Pennsylvania,
Later as they jetted past rusty Gary, Indiana, she worked on an idea
To bring steelworker jobs back to the heartland, to strengthen unions
Find new markets for Ford and GM and Chrysler, once proud company of Lee
Over Chicago of the great Tower, she’d champion the rights of all,
Quell the unrest, quiet the crime, bring calm to a troubled city.
Policies! Policies can improve the lives of all Americans, she knew that.
Victory guaranteed, even the debate seemed a waste of time,
Useless formality, but Hillary, champion of Moot Court, wanted the win.

On the golden fifty-seven the Trump too gazed upon the American earth,
Over Pittsburgh, home of US Steel, wondered how much stock he owned,
Tariffs would bump its value, no question, he’d definitely do it
Chicago loomed, and he squinted his tanned eyelids, could he spy the gold
The Trump’s own Hotel, on North Wabash, riverside? Was that it?
Turning south, Trump Force One began its descent, passing over Springfield
Home of Lincoln, but by then the Trump had closed his weary eyes.

The campaigns had agreed upon Nobel-blessed Washington University
Deep in St. Louis, as the venue for the candidates’ single combat, in the
Athletic Center, where the Woman of Wellesley and Wharton’s Best would wrestle.
A Town Hall it would be, as if a country of three hundred million could gather
To decide the issues of the day; instead eight lucky ones carefully selected
Would represent us all. Thrice-married Martha Raddatz and Anderson, Gloria’s son,
Were charged with maintaining order. Across the great land, from lobster-rich Maine
To Silicon Valley, from taquerias in blistering New Mexico to bourbon-fueled Kentucky
Across America’s great breadth, people gathered to listen, to hear
Even in the White House, they were gathered, all around blessed Obama,
Sober Kerry and smiling Biden, brilliant Valerie Jarrett, and holy Michelle too
All wondered how the man in the red tie could get out of this one.
How would the Trump explain it? What would he say about his grabs?
Would the proud New Yorker be humbled, head hung, speak of contrition?
And in truth Kellyanne and Manafort and Bannon, they wondered too,
As did Huma and Mook and Tim Kaine, and Hillary herself. What would he say?

But Shame, the regretful one, full of self-loathing, was banished from this house.
The first question to the Trump, did his behavior make him a role model for youth?
As if he cared. “But this is locker room talk. You know, when we have a world
Where you have ISIS chopping off heads, drowning people in steel cages,
Where you have wars and horrible, horrible sights all over
And you have so many bad things happening, this is like medieval times.
We haven’t seen anything like this. The carnage all over the world!”
And that was his answer, and he stood tall, well satisfied with his words.
Backstage Chris Christie gasped, and flowing-haired Bannon smiled wide,
Kellyanne high-fived rodent-like Jared: it was done! Behind them! Case closed!
But Anderson, with the horn-rimmed glasses, persisted, “For the record, are you saying?”
And the Trump, master of wit, parried those thrusts, “I have great respect for women.
Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” and Kellyanne and lovely Ivanka nodded
As the Trump himself thought, but slyly kept these words to himself,
And nobody has more lust for women than I do!
And nobody has more lust for women than I do! Hillary of the pantsuit fired back
“This is who Donald Trump is, our country must answer: this is not who we are.”
A solid blow, well-aimed, well-fired, yet no one saw the Trump flinch
Is that the best you got, his well-tanned face, filled with contempt, seemed to say.
Backstage, Huma, Wiener’s wife, mouthed “more,” knowing, as did Mook and Podesta,
Her well-targeted words were not enough to resist the Trump’s fusillade of bluster.
“We’re also letting drugs pour through our southern border at a record clip.
ICE just endorsed me. They never endorsed a presidential candidate.
The border patrol agents, 16,500 just recently endorsed me, I understand the border.
Hillary Clinton is raising your taxes, folks, she is raising your taxes, really high
A disaster for the country.” What could stand up to that incessant barrage?
And folks! Hillary called them voters, the electorate, citizens, but the Trump
Said “folks,” and the Garth-loving masses in Alabama and Texas and Nebraska
Warmed to him, as he spoke, using words they well understood.

Yet Hillary persevered. “Let’s talk about what’s really going on here, Martha,
Because our intelligence community just came out and said in the last few days that the Kremlin, meaning Putin and the Russian government, are directing the attacks,”
And everyone yawned. Yawned! Lost interest! Went to the kitchen for Doritos!
What attacks? We didn’t feel any explosions, we saw no rampant destruction!
Then in the Trump’s mind Artemis, lover of the jack-chested Smith, Hephaestus,
Planted a vision, a scene from the grassy savannah under the African sun
An old impala munching, past its time, once sleek and simple, no longer.
Not far away, on its muscle-laden haunches, a tawny-haired lion
Trailed its victim, planning its strike, preparing to pounce
And so the Trump, feeling the feline power, moved about the stage,
Stealthily positioned himself behind Hillary, so softly, couldn’t be heard,
Though seen by millions on television, YouTube and Facebook,
The hot blood of the hungry lion filled his veins, he was closing in
He felt it! Closing for the kill! His tiny fingers outstretched, his claws, the kill!
Yes, that is right, a Great Hunter I am! – was the thought in the brain of the Trump.

What is that creep doing? Was the thought that passed through Hillary’s mind
Not unaware of her stalker, as she spoke she wondered what to do
Tell him to go back to his corner, get away from her, how would that play?
A righteous woman defending herself? Or a pushy, aggressive bitch?
And a great wave of sadness came over her, deep, ineffable,
The ceiling, the glass ceiling, she felt it now, how hard it was,
Could any woman ever break through?

Above in the sky the deathless gods observed the verbal combat,
White-armed Hera, queen of the gods, champion of white-armed Hillary
Sometimes laughing, sometimes spluttering in outrage at the Trump
Cheering on the Woman of Wellesley, reveling in her triumph,
At her side, fair-haired Phoebus Apollo, the Just, nodded sagely,
While Olympian Zeus, unquestioned king of all the gods, snoozed
And Dionysos, Lord of the Grape, danced with frenetic steps,
Celebrating victorious Hillary below.
Celebrating victorious Hillary below. Whereas Artemis with the Smith
Knew it, that an invisible shield, crafted in secret by her well-ripped lover
Kept Hillary’s blows from landing. In the press booths and studios
Across the nation the pundits spoke, as one, in harmonious chorus,
“Oh Hillary, turn around! Face the fat one and use your pointed knee,
Let it fly at his hard-to-find crotch, double him over,”
But Hillary, remembered the dictum of Michelle, revered among women,
When they go low, we go high. With that in mind Hillary continued,
Explaining immigration policy and appealing to the people’s higher nature
And in the suburbs, in living rooms with soccer balls and photos on the mantle
They listened, they approved, hated the man who grabbed their privates
But she never could she equal the speechifying of blessed Obama
Where his words soared, hers bored.
Where his words soared, hers bored. With the end of the debate,
On the spin rooms descended all, reporters and staffers alike
With a mighty and noble goal, to set perceptions, to mold reality
There was Lester with large-toothed Kellyanne, saying,
“You heard the Trump say it, that he respects women
Like no other, what more need we say?” And Lester of the great forehead
Replied with another question, “But just two days ago –”
“Locker room talk,” Kellyanne shot back, “haven’t you ever said the same?”
Taken aback, Lester, echoing Manafort, replied in stunned words,
“Well, no, not really.” “Oh come on, Lester,” the wife of Conway coyly teased,
“Not really? Really?” she goaded him, fluttering her lashes
But before he could answer the Trump himself appeared
“Oh, sir, you were so great,” Kellyanne flattered him, as only she could,
For which the great and ponderous Trump rewarded her with a grin.
“I know,” he told her, for of what use is false modesty?
“Mister Trump,’ Lester began, for that was his job, to ask the hard questions,
But before he could, the massive mound that was Christie shuffled him away.
Oh how the drinks flowed, from cases of Dom Perignon and Hennessy
Brought direct from Trump Tower aboard the golden fifty-seven
And everyone had a good time.
And everyone had a good time. Elsewhere on the Democratic side
Huma and Mook and Podesta, all of them, buttonholed reporters here and there
Not much need to spin it, the Trump – practically incomprehensible, they said,
Smiled knowing smiles. The chatter was subdued, quiet,
Hillary herself didn’t bother to appear, went back to her hotel to sleep
Some of the reporters wished they were in the other room.