BOOK IX

From the muddy hamlets of forested Mississippi to Georgia’s Stone Mountain
Where Jackson, Davis and Lee, Confederate heroes all, are carved into hard granite
From sweltering Texas, where semiautomatics and over-unders and AR’s
Are beloved, more so than children (so ungrateful), are pried from cold dead hands,
To the great rolling wheatlands of fertile Kansas and Nebraska,
Even through – tho’ hardly expected – rusty Ohio and coal-blackened Pennsylvania
A great cheer went up, a howling hullabaloo, millions of voices as one,
As if the whole green Earth erupted in wildfire,
That the Trump, the true and worthy son of Fred, the Man of Manhattan,
Had vanquished in fair fight the evil, the corrupt, the elite Woman of Wellesley.
The joy! The sheer ecstasy! That the voices of the downtrodden,
So long ignored – those poor disrobed Klansmen and women, the necks of red,
The racists and the billionaires, comrades all, as one, arm in arm, they’d risen up!

On Fox, fair and balanced, happy Hannity, panting, his white teeth bared
Called on the victor to exact a dreadful revenge upon the vanquished hag,
“Lock her up!” he himself shouted on-air, and across the great virgin land,
Laid bare and exposed before them, the Trumpians roared their terrible assent.
And hearing their war-cries, the swamp-dwellers of the nation’s capital
Trembled, hardly knowing what to expect, for who knew what havoc
The Trump, the proclaimed bureaucrat-buster, would loose upon them?

As a pack of rabid rats, maddened by hunger and thirst and unreasoning hate
And, most of all, by the unremitting contempt of creatures superior to them,
But now emboldened, driven insane, inflamed by pitiless disease
Attack in every direction, take down everything around them,
No matter the consequence, no matter!
So too did the followers of the Orange One take to the streets,
White supremacists, suppressed by the politically correct, oh, the whiners,
The gunsmen, their AR15’s unsheathed, at the Capitol gates!
Not the Stars and Stripes but the tattered Stars and Bars fluttered in the wind,
Rebels to the end!
Rebels to the end!“Oh my Captain,” they shouted out to the Trump,
Beloved among billionaires, “lead us! Let us storm Washington’s gates!”
And seeing them on television, reclining in his golden chair,
That throne covered in gold leaf, with ball-and-claw feet, bought from Sotheby’s
Nothing more beautiful, more rare, can’t buy anything like it these days,
Seeing them, the Trump, idolized among men, smiled in approval.

And yet … and yet … high in the golden Tower, alone in her boudoir,
Sitting at her pearl-inlaid vanity, cosmetics arrayed before her,
Mesdames L’Oréal et Chanel et M. Givenchy et Dior and all of them
One, alone, in the quiet peace of her well-draped chamber,
Melania, her eyes neither cruel nor alluring nor even painted, wept.

Sing to me now, O beloved Muse, let me be your willing vessel,
Let your verses flow like a clear mountain brook through me
Carrying the cool rainy droplets from the peak, winding through
Woods and pastures, around boulders, over cliffs and rapids,
Ever downward, inexorably, inevitably, toward the valley of truth;
Tell me now, Muse, the tale of Melania, and why
On that day of days, when Destiny herself visited, why the tears fell.

Once upon a fabled time, in the New Place, in sunny Yugoslavia,
Where dark well-plowed fields yielded lush crops of grain
Where Tito, the fierce partisan-king, ruled with a fair and just hand –
A little nymph flew down, directed by golden Aphrodite herself,
From fog-shrouded Olympus, on a happy mission
To the tiny village of Sevnica, along the fast-flowing River Sava,
To find the perfect couple. For once in a generation,
The love goddess gives a blessed daughter to the mortal world
A beauty, a beguiler, seducing the minds of all, and the bodies of some
Helen, who’d started all that trouble in windy Troy, was one,
And ebony-haired Cleopatra, nemesis of Caesars and Antony’s love,
Another. To deliver the divine daughter of Aphrodite,
The nymph did glide.

The nymph did glide.Through the quaint town, along its cobbled streets
Into the factories, shining miracles of glorious socialist labor,
Where happy workers strove in harmony to realize Marx’s dream,
Unseen the nymph flew, from here to there, along Kladnikova Avenue
To Kvedrova Road, along the railways and through the thick woods
Finding at last thick-sinewed Luka and dark-eyed Maša, lovers.
Under the bough of a spreading beech tree,
His brawny arms wrapped around her silky skin,
Her lips pressed against his, her hands in his wavy black hair,
Their hot passion driving their passion-filled souls closer, closer!
Satisfied her quest at an end, the pleased nymph smiled,
Resolving to plant her mistress’ seed at sunrise the very next day.
Fluttering her gossamer wings away, the little sprite thought to take a break
Alighting at one of Sevnica’s quiet little pubs; there, taking on human form,
She chugged a mug of the sweet nectar of Slovenia, Slivovitz!
From pure plums distilled, potent enough to pulverize a wrestler!
One; then – another; and another. And then: could it be? Young Luka
Yes, the lover himself pushed open the door, and well wouldn’t you know
Having taken leave of his beloved, now he took a fancy to the inebriated nymph,
And soon, she him.

And soon, she him.The next morning, full of shame and self-loathing
Having failed in her heaven-sent mission, and her head pounding
Harder than Hephaestus’ rhythmic sledge upon his iron anvil,
The hungover nymph vowed to make it good. After kissing her one-night stand farewell
He, still asleep; and after posting a short, barely coherent note to hapless Maša,
Something about other fish in the ocean, his loss
And so on, the disobedient demigoddess set off to fulfill Aphrodite’s charge.
And it didn’t take long, not long at all to find two dedicated socialist workers
Viktor and Amalija, and to endow upon them her goddess’ blessing, and child.

To Viktor, Lord of the Lada, vendor of cars and cycles in pleasant Sevnica,
And to Amalija, his beloved, hardworking seamstress in the factory,
To them the nymph imparted Aphrodite’s gift, o lucky pair!
Tho’ the feckless fairy had erred, no better parents, no more loving,
Were these two that she happened upon.
Were these two that she happened upon..Soon the fair-haired child was born,
And all in the tiny village, from the dealership and the dress factory,
Came to marvel at the infant’s beauty; perfection, they cried!
And when the baby smiled, so too the happy villagers,
Every one, from Golob the chubby baker to Marija, cranky carpenter’s wife,
Who never had a good thing to say, to Nataša the milkmaid
And the herdsmen, the red-cheeked brothers Filip and Jakob,
Whom many secretly whispered loved their sheep a bit too much,
And indeed the secret police, stout guardians of pure thought,
Everyone knew who they were, Franc and Nik,
Updated the Party slogans once a month or so, when they were sober,
Their faces all softened, sighed, and smiled in radiant joy.

O to grow up in Sevnica, to walk along the sun-spangled footpaths,
Throw breadcrumbs to the mallards in the pond, frolic in the park
Sailing little paper boats in the Sava, visiting Mama at the factory,
Finding her sewing table fifth row, right there along the grimy window
Is that a new design, Mama! Can I try it on, Mama? Of course I can?
Am I pretty, Mama? Am I the prettiest, Mama? Mama? Mama?

Am I pretty, Mama? Am I the prettiest, Mama? Mama?And so the years passed.
One day, in their small, but love-filled apartment, third floor,
The young lass spied a tear trickling down Mama’s cheek.
What is it, Mama, she asked, and with sadness and pride
Amalija knelt and told her, told her daughter that her gifts, her beauty,
Were wasted in tiny Sevnica, that they rightfully belonged to the world.
Time, Melania learned, for school, and not just any school, no!

The Secondary School of Design and Photography in Slovenia’s capital,
The very one, in faraway bustling Ljubljana! The apex of style
In Eastern Europe, where else would the young beauty matriculate?

Understanding the tremendous honor bestowed upon her,
She applied herself assiduously, threw herself into her studies.
And her labors produced eternal scholastic fruit:
For all time will the groundbreaking studies she conducted live,
Earning her plaudits and awards from every corner of the green globe!

Her first major opus, “Correlating Hem Length to Men’s Breathlessness: The M-Factor”
Established her as a to-be-reckoned-with force of fashion,
Demonstrating the vulnerability of male respiration as a function of thigh exposure.
Then: “Miniskirts, Leather Boots and Visible Male Salivation” proved her
Not at all a flash in the pan, but lo, the philosopher-princess of couture.
And finally, her magnus opus, her chef d’oevre,
“Conquering Testosterone with Cleavage,” solidified her legacy
As the Slovenian Secondary School’s greatest alumna!

And soon, she him.But another discovery was yet to come.
Walking home one spring day, daffodils blooming along Gosposka Avenue,
Deep in thought, her wide eyes landed upon a thick-furred cat,
Licking its paws upon a stoop, and watching her; after a moment it leapt down
And followed her. Wherever Melania strode, the cat, black as night, followed,
As if driven by some unearthly spirit, which it was, for it was Aphrodite’s gift
The love-goddess, ever-watching, ever-protecting, born in a casino from a clam,
Blessed the child with the ebony creature.
Blessed the child with ebony creature.Back in her pink-walled room,
Young Melania’s heart crumbled, and she poured the thirsty feline a bowl of milk.
The cat hesitated, stared at her before taking the libation offered, and
Melania was spellbound; transfixed; mesmerized.
Languorously, seemingly uninterested, the cat – finally – took a drink,
As the pride of Sevnica watched, intently, intensely.

The eyes! Those perfect, hypnotic eyes! Drawing you in! The angle!
Those slits! Just like –
Those slits! Just like –The nonchalance! The insouciance!

As if struck by a lightning bolt thrown by Zeus, she sat at her schoolish desk
Scanned her well stocked palette of paints, and brushes, clippers and
Tissues and moisturizers and appliers and removers
And set to work.  All night she labored, through the next day as well,
And again into the night. And when Alenka next door, the red-haired one,
Knocked, worried about her distinguished friend,
She was met not by a lovely lass from the rustic countryside,
But Melania the Cat-Eyed, Melania of the Flowing Locks,
Inheritor of Nefertiti, Heiress of Helen, Chosen Child of Divine Aphrodite!
From behind her a great light, as the cat, transformed
Into the Olympian goddess, and she spoke, “Behold,” she cried!
“The Adored! Radiant Lady of Ljubljana! My own creation!”
And as Alenka fainted, to the mall they flew!
And as Alenka fainted, to the mall they flew!After that, Slovenia seemed so tiny.
To Paris, and Milan, London! Shows and dresses and dresses and shows!
Parties and stars and men, and … rich men, with Lambos and hundred-foot yachts!
And presents! Pearls and diamonds and gold, but never did she assent,
Never “yes,” always “maybe!”  Desperate swains abounding, all unrequited!

And then, yes!  Queen of All Cities, the Center of the Fashion Universe,
Glorious Gotham, home to noisy Knickerbockers,
To Bonwit’s and Barney’s and bountifully bedecked Bloomie’s!
To bob-haired Anna of the mysteries, eternally hidden behind sunglasses
Oh! To grace her glossy cover!
Oh! To grace her glossy cover!One morning, the call came
Not from Vogue, but a stepping-stone toward that vaunted goal,
Her agent, an overfed and (in Melania’s view) overpaid Italienne,
Had a proposition, and Melania’s feline eyes open wide as she listened.

So it came to pass that the envy and pride of all Slovenia
Climbed aboard the gleaming jet, the golden Seven Fifty Seven
Strode confidently in her pearl-white pantsuit from Prada
Straight to the cockpit, where awaited the photographer.
The Italienne (what was her name, wondered the Lady of Ljubljana)
Had flown in for the event, just to be there,
Probably first class, Melania silently grumbled,
Tho’ no sign of displeasure spoiled her perfectly composed form.

How she’d toiled! All her research, all her studies, distilled into this moment
Her well-sticked lips, with a carefully tuned albedo of zero point one five,
Open to a precisely calibrated three millimeters, scientifically proven
By her, by her alone, in a renowned paper to maximize male blood flow;
Makeup chosen, RGB and CMYK values programmatically computed
Her eyes, open to a slit of just a millimeter or two,
Eyelashes stretched, curled according to the Trisectrix of Maclaurin
Parabolized and quadrifolized with care, fluttering now in diaphanous grace.
I’m bored, they said, so bored, come entertain me, excite me,
Yes, you, make it good, buy me things, expensive things,
Captivated, paralyzed, the flight crew froze at the vision approaching.
Regally she ignored them, splayed herself upon the leather pilot’s seat
Waited for the photographer’s flash.
Waited for the photographer’s flash.Nothing happened.
Nothing happened. Waited for the photographer’s flash.After a time
The slightest hint of annoyance crossed the well-engineered face.

“Bellissima,” the fat Italienne spoke. “You must-a take off you clothes.”
The cat-eyed one gasped, then shot her agent a fiery glare
That could have taken down a B-52
But she complied, for she was not difficult to work with,
No greater curse existed for her ancient profession!
Difficult to work with, a sure and quick ticket back to pathetic little Sevnica!
Humiliated and embarrassed, she again reclined in the cockpit
Her perfect body, lotioned with care, for all to see. She fought back the blushes,

Successfully, because above all, she was always, always in control.
No, she was uncaring, whatever! The Lady of Languor, bored, licked her gleaming lips
Slowly and with deliberation.
Slowly and with deliberation.At last it was over.
She dressed; fluffed her gleaming tresses out past her shoulders,
Gathered her purse, Hermès of course, crocodylus niloticus;
And casually asked, of no one in particular,
And casually asked, of no one in particular,“Whose plane is this?”
“It is mine, o lovely one,” came a voice from the back,
From an odd, orange-mopped man sporting a thin red tie,
“And yes, I can entertain you, and I can buy you things,
Expensive things, and you will never be bored, no, never.”

So began her perfect life in Trump Tower, of handsome personal trainers
And glamorous parties with the rich, the powerful, the famous and infamous;
Paulina and Christie, sure, they’d married rock stars, good for them
But the Trump, he was a three-comma man, billionaire,
And much older, so someday, with any luck, don’t piss him off,
She’d get it all.
She’d get it all.She’d get it all.
She’d get it all. She’d get it allBut was her New York idyll now over?
Would she have to move? To dreary Washington, D.C.?
Always in the public eye? She shivered! She wasn’t like, couldn’t be like
Laura the Librarian or Hillary or iron-willed Barbara or Lady Bird or Pat Nixon
No crusades for her like child welfare or mental health
She didn’t know, didn’t care, about universal healthcare or infrastructure
Whatever that was … maybe Jackie … but horrors!
Would she have to speak? No! Her whole life, every day,
She trained, practiced, perfected how to pose! Not speak!
For the Tao of Melania is to receive, not to give

And so, while the world outside writhed, torn in two
Cat-eyed Melania sobbed.