BOOK XII

Through the leafless birches the Arctic wind howled, little snow-tornadoes swirled
Over the Mercedes limos arriving, their Pirellis silent on soft blankets of white
Though the air was frigid, Putin, the great tactician, the master of exploits
Stood coatless on the steps of his great cream-colored mansion.
Not to the moldy Kremlin, but to Putin’s own stately dacha they came
Far outside the shining capital, on the shores of a gurgling river
A sprawling country manor, far from the crowds of old Moscow
Novo-Ogaryovo, a thousand rooms lit by a thousand lamps, glowing in the night!
One after another bodyguards swung open car doors, revealing glorious interiors
Handsewn from fine Corinthian leather, and as each of the powerful bosses
Cloaked in woolen greatcoats emerged into the cold,
He was warmed by Putin’s beaming visage, and it was Medvedev who said it
First, then echoed by all his sable-hatted comrades, “God save the Tsar!”
Everyone laughed, but underneath the mirth: nods, respect, affirmation,
For not since Ivan, or Alexander, had Russia so mightily flexed its Slavic sinews.
They mounted the steps, passed through the marble colonnade
Into the great foyer, where their frost-framed eyes were met
By a great feast, table after table, tender chateaubriand and
Tasty solyanka, blini and shashlik kebabs, sweet pirozhki and
Caspian caviar, liter after unending liter, fruit of the fast-swimming sturgeon,
And ancient champagne, hundreds of dusty bottles
From Napoleon’s own cellars, captured by Cossacks!
“Come, my friends, my comrades, let us celebrate our victory,”
Gracious Putin welcomed them all, for a splendid day it was.
So many came, the ministers, the leaders, the advisors, the generals,
Three-letter and four-letter organizations, Heroes of the Soviet Union
Red Banner Artists and humble civil servants, well-decorated officers;
Wealthy oligarchs too, and their families, Putin’s neighbors
The media-man Anatoly Kuragin, the Rostovs with their lovely daughter
Natasha with the sparkling smile, flitting about from guest to guest
Twirling in a pale blue frock, charming the adults, bringing smiles;
And the Bolkonskys, Raskolnikov too, the stone-cold killer
In the corner the bastard Pierre, clumsy, bespectacled,
Spilling wine on a servant, his fabulously wealthy father exiled
For failing to pay Putin his deserved due, a tiny vig really,
Yet excepting the submariner’s son himself, still the richest Russian:
All of Russia’s power, all its money, together, in that great place!
Putin shook their hands, every one, but reserved his warmest greetings
For the architects of the evening, Gorya, Seryozha, and Sasha,
Masters of the secret agencies, lords of stealth
“So well you did, oh loyal ones!” And tears flowed down their cheeks
So grateful were they for his thoughtful words.
With a nod Putin signaled the orchestra, and everyone joined in
Kalinka malinka, “The Little Red Berry,” and Ochi Chornie “Dark Eyes,”
Polyushko polye, “Song of the Plains,” a drink after every verse!
And for Putin’s most beloved, his most trusted, what a drink!
Pure, perfect vodka, the water of crystalline Ural streams,
Filtered through sparkling diamonds, millions a bottle!
As a great river, the Volga, perhaps, or the Dniepr, or the quiet Don,
Flows, unstoppable, irresistible, so too their pride in Mother Russia
Homeland of the Slavs, from whence the sons of Svyatoslav,
Dread prince of Kiev, spring, where stands the one true church, the Holy Orthodox,
Joy swelled in their breasts! Holding his glass high,
Putin, the old campaigner, continued his speech to his loyal followers,
“Our children, and our grandchildren, and for a hundred generations thereafter
They shall sing of us, of this day, of our glorious, hard-earned, well-earned triumph!”
Such a feast they had, five hundred chefs from across the great land,
Every delicacy, every specialty, no one left hungry that night!
When they’d eaten their fill, sipped their cognac, lit their cigars
Handmade in Havana, then Putin summoned them all outside,
“Come!” he cried, “Inhale our beloved, freezing Russian air!
Which no Floridian, no Californian could stand for even a minute!
They say they won the cold war, I say no!
For nobody knows cold like a Russian!”
And to the snow-covered gardens they walked, met by a hundred flaming bonfires
Where the brilliant mastermind mounted a stage,
Reached behind a curtain, and a wooden marionette trotted out
Every limb under Putin’s control, and everyone laughed
For it was a wooden Trump-doll, dressed like Klara’s Nutcracker,
To weird music Putin made it dance, a crazy mazurka
In time the doll stepped, then with a flick of Putin’s wrist
The Trump-doll’s hand slipped to its most private areas
Its trousers fell, and all could see: nothing there!
How the hilarity resounded through the northern forest!
Finally the great puppetmaster held up his orange-haired creation
And with a cruel smile, casually tossed it into the bonfire
Where sparks flew from its smoldering orange head!
O they loved that! But the great tactician had more, took a microphone,
“Look, my friends, my comrades, my companions!” he shouted,
And all the eyes turned to him, and as they watched,
From in back emerged a giant bear, dark as the moonless night,
Up the steps, slowly padding toward Putin himself,
Who met its fierce gaze with one of his own, just as cold,
Equally ferocious, and as they all watched the bear sat
Obeying the wishes of Putin, brilliant son of Vladimir.
“The symbol of our ancient and holy land, Mother Russia!”
He shouted, and all applauded the creature and its renowned master.
Then: from behind the stage a beautiful young woman, barely dressed,
Satin miniskirt, red hair draped across her bare shoulders,
A Red Army officer’s cap jauntily placed on her head
Joined Putin on stage, nor did she shiver even a little in the cold.
On her arm a white-headed eagle quietly sat, looking about
Without a word Putin took the great bird from the lass
Held it up for all to see, brought it close to his face,
He opened his mouth, to the bald eagle he spoke
“I own you,” he declared! At this the bear awoke
Stood on its hind legs, roared! And the significance was not lost
On the crowd: the noble Russian bear rampant!
Putin held the eagle up, before the huge beast
And with one gulp the bear swallowed it whole!
Then fireworks lit the night over the merry multitude,
And as Putin surveyed the victorious Russians assembled
From a corner of his eye he noticed Pierre, the oligarch’s son
He and his drunken friends had tied a policeman to the bear —
Could it have been the American ambassador? — Then
Thrown it in the cold river. Approving, he nodded slowly;
Then, to all who could hear, “Let us now rule this world!
As we were always meant to!”
As we were always meant to!” Elsewhere, on airy Olympus,
White-armed Hera confronted her husband, king of the gods,
Consumed with rage, with burning anger, lava-hot,
“How, lord of the gods, did you let this catastrophe happen?
How did the pussy-grabber, the wife-cheater, king of the witless
The – dare I say it – this incoherent, illiterate, inconsiderate, lying boob
Defeat Hillary, the hope of all women, dedicated servant,
The successor of sacred Obama, blessed be his name,
What the fuck happened? … O lord of the, uh, thunderbolt!”
Hardly able was she to contain her scorn.
“You got screwed,” answered the father of gods and men
“Enamored of Hollywood stars and the gleaming cities you were.”
“Of course, that’s where the votes are!” exclaimed Hera,
“Everyone knows that,” she added, and readied more words.
But wise Zeus interrupted her, resumed his harangue,
“But Wisconsin! Pennsylvania! Michigan! You ignored them!
Causing Hillary’s ignominious defeat. The coal-miners
The auto-makers, the cheese-eaters, you had no time for them,
Preferring professors and movie stars and the great intellects,
Forgetting that those not blessed with brains they vote too
And so by the slimmest of margins did the Trump triumph there
‘Twas my beloved daughter Artemis who managed it, saw your error,
Advanced her cause, went to Packers games, and Lions too,
Even attended the woeful Steelers, Bradshaw’s team,
At the ketchup-makers’ home.”
At the ketchup-makers’ home“I see it now,” Hera replied,
“Your words ring true, my kingly spouse, despise them tho’ I do –
How ironic! For Hillary’s plans and her goals would have helped them
The most! Rid them of the o’erweaning burden of healthcare,
Helped their children through college! Equal pay for women!
Lower middle-class taxes! Increase the minimum wage!
Why, my deathless husband, would they cast their votes so?”
Hearing that the Thunder-King sat back on his Olympian throne,
Stroked his thick beard, and thought for a very long time,
Finally he replied: “Dear lady, queen of all the divine gods,
I cannot answer. Perhaps that is what makes them silly mortals
While we, undying, rule the great cosmos for all eternity,
Maybe – just maybe – they exist only for our amusement!”
With that Zeus extended his mighty swole arm to the Queen,
And she to his, and they embraced, and sweet Peace returned
To the lofty god-filled peak. Soon all the immortals joined them,
Apollo and Pallas Athena, the wine-god Dionysus
Pretty Aphrodite, patroness of Prada, Ares, the war-god,
His conflict-thirst sated, and Poseidon, lord of the roiling sea
Hermes and Hades, even lusty Artemis the huntress, and her lover,
The ironworker Hephaestus, returned to royal grace,
As the Thunderer’s daughter gave the Queen a gift
A crystalline putter, crafted to guide the tiny pitted ball
Into the hole every time!
Into the hole every time!Below, they mourned.
At the gleaming citadel, One Pierrepont Plaza, Brooklyn:
Hillary’s headquarters, near courthouses and colleges,
Laughter and conviviality vanished, replaced by sobs and tears,
Anger too, as Robbie Mook stared at his screens,
Rows and rows of Excel, finely tuned models of subtle math
All wrong! “Oh my numbers, my metrics!” he cried,
“My three-D bar charts and my lovely pie graphs,
My r squared, so cherished, my beloved sums and percents,
My carefully sculpted models, my what-ifs, my contingencies
All of you betrayed me! What meaning can there be,
What sense can I make of this earthly existence,
If with rows and columns I cannot imagine it!”
And with a mighty swipe of Mook’s thin arms
The thirty-four-inch monitors flew to the office floor!
Then, he was filled with sorrowful regret
“Oh my spreadsheets, my dear companions,
I’m so sorry!” Weeping, he knelt by the cracked screens
Salt tears dropped upon the webcam, choked did he.
Gathering himself, he stood, sniffed, and left the office
For he needed to find the candidate, to beg forgiveness,
Knowing Stormy dancing at the Vatican stood a better chance.
Past the rows of cubicles, covered in dripping Kleenex,
The walls echoed with wails, how the interns cried!
He passed pale Podesta, stonelike at the window,
Head slowly shaking over and over, not a word passed his lips;
Tim Kaine, furiously rocking in an ergonomic Herman Miller,
“Must tell them – recount – no – why? Why didn’t they listen?
Didn’t they hear? How he treats women? Cheats his workers?
Must – must call the Times! Or maybe – the Post!”
And Mook could see the Veep-to-be had lost it, was in shock,
Gone somewhere else far away, who knew when he’d be back.
From nowhere Donna Brazile appeared, grabbed him by the collar,
Screamed in Mook’s boyish face, “Oh you failed number-cruncher!
How you failed our noble nominee, Hillary of the trim pantsuit,
Ignored the wise advice of those who came before,
Press the voters’ flesh! Go to them! But you
Obsessed with polls, tried to mold reality, from a computer!”
“Your words hit home, Donna, pride of New Orleans,
I and I alone must bear the terrible blame for this disaster,”
And again the tears flowed from his eyes, little knowing
That, far away, Putin, the master puppeteer, pulled so many strings;
Soon he would though. Mook continued on
Found Bill, ever empathetic, who put his arm around
The sheet-master, and together they approached Hillary
In her secret chamber, under a blinding white light,
In vain beseeching the distant gods. “How now, oh spouse?”
Bill inquired, the great predecessor, Obama’s antecedent,
And from the gleaming dais Hillary, clad in a shimmering robe of white,
Met his eyes with hers, downcast with heart-rending despair,
With soft, slow words she answered him, “They do not answer,”
She moaned, “Not Athena nor my beloved Hera, the Queen,
All is lost. Chaos is coming to our land, I have seen it,
Hatred, that wrecker of warm community, will reign,
Color of skin, place of birth, man, woman, child,
Everyone is the Other, there is no America anymore,
Fractured, fragmented, disunited, eternally internecine,
Oh, they’ll crawl out now, like roaches from a wall,
The rednecked racists and sexists, into the harsh unforgiving light
Embraced by that usurper, the true Antichrist, the Trump!
I am fortune’s fool!” she groaned, “Such dreams I had!
Of a healthy, well-fed people, from one ocean to the other
Fairly paid, equally treated, educated and content!
Sweet prosperity, cared-for children, pure air, innovation
Abounding, from coast to coast, admired by all nations
Governed by reason, advanced by science
A shining beacon of hope, envy of all the world!
Dashed are they all! The favor of the Olympian gods I have lost!
I am bereft, desolate, alone; and – most terribly – not just my hopes gone
But those of little girls everywhere, how I have failed them!
The poor wide-eyed innocents, all ponytails and curls!”
For a moment her eyes blazed again. “Cling they must to their faith
My day has passed, but after me another will come!”
My day has passed, but after me another will come!” “Yes, my love,”
Bill replied, his scratchy voice tender, embracing her, helping
His exhausted wife, sapped from the bitter fight, down on the dais;
And before him and Mook and owl-eyed Podesta and all the interns
Before all the devoted staff gathered: sleep took her; and all was quiet.
So ended the campaign of Hillary, Woman of Wellesley.