Live Encounters Poetry & Writing May 2021
David Rigsbee is an American poet, critic and translator who has an immense body of published work behind him. Not Alone in my Dancing – Essays and Reviews (2016), This Much I Can Tell You ( 2017), School of the Americas (2012) and The Pilot House (2011), all published by Black Lawrence Press, are but a sample. Forthcoming in the fall is his complete translation of Dante’s Paradiso from Salmon Poetry, and MAGA Sonnets by Donald Trump from Main Street Rag, a series of 85 quotations from Trump’s speeches and interviews bundled up in sonnet form (political satire and grimly humorous).
Although it’s probably true that no readers of poetry would care to hear the voice of ex-President Donald Trump again, I got the idea of putting these together in the fall of 2020, the middle of the pandemic and the U.S. presidential election season. In this time of high anxiety and spreading disease,
I began trolling transcripts of the Trump rallies and interviews during my morning coffee, and I saw that his off-script remarks hovered around themes: the cheery slurs, his obsession with Abraham Lincoln, with the size of crowds, with the “fake news,” with appearances (hair, hand-size, the look of people), his blithe misogyny and ruthless rivalries, all pseudopods to his lumbering, unlimited narcissism.
So I thought it would be interesting to see how a traditional poetic form, often thought often thought to be dainty, could cut Trump down to size, i.e., 14 lines. His cadences seemed to fall into the form well enough, so that by election day last November, I was cutting and pasting often two, sometimes three, sonnets a day. As you’ll see, the form itself transforms his (often incoherent) utterances into political satire, amusing and horrifying at the same time, all the more so because it’s all verbatim.
The Nobel Prize
I’m going to tell you about the Nobel
Peace Prize, I’ll tell you about that.
I made a deal, I saved a country, and I
just heard that the head of that country
is now getting the Nobel Peace Prize
for saving the country. I said: “What?
Did I have something do with it?”
Yeah, but you know, that’s the way it is.
As long as we know, that’s all that matters.
I saved a big war, I’ve saved a couple of them.
They gave one to Obama and he had no idea why.
That was the only thing I agreed with him on.
I would get a Nobel Prize for a lot of things,
if they gave it out fairly, which they don’t.
A Wall and a Wheel
Two things—and I say it—two things that never
get old. Remember the Democrats are saying,
“A wall won’t work.” Really? Tell me about it.
Wall works! That’s one of the reasons our numbers
are so good, but two things will never get old.
You know what they are? A wall and a wheel.
It’ll never get old, a wall. I see so many things,
and I see all these businesses, computers,
you come up with a new chip, you come up
with a new computer, you come up with a new laptop.
Three weeks later, you buy it, three weeks later,
it’s obsolete. But a wall will never be obsolete,
and a wheel will never be obsolete. You come back
in a thousand years: a wall and a wheel.
I said, “General, I’ve got myself a problem, General.”
Because I’m wearing leather bottom shoes
which is good if you’re walking on flat surfaces.
It’s not good for ramps and if I fall down.
This was a steel ramp, you all saw it.
It had no handrail, it was like an ice skating rink,
and I said, “General, I have a problem,”
and he didn’t understand that at first.
I said, “There’s no way.” He understood, I just
saluted almost 600 times. I just made a big speech.
I sat for other speeches. I’m being baked.
I’m being baked like a cake. I said, “General,
there’s no way I can make it down that ramp
without falling on my ass, General. I have no railing.”
By the way, when I came in backstage,
A very, very powerful guy, a big, strong guy,
with tears coming down his face said,
“Thank you, Mr. President for saving our country.”
This happens all the time, all the time.
I said, “When was the last time you cried?”
He said, “I don’t know that I ever cried.”
Even as a baby, this guy didn’t cry, but he
was crying backstage. I mean, tears
are coming down, thanking me. And it’s true.
I was happily building buildings in Manhattan,
having a good time, having a nice, simple life.
And then I said to my beautiful First Lady, “What
the hell, let’s give it a shot!” And look what happened.
If I don’t sound like a typical Washington politician
it’s because I’m not a politician. And if I don’t always
play by the rules of the Washington establishment
It would make my life a lot easier, to be honest.
I used to play the game about acting Presidential.
I’m a smart guy, I’m smart. And I always said,
“It’s much easier to be Presidential than to do what I do.”
And I said, “I’m more Presidential if I wanted to be,
but I got to get things done. I don’t have enough time.
I used to go and I would have fun, and I’d imitate
a President who’s playing Presidential, that’s so easy
compared to what we do. I said, “I can be more Presidential
than any President in our history with a possible
exception of Abraham Lincoln when he wore the hat.”
And they call them therapeutics. For me,
it was a cure. I mean, what’s the difference?
I say, “Give me a definition.” I wasn’t like,
“Oh gee, I feel great.” So I hate to admit it,
but you know what? I was not feeling great.
But the great thing is when you’re President,
you have so many doctors. I was saying to a group
this morning, I said, “I had so many. I had 12 doctors
around the bed. And everyone was grabbing
a different part of my body. And they’re all super geniuses.”
But anyway, I took this drug. It’s a transfusion,
as they say. And the next day I felt like Superman. I got up,
I said, “What the hell is going on?” I felt like Superman.
I said, “Come on, bring them on, bring them on, whoever it is!”
How about Stephanopoulos the other day? You know,
he interviewed me. He gave me a tough interview,
but I didn’t consider it unfair. Although it turned out
the audience was stacked against me, you know.
There were some Trump people and some Biden
people, and actually they were very nice, right?
The one woman said how handsome I was.
You know, the one woman… I’d rather have that.
I’d rather have that than have her say,
“You’re a wonderful politician.” To hell with that.
I’d rather have her say—what’s better than that?
Right?—“He’s so handsome.” You have such a great smile.
See, now the fake news will say, “President Trump
went on a rant talking about how handsome he is.”
I called up great dishwasher company from Ohio
that we saved, by the way, I said, “What’s the problem
with your dishwasher?” “Well, they don’t give us any water.
I mean, you know, it’d be nice to be able to get enough water.”
So we gave them what they need. And now the dishwashers
are incredible. The same thing with the restrictors in the faucet.
So I hate to say the three things: it’s the shower, it’s the sink,
and you know the third element in the bedroom.
But I don’t say it because every time I say it,
they only talk about that one. Because it’s sort of gross
to talk about, right? So I won’t talk about the fact that people
have to flush their toilet 15 times, okay? I will not talk about it.
I’ll only talk about showers and sinks, okay? But there are
three things. I won’t talk about it. This way they can’t report it.
Wanting No Acclaim
Jared has the Middle East coming along, coming
along good. We signed the United Arab Emirates,
Mohammed, one of the most respected warriors
in the Middle East, and Bahrain. And we have
other countries lined up. Even The New York Times
said it’s incredible. I can’t believe it. I said,
“No way. I’m sure that person was fired.”
No, it was Tom Friedman. They’re not going
to fire him. But they said it was incredible, but this
guy has done a great job. And you know the nice thing?
He wants no acclaim. He just wants to do what he wants to do.
And also worked on Israel, the capital Jerusalem, right?
And he has no weight problem, that I can tell you.
He’s so skinny. How do you stay so skinny, Jared?
Baron, Baron Trump. Barron Trump had it,
all these young guys. Barron Trump had it.
He’s very young. He’s 14. He’s very tall.
He’s very tall. But Baron had it, our First Lady
had it, I had it, Baron had it. “Sir, Barron tested
positive.” I said, “Oh wow. How’s he going to do?”
“Very good, sir. No problem.” I said, “Good.”
Like 14 minutes later, “How’s Barron? How’s he
doing, doc? How’s my boy doing?” “Sir. He’s cured.”
“Well, how did that happen?” It took about 12 seconds.
“How’s Baron doing, doctor? I want to make sure
my Barron’s okay.” So Baron had it, it came, it went.
I said, “Barron, you’re my man. How are you feeling?”
He didn’t even know what I was talking about, actually.
You know, they always said, “Oh Europe, Europe, Europe.”
Look at our numbers compared, and we had the biggest
of any country, the biggest comeback. We came back faster.
We went down less, economically came back faster.
If you want depression, doom and despair,
vote for Sleepy Joe Biden. And boredom.
You know the great thing. I always say, someday
these people, look at all them. Look at all of those cameras.
You know what I say, someday, they’re going to get smart.
They’re going to endorse President Trump, because
if you had Sleepy Joe, nobody’s going to be interested
in politics anymore. That’s going to be the end of that.
They will all go out of business. They should have gone
out of business four years ago. Then I came along.
Joe Biden will give you the single biggest
tax hike in the history of our country.
He’s talking about quadrupling taxes—
the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal:
no cars, no airplanes, no cows! No cows, you know?
Whatever happened? Did they ever leave
the cows in? I think they had to take that out, right?
Originally, it was no cows. They didn’t want
to have any cattle or cows, which is pretty brutal
when you think of it, right? The Green New Deal,
which would crush our farms, destroy our wonderful cows.
They want to kill our cows. You know why, right?
You know why? Don’t say it. They want
to kill our cows. That means you’re next.
They came in and they said, “Sir, you’ve tested positive.”
I said, “Tested positive for what? And they said, “For COVID.”
He actually used the term “COVID.” He’s more politically
correct than I am. I said, “That’s not good.” But I didn’t feel
good, and we went over to Walter Reed Medical Center,
which is phenomenal. And Johns Hopkins was great.
We had a lot of doctors gathered around. But I didn’t feel good
and they gave me something, Regeneron. And I woke up
the next morning and I felt so great, I wanted to rip
that Superman shirt open. I wanted to come back.
They said, “Sir, how about taking it easy for a couple
of days?” Maybe now I’m saying, well, it probably
wasn’t the drug, it’s just that I’m in such perfect
physical condition. And I’m very young, so I said that.
I went to a UFC fight and this gentleman, and he
is a gentleman… Great guy, actually, hard to believe.
How the hell are you such a nice guy? I have a feeling…
I don’t know. He was fighting a young superstar, right?
He was a young, handsome guy. Really good looking guy.
Maybe that was the problem with him, he looked too good.
But we had this young guy, handsome, really. He looked
like a male model. And this guy walks in and the fight lasted—
what was it?—one and a half seconds, I think. Five seconds.
It was the quickest knockout in the history of the UFC.
No, it was like, ding! He runs across the ring, kicks
the hell out of him, right in the face. And I said,
We need more people like him, I can tell you.
We need people like him in our government.
Now I have my hands, I hear, on The New Yorker,
a picture of my hands. Look at my hands. They’re fine.
My hands are normal hands. This was Rubio that said,
“He has small hands and you know what that means.”
So, he started it. So, a couple of days later, I was on line
shaking hands with supporters, and one of the supporters
got up and he said, “Mr. Trump, you have strong hands.
You have good-sized hands.” And then another one
would say, “You have great hands, Mr. Trump, I had
no idea.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “I thought
you were, like, deformed. I thought you had small hands.”
I don’t want people to go around thinking that I have a problem.
I even held up my hands, and said, “Look, take a look
at that hand.” And by saying that, I solved the problem.
I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down
on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.
I did try and fuck her. She was married.
I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there.
And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her.
She’s now got the big phony tits and everything.
She’s totally changed her look. Yeah, that’s her.
With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just
in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically
attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like
a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re
a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em
by the pussy. You can do anything. It’s always good if you
don’t fall out of the bus—like Ford, Gerald Ford, remember?
I’m an innocent bystander. Every time that starts—
“He started it”—I always act extremely innocent.
All I have to do is mention her name, “crooked,”
“disgraceful,” “deplorable,”” irredeemable.”
They said “deplorable” and “irredeemable.”
I thought irredeemable was worse than deplorable.
She came out, she said, “deplorable,” but she also said
“irredeemable.” To show you what I know, I said,
“Oh, she used the word “irredeemable” about our people?”
But it was deplorable that caught on. Right?
But, whoever her speechwriter is, I don’t want him or her.
That was a disaster, but I never thought it was going
to be that bad. The next day I showed up at a rally.
Everybody said, “I’m a deplorable! I’m a deplorable!”
Hillary, with her statement about the Deplorable,
right? The Deplorable. Well, the Deplorable
decided to vote. That was incredible. Was that
incredible when she said that? Who would have
thought that was so bad? It was the pros.
She actually said a worse word than that,
right? The Irredeemables. Remember, she said
the Deplorable and the Irredeemables.
I thought irredeemable was worse than a deplorable.
Right? But it didn’t catch on. The thing that caught
on was deplorable. The next day, I was making
a speech like this and it came out, it came out,
we are Deplorable! We are Deplorable! They came
out by the millions. That shirt sold like crazy.
© David Rigsbee