Despots

By Peter Maeck

Featured Art: The Wedding Party By Henri Rousseau

It was doggerel, the sappy little poem
or, more aptly put, the limerick
which we’d dashed off in seven
seconds flat: our way of saying—thanks?
Yes, thanks, why not, for all they do for us.
Without them we could not, we let them think, exist.
Reciting such godawful we won’t even call it
verse brought up the bile into our throat but they
like little half-wit schoolkids being read some
nursery rhyme from Mother Goose sat glassy-
eyed, their elbows on the banquet table,
rapt.

Our betrothed and we repaired to
separate rooms that night, tradition
dictates that, and next day bright and early
we were standing face-to-face, you now
may kiss the Holy Book, I do, I do,
and all of that. Out there they sat,
some with, some without hats,
all haunch-to-haunch and sheening
in the monstrous August heat;
some had passed out.

Most heads of state like us will fly
to islands for their wedding night but
we did not, we like to show the common
touch, we took the bridal suite atop the down-
town Marriott. Below our window
they all stood unmindful of the storm
and soot, their lonely eyes imploring
us to step out with our champagne
flutes, post-coital cigarettes between our
milky lips. We did not, and indeed wished
not to disappoint.

Their guns, we now suspect in perfect
twenty-twenty retrospect, were cached
already in their belts. We therefore stood
like target figures, two unwitting ducks
in blissful ignorance and when we kissed
applause broke out; we nodded
in acknowledgement.

Whatever would become of them,
we sometimes wondered, if one day
we happened to depart? Would they
evaporate? Amusing thought, though
we would never go of course,
by choice at any rate. They wouldn’t
stand a snowflake’s odds in hell alone,
some scourge would wipe them out,
eight-tenths of them at least,
the sickest, weakest of the lot.
And thus survive the fit.

Survival, ah, we know a thing or two
of that. The Marriott today, ironically
enough, serves as their revolutionary
operations base. Their quaint devices
which they use to gather so-called truth,
hand-powered thumbscrew iron maiden and
the rack, more medieval you could say than
quaint, are in the kitchen in the basement.
They’ve extracted nothing of the slightest
consequence from us.

We keep in mind that tout est pour le mieux,
and that arbeit macht frei (a proven fact),
lest we or anyone forget that this world
out of all the worlds that could or might
exist is certainly the best. Put that into
your pipe. We taught them that and now,
the hour so late, the moon descended
down the sewer out of earthly sight,
we bid them all the sweetest
of the sweetest dreams
goodnight.


Peter Maeck’s new poetry collection, Aperture, will be published in 2022. His stage plays and dance scenarios, including for Pilobolus and MOMIX Dance Theatres, have been produced worldwide. Maeck, who was a U.S. State Department Cultural Specialist in Tanzania and Morocco, holds a BA in English from Dartmouth College and an MFA in Playwriting from Brandeis University.

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