January 18, 2017

On Trump’s inauguration poem: Grabba-dabba-doo, here comes you-know-who


T minus two days. Notwithstanding the possibility of our rescue by some force like a world-incinerating meteor or note from the Lizard People that says “JK, ha ha, can’t believe you bought it!”, Donald Trump is about to become president.

I know, I know.

For a while now, plans for Trump’s inauguration ceremony (which, incidentally, no one wants to attend) have been emerging. In a move that would surely have holographic historians scratching their heads in the PBS docu-blorpcasts of the distant future, Trump could decide to feature the reading of a poem at his ceremony. There is, to be clear, no need for this — there have been only five times in American history that a president has had a poem featured at his inauguration. But, baffling the imaginations of actual poets everywhere, rumors have been circulating that Trump’s inauguration would be number six.

And now, a poem for Trump’s inauguration has been published and pulled to the center of those rumors. For some fucking reason, it’s called “Pibroch of the Domhnall,” and its author is future Order of Bannon recipient Joseph Charles MacKenzie. If you haven’t read it yet, a word of warning: it’s one more thing you won’t be able to unsee.

Honestly, I don’t even know where to start. It’s so hateful! And so cheesy! It’s just… the worst thing I’ve ever read. The actual worst. Numero uno.

This poem refers to “Melania the fair” as “the flower of Europe” who “adds a luster and grace with her long flowing hair.” It refers to undocumented immigrants as “a murderous horde, for whom hell is the norm.” It rhymes “nation” with “stagnation” and “office” with “promise” before calling college professors “ignorant hirelings pretending to teach.” It refers to Barack Obama as “a tyrant” invested with “ill-gotten power.” It is a poem you might read on the palace walls in a video game and realize you are wasting your life.

This is to say nothing of the frankly bizarre fact that, while it’s a poem about a country, that country is not America. Trump’s mother was born in Scotland, and he apparently once said, “I think Scotland is special.” The poem takes this as a serious jumping-off point, referring to Trump throughout by the Scottish form of his name as “the Domhnall,” and aping traditional Scotch poetic forms. It uses phrases like “bonnie young lassies” without apparent irony.

Or, wait — does it? I kind of think the entire poem might be a joke. Hear me out. For one thing, the actual people of Scotland hate Donald Trump to an extent that’s been well established. Also, Trump devoted years to a racist campaign tarring his predecessor-to-be precisely for having a parent from another country. Also also, each stanza of the poem ends with a line “to be recited by the Inaugural crowd,” which… may not exist. And, while it would be smart to take completely unsubstantiated media innuendo with a big lump of salt, the word “pibroch” fits in suspiciously well with current trends in Trump mockery. (Get it?) So, all in all, it’s a little on the nose, and, just maybe, (please, Lizard People!), a joke?

If not, though, it’s basically the experience of choosing the wrongest imaginable seat at the worst Renfair in the world, writ apocalyptically large. And in a mode that is becoming all too familiar, I can’t tell whether it makes me want to laugh or cry. Like, I honestly have no idea.

While Vogon poetry is nothing compared with the destruction of an entire planet, the pibroch, if it turns out to be Trump’s actual inaugural poem, will send a real, alarming message about how the Domhnall views the meaning and value of art. Someone may have briefed him on the public tangle between poet and publisher Sam Hamill and President and Mrs. W. And in terms of intellectual credibility, Trump passed nothing to lose ten cities ago. But if you wanted to know what compulsorily sincere praise poetry, tailored to a homegrown American tyrant, might look like — well, now you do.

As for the inaugural ceremony, it is rumored that MacKenzie’s reading will be followed by a mass slaughtering of birds and a weeklong series of public games in which armed men fight to the death in a giant stone circle. All precious metals are be turned over to the state immediately.



Ian Dreiblatt is the director of digital media at Melville House.