The Poetry of Flytrap

Chatterbox, who lately has been feeling tired of everybody’s opinion about Flytrap, including his own, got a second wind yesterday when he spied a paperback in a Dupont Circle bookstore called Poetry Under Oath . The book, a stocking-stuffer published in October by Workman ($5.95), renders portions of Bill Clinton’s and Monica Lewinsky’s Flytrap testimony as found verse. Some of these poems (“edited” by Tom Simon) strike Chatterbox as small masterpieces. “There Are No Curtains,” by William Jefferson Clinton, uses repetition in a powerfully incantatory way, and ends with a haunting Prufrockian echo:


There are no curtains on the Oval Office
There are no curtains on my private office
There are no curtains or blinds that can close
The windows in my private dining room

The naval aides come and go at will.


Monica Lewinsky is not quite so skillful a versifier, but “There Was Always Kissing” has a lilt that’s pleasingly reminiscent of e.e. cummings:

I think the only thing
That might be missing

Is kissing…

I mean

The physical intimacy

There’s physical intimacy

There was always
There was always


Feeling inspired, Chatterbox decided to try his hand at rendering some Flytrap commentary in verse. (It seems to be the one thing that the all-news cable networks haven’t yet tried.) Here’s a poem Chatterbox will call “If Washington Is a Tribe,” by Sally Quinn (from her much-discussed Washington Post piece of Nov. 2):


If Washington is a tribe
Then the president is
The tribal chief.

He cannot be seen to dishonor the tribe.

Ken Duberstein
Was President Bush’s chief of staff.
“Every time I went into the Oval office
I put on
A coat
And tie”
He says.

“Ronald Reagan put on
A coat
And tie
Even on weekends.

Reagan used to say

This was not his office
It was the president’s office
It was the people’s office.”

An offering from today’s Washington Post by Richard Cohen, which Chatterbox will title “Two and Two”:


With him
Two and two adds up to so much more
Than four.
He does not withold,
He augments

Says anything he wants
To get him out
Of whatever spot he’s in.
In the end,
It’s the same as it is
With Hart:


Something’s a bit
Less and more
In neither case does it have
The round
Of truth.

Maureen Dowd’s prose is already so mannered that it’s difficult to translate effectively into verse, but here’s an attempt using last Sunday’s New York Times column, which Chatterbox will call “He Is the Weasel King”:

He is the weasel king.
Those old Clintonian phrases
Flow trippingly from the tongue:
I do not recall…
I do not believe…
I may have talked
About what to do
In a nonlegal
At some point in the
But I have no specific memory of that conversation….
I have no recollection…
I cannot be absolutely sure…
I cannot respond to this inquiry
Because of the vagueness of its terms
(“indirect,” “potential,” “Could be involved”).

Tactical brain death.

Timothy Noah