Strange bird. You like the drama
of fashion. Your black, gold-trimmed
evening jumpsuit––with a gold
belt, and a buckle as pronounced
as a cowboy’s or wrestler’s
trophy––lead one journalist
to compare you to the Kaaba.
In Israel, the world noted
you wore a classic white
suite to the Temple Wall
and an A-line dress (also white)
to the Holocaust Museum.
In Rome, your sartorial
choice complied with all
the Vatican rules; included
a short, black-lace, mantilla
covered hat. Not glamorous
at all. Oddly pagan. Somber.
Even clunky in its piety. Charming
… in a throwback way….
Some of the many internet memes
deemed the ensemble an expression
of a private welling unhappiness.
“Widow’s weeds”: People
laugh that one always dresses
for the job they want; that you
need only blink to “telegraph”
if what you really want
is to be rescued. That week,
some of us began to feel gamed.
In Catania, stepping out
of the car for lunch, and standing
still, between the passenger tires,
you were photographed––
your hair, shiny, and cascading
down across your shoulders—
wearing oversized sunshades
and a gaudy, OUTLANDISHLY
expensive (more than many
Americans make in a year),
jacket of bright fabric “flowers.”
Completing the ensemble,
you held a little matching clutch.
The severe ensemble in Rome
seemed contrived…. A set-up?
A foil! Okay, the First Lady
(some snarl: squinty “Third Lady”)
likes the drama of haute couture.
In Africa, you wore a nineteenth century
colonial pith-helmet some dubbed
really a perimeter barrier from any
unwanted stray or unscripted kiss,
a hot spot––“Death on the Nile”––
Planting trees at the White House,
you wore couture dresses and resort
skirts… and pointy stilettos (pumps,
court shoes, opera slippers with heels).
When visiting the Mexico border
to get a first-hand look at the Cage/
Family-Separation Project, there was
a bit of a stir when your back read,
“I really don’t care. Do U?”
In the White House Kitchen Garden
you were a smiling “Green Acres”
gardener in designer shoes
and a $1,850 plaid shirt.
Then ahead there was the military green
uniform followed the very next night
by a Jocasta—(poor son’s eyes!)––pleated,
electric neon lime-jello-pie green thing.
(Had we all been set up, again?) Some said it
resembled a video editing screen.
Oh, what might have been projected!
Many have begun to murmur,
“She is going to rank right down
there with Marie Antoinette.”
Some have found you overly studied—
as if ever posing in the perfume commercial
of your own mind–and as weightlessly
destined as your cheerfully contemptuous––
infantile husband… who some
have depicted as “a hungry orange pig
barging his way past others to get
first in line at an all-you-can-eat buffet,”
a man ever schlonging for attention,
for affirmation, a feedback junkie
oblivious to his poisoning garden soil.
You, yourself, seem but a privileged
supporting visual with no text,
a pith-helmeted prop for the photo op,
a sad small solipsistic drama
dropped inside a farce. Some––
like Madame Defarge––are beginning
to whisper about a caravan of tumbrils.
SCOTT HIGHTOWER is the author of four books of poetry in the US and two bilingual (English/Spanish) collections published in Madrid. He lives in Manhattan and teaches at New York University at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study.