Scott Hightower


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.