By Hilton Obenzinger
Ithuriel’s Spear, 2017
Paperback, 5 3/8” X 8 3/8,” 114pages
Waiting for Trump
November 12, 2016
I sit in one of the greasy truck stops on Interstate 5, near
dizzy and scared.
Decades of hope seem suddenly to turn to bullshit.
Dread and rage swirl around the country,
but the lunch counter is
quiet with snoozing baseball caps tipping into coffee cups.
Fox is on the TV, yet no one needs to watch the news.
They already know the news.
Something bubbles in the kitchen, like death.
Soon we will have to eat those French fries.
On the frozen plains, in howling snow, Indians come to stop
the Black Snake.
They stand to block the way, whether the Iron Horse or
the Black Snake, waiting as the new president takes his seat.
We all wait.
Perhaps the ghosts will return and not the cavalry.
Tonight the deeper darkness comes, darker than before.
Spies denounce the spying of other spies.
The Kremlin carries the paralyzing kryptonite, as hulking
cyber armies gather in the night.
Menacing men rip scarves from the heads of women.
Kids scrawl ugly slogans on school walls.
Burning crosses dance in the eyes of White Nationalists like
the sugarplum fairies of the shopping season.
And we wait.
Cops who are honest worry what they may be called to do.
And those who are not touch their holsters,
assured that they may
impose order and nature’s law at will, and they wait to
someone’s happiness because they fear for their lives.
Farm workers, hunching over the entire Sacramento Valley,
tear plants up by the roots, and fear for their lives.
Violence has found its season.
Tired truckers stretch out in the rear of their cabs,
about a dozen rigs
lined up in the dark along the shoulder of the freeway, and
they get some shuteye.
I rearrange the eggs and bacon on my plate and wonder
what those men think.
Perhaps they believe that everything will be great again
when they open their eyes and find themselves back on the
They were given a promise.
Perhaps they will really pay off all their credit cards because
they work hard and they’re white.
We wait for robot drivers to fly up and down
the Central Valley, picking up apricots
and dropping off tractor parts,
with no need to shit at the truck stops,
no need to sip the chicken noodle soup.
And the day the robots begin to drive, the dreaming truckers
will sleep in the back seat of their old Chevrolets,
their steering wheels
taken from their hands, waiting for the promise.
We wait for everything and for nothing.
There is no singularity, no instant wide horizons,
no ironic lights, but a grim stupor, as the tycoon
casts a long shadow from his golden tower,
lumbers to the White House
to take possession of one more property,
while delirious settlers really do slouch towards Bethlehem.
The Great Man holds court.
His loyal children seek his hand,
the great and the rich,
the powerful and the ridiculous
float up the elevator shaft to meet the wizard king.
Generals, CEOS, moral monsters, angry souls,
fools of exceptional quality, celebrities,
they all rise up to the tower, taken to the
penthouse to bend before the greater fool.
There is a pervasive sense of dread
before the beast takes the oath,
before the Republic becomes a wholly owned subsidiary.
Ordinary life goes on, and we wonder.
We must love one another and die.
Our danger is great, and we must love one another or die.
Is it love and die?
Or is it love or die?
Do we have a choice?
What’s on TV?
This year I am observing a Treyf Pesach.
Help me sweep the chometz back into the house, for we need
to get dirty.
Help me replace the wine with whiskey, lots of it, so we can
forget the horror.
Once we were slaves, and now we are slaves again.
Instead of matzo symbolizing the haste in which we fled
slavery, stack up slices of white bread, any kind of leavened
bread because now the Pharaoh of Israel holds our people in
Chop up the apples and nuts to represent all the Palestinian
houses blown up.
Eat the bitter herbs to remember how the beauty of our
culture has been infused with hate.
Slap down a pork chop rib to remember how all of the hopes
and dreams of freedom have turned ugly, have turned to
blood, have become a vile joke.
Eat the slimy kale to recall all the olive trees torn out of the
Dip the leafy slime into the salt water to cry over how young
kids are lording over old men and pregnant women at
Eat the horseradish to recall the bitterness of lies in our
name. Shove spoonfuls of horseradish down each other’s
throats so we can never forget what we have done.
Put the egg in the center to recall that once we were a
people rich with variety and joy and now we are a cartoon
of ourselves—but even then spring will come, maybe, if the
warming earth allows.
Why is this night different from all other nights? It’s not, it’s
the same old story of using our own pain to cause the pain of
The foolish child is the only wise one around. He says, I
want to get out of here. I’d rather live in Berlin or LA than
stomp on other people and call that democracy.
The wise child is a fool, asking why he can’t get lower rent
and doesn’t notice the bloated settlements.
Let the girls sing the new Dayenu—Enough.
We build walls to choke another people—Enough Already.
We in America and Europe are told to come and be ruled by
Pharaoh Bibi—Enough Already.
Bombs and more bombs will make us safe—Enough
Once we were slaves and now we are slaves again—Enough
Beat up the stranger in our midst—Enough Already.
And American Jews look on and say nothing, as they have
said nothing for decades—Enough Already.
Let us feast on our bitterness and loss. Let us gulp down the
whiskey so we can forget.
Next year leave Jerusalem alone.
Psalm 3: Be Here
If the soldiers come,
If the holy ones come,
If the trees come walking through the doors,
If you unscrew the locks from the doors,
If the mountains come, stumbling through the doors,
If you unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs,
If you open doors in the middle of dreams,
If you sanction love without murder,
If the refugees come, muddy and drowned,
If you have joined their stream, ready to drown,
If the Border Patrol covers the earth with shackles,
If the Border Patrol covers the earth with lost doors,
If you make miracles of simple survival,
If you resist all icy embraces,
If the Coast Guard decides there is no coast,
If you can find no doors,
If the holy ones require a forwarding address,
If love needs a place to hide,
If the soldiers come,
You can stay here,
You can hide here,
You can stay by my side,