“Making Sense of This Election” by Steve Henn

Steve Henn


Last night I dreamt I was running for Vice President
against Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the
Higgins/Henn/Mevis ticket. Ben Higgins is the guy from here
who became TV’s The Bachelor and has such a sparkling charm
and wit to him that Saturday Night Live spoofed him in a sketch
called The Bland Man. I learned this from my daughter. I don’t watch
Saturday Night Live—I pass out on the couch Saturdays around the time
it airs, after Notre Dame football finally ends. Andrew Mevis
is this kid in my AP English class who is a nationally ranked
high school football punter. Apparently it took
two of us to fill out the VP portion of the ticket. Actually it was sort of
like running for President of Warsaw Indiana because we were in
this big public building like the Center Lake Pavilion with
metal folding chairs set up in rows and a microphone on a stand
and a screen and projector and we were going to do presentations.
Trump presents, we present—rather than debate. Like we’re being called
in to talk to the community like one of those shysters in the Education
field who quit teaching to travel around and tell working teachers
what their attitude should be about teaching and generally how
they might avoid failing children miserably for the rest of their lives.
So Trump blah blahs a lot, makes a lot of promises, the usual, and Ben
and Andrew and I are standing at the back of the big room
scheming, plotting how to upstage the Orange One and Ben
goes, I got this, don’t worry about it, you don’t have to say
anything, I’m gonna nail this, just back me up. But when
we get up to the mic, me and Mevis standing behind Ben
with our arms folded like a couple-a wannabe hardasses,
(Mevis can pull it off, he’s large and muscular, I am not,
I am large and not muscular, I fake it). what actually happens
is Higgins steps up to the mic and the Bland Man has nothing
to say. He opens his mouth and a great void of nothingness
spills out, a giant empty space, like his whole speech
was written by a nihilistic existentialist who doesn’t believe
in having things to say, so I have to cover for him—we can’t
embarrass ourselves, we have to say something, and I rant and rave
about various things political, I honestly don’t remember, I think in my
dream state I had an impression of myself as being a powerful truth teller,
but I’m sure if my psyche or God or someone could transcribe
the monologue to show me while awake it wouldn’t’ve made
any sense. I often have the sensation of making sense while
on some more elemental level I know I’m not making sense
in my dreams. So I sit down on the small rising of the stage
after speaking and Trump is furious—I’ve called him out,
I’ve exposed him somehow, or tried to, and he marches to me
and threatens to hit me and I’m like “hit me” and I sit there
sullen with my shoulders sloped like I’m about to take some
asinine punishment that deep in my marrow I feel I’ve earned
from my Catholic forebears or my Hoosier neighbors or the
more virtuous poets or some such, but Trump throws these haymakers
all around me, left and right, up and down, past my head,
behind my back, and he never hits me, he’s too chickenshit
to make good on his threat but he has to make a big show of
appearing to be a tough guy, and …
maybe that was the point of the dream, you know?
Maybe I wanted to tell myself something about Trump
that was already patently obvious to all of us, I mean,
that could’ve been it, that could’ve been why my head
went through all of that. Jesus. What a waste.

Poets Respond
September 27, 2016

[download audio]


Steve Henn: “I don’t know if you’re tired of election-cycle poems. This dream happened after discussing The Bachelor with a former student and, among other election cycle crap stuffed into my consciousness, the question of whether or not Johnson or Stein will get to debate was part of my ‘newsfeed.’ It was a featured issue on the profile of Johnson on 60 Minutes on Sunday.” (website)

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