02/11/2013 12:24 pm ET Updated Apr 13, 2013

George W. Bush, Amateur Painter: A Poetic Response

Thanks to an email hacker, we now know about George W. Bush's painting hobby. In this, as in so many other ways, he has tried to imitate his ultimate mentor's every little trait -- although a little belatedly, in this instance, since the failed painting career is supposed to precede the totalitarian crescendo, not succeed it years later. Then again, the son was never known for perspective. Here is an ekphrastic response, if such a term can be used in association with George W. Bush and his "art."


Every bathroom I've ever been in is a displaced tort.
All existence is a mirror reflecting gray-flanneled shame.
I am the heart of the Episcopalian church, showering
away the rust and fumes of a life spent on the borders
of literacy. Sometimes a shower is not just a shower.
You know when the walls speak to you in a foreign lingo?
My best defense is to stand mute and wholesome,
presenting the back of my head as a notice of tact,
the widest target of all, or the shallowest sans water,
whose tactile majesty I rub off in embalmed pallor.
Lines of representation, withdrawn and oddly nourished,
whose favor I may yet decline to interpret as bare fact.


Observe the feet. Ten thousand steps, or the negative
amplitude of exhaustion, after trampling the dailiness
of turtle turpitude. How we walk on water, or flail
underhandedly at compilations of sink-or-swim advice.
How to make friends and influence people, Pop used
to note, is a skill left to stocky chroniclers who embark
after the fact. To make one's own reality, that is the
true arbitrage. I have become a lover of short enclosed
spaces where water flows and scintillas of baby talk
revive in the mind's post-operative phase, babble for
a century of unusual love, where I struck again and again.

Anis Shivani is the author of My Tranquil War and Other Poems (NYQ Books, 2012).