George H.W. Bush’s Dream
I’m flying a mission over the Pacific,
the water still as a summer pond.
With no target in sight,
I do some rolls,
I feel like I’m fox-trotting
with Barbara, the wind her fingers
in my hair. I guide the plane
just like I lead her, a promenade,
a little twirl and dip.
A biplane is on my tail,
Saddam in the cockpit like he wants
to cut in, and I try a dive,
but he’s still crowding me, so I pull my ‘chute
and drift down over Washington,
past the monuments and the pool,
onto the White House lawn.
A carrier pigeon wings
into the Oval Office and becomes Dan Quayle
with a note from Greenspan to raise taxes.
I scream, “Can’t anyone read my lips?”
and Barbara comes running in
saying something about Georgie
sniffing cocaine again, and I feel
like being somewhere else and hop
back in the plane, pull on the throttle and we’re up
in the air again. I get Saddam
in my sights, but remember “kinder
and gentler” and bring the plane in.
Saddam and I do a hot tango
on the tarmac, and I let him lead.George H. Bush (1989—1993)
Bush enlisted on his eighteenth birthday and, ten months later, became the U.S. Navy’s youngest pilot. He flew fifty-eight combat missions in World War II. In his nomination acceptance speech, Bush said, “Read my lips: no new taxes.” Two years later he agreed to a budgetary compromise with Congress raising taxes. Bush also called for a “kinder, gentler” nation when nominated and repeated these words in his inaugural address.Bill Clinton’s Dream
I beam when Rabin and Arafat shake hands
across a wooden table and, for the cameras,
swap headgear. A star flares, a sign
of peace, then hurtles toward us,
becomes a gavel that smashes
like a wrecking ball into the table,
as a robed judge — I can’t tell who,
maybe God, maybe Clarence Thomas —
intones my name from a towering pulpit.
Then I’m back in Hope, a young man
pushing a stroller, holding Hillary’s hand.
We enter a thick woods.
I run ahead, plunge deep
into the forest, stumble through brush
and over fallen logs. I’m lost.
I see a faint glow in the cedars
and think I’m in a fairy tale,
it must be Grandma’s cottage.
I imagine Newt Gingrich
has devoured her and waits
for me, ready to pounce.
But it’s the White House,
and tourists jam the main entrance,
so I duck around back,
open the door to a tavern
filled with smoke and music.
I get my sax to jam
with Springsteen on stage,
but first sit at the bar,
buy a scotch for the woman
on the next stool. When she turns
to me her mouth opens
wide as if to scream. I put the sax
in and she plays a slow number.Bill Clinton (1993—2001)
In 1993 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat signed a peace agreement on the White House lawn and, with Clinton looking on, publicly shook hands for the first time.George W. Bush’s Dream
Air Force One takes off,
banks low between buildings,
down alleyways, through tunnels,
stretching and bending impossibly
like in a cartoon. I’m having fun
but see there’s no pilot
and climb over mounds of naked bodies,
severed heads. I’m afraid
I’ll be sucked under, but crawl
to the cockpit and grab the wheel.
I realize I don’t know how to fly,
and when the White House looms ahead,
I wish my father were here.George W. Bush (2001— )
Excerpted from Dreams of the Presidents by Charles Barasch. Copyright © 2008 by Charles Barasch. Excerpted by permission of North Atlantic Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.