Hail to the Chief

My birthday has passed for the 68th time,
An annual celebration of the essential
Unwelcomedness of my nativity with
Which I am at last learning to live
With some modicum of equanimity.
Life is, after all, a slow spun saga of loss,
Of longing and disappointment.
If we are among the lucky, we learn
The names of the flowers that bloom along
The way and get to know with some
Familiarity the ways of a few trees, and
If we stare long enough into our sadness
We may find it requires expression in song.

This birthday was oddly filled with the sad tales
Of others that popped up like mushrooms
In autumn after many days of rain,
But life, like chocolate, is at best
Bittersweet, 85% cocoa, 15% sugar,
And so with my natal anniversary,
Which had moments of sweetness amidst gloom,
Like being greeted upon coming home
In the late afternoon by three beaming
Brown faces that popped up over the
Six-foot tall hemlock fence along our gravel
Driveway, two boys and a girl, all under
Ten and friendly fascinated with the
White people next door who must seem rich to
Them, rich and richly odd, the white woman
Who regularly fills big bags with
Litter plucked from lawns, sidewalks, gutters and
Streets, the white man who sits on the
Front porch or back deck with coffee or wine
Writing poems and counting syllables on
His fingers, who now as he climbs smiling
From the car is greeted by the girl
With the out from left field question,
“Are you Donald Trump?”
“Do I look like him?” I ask with grinning
Amazement, “Is my hair orange?”
But her question was sincere, the white world
For her, so distant and so weird that the
Billionaire president might well live next door, and
Be thereby subject to her curious birthday blessing,
And, looked at another, way perhaps her question
Was not so strange. If you are white, I ask you,
Are you Donald Trump? Think before you answer.


Orin Domenico is a poet living in Utica, New York. His latest volume is My Rap Sheet is Long (Black Rabbit Press).