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Monday, February 25, 2013


by Llyn Clague

"Former Sen. Ben Nelson . . . the holdout who eventually provided the key vote for President Barack Obama’s health care law, will head up the nonpartisan National Association of Insurance Commissioners . . . As CEO, earning nearly $1 million a year, Nelson will be a leading intermediary between the states and Washington." -- Politico, January 23, 2012
Image source: Mario Piperni dot Com

In wrestling, a full nelson is against the rules
because you could break the fucker’s neck.
When I competed, back in middle school,
the rules, applied to all, kept us in check.

In politics, we now have the “ben nelson,”
which says, there is one rule for me and mine,
and a different one for every one else:
a plum for my state, but not the other 49.

The deal that Ben Nelson struck was a bear:               
in return for his vote on the Senate floor
he demanded the Feds pay Nebraska ’s share
of Medicaid – costs all states bear for the poor.

That morsel was not as-usual earmark stew –
a military base for him, a prison for her,
a highway for me, maybe a bridge for you –
swaps, trade-offs, a bite for every cur.            

Nor was it made on principle or conscience,
like opposition to taxes or abortion,
or deeply held personal values: it shunts
all that aside:  it was naked extortion.

In curt terms, it was a raw grab,
taking me-ism to a new level,  
and part of what made it so bad –
it was to go on forever,

leaving every single other state
paying its own, plus Nebraska’s, aid
“in perpetuity.”  Oh, there is so much to hate
with yet another tranche of trust betrayed.
But it takes two to do dirty deals,
one to sell, and the other to buy.
Men from his own party concocted this sleaze,
using “historic ends” as their alibi.

Will the ben nelson itself break the neck
of the body politic?  No, probably not.
This particular piece of dreck
is only one year’s stink in the overall rot.

Yet ben nelson does deserve a special place
in the long, checkered history of public service.
It imagined a wholly new hold to debase
wrestling, making our life distinctly worse,

and his name, Ben Nelson, shall forever stand
as the utter opposite of Nathan Hale,
who gave his young life for our young land –
for a man, body and soul, up for sale.

Llyn Clague’s poems have been published widely, including in Atlanta Review, Wisconsin Review, California Quarterly, Main Street Rag, New York Quarterly, Ibbetson Street.  His sixth book, The I in India and US, was published by Main Street Rag in 2012.