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Friday, September 14, 2018


by Julie Steiner

She’s hard to recognize within the crowd,
a mob that’s mostly masculinely loud.
She’s there, though. She inhabits every proud,
full-throated fool the autocrat has wowed.

She’s there at every rally, multituded,
repeating all the slogans he’s exuded:
“Us FIRST!” “We’re NUMBER ONE!” But she’s deluded
to think his royal “we” means she’s included.

He loves himself, and no one else. That’s clear
to all but her. He only keeps her near
because he craves the power that her fear—
Without him, I’d be voicelesslets him steer.

She stands behind him loyally (a stance
that guarantees she’ll never have a chance
to look at him directly—or askance)
and scans their shared reflection, in a trance.

“That image isn’t real,” his critics say,
while lobbing rocks to put this on display.
But overlapping rings of disarray
just help him help her see the world his way.

“We’re BEAUTIFUL,” he gushes. “Look at US!”
The water’s not a limpid looking-glass,
but dazzlingly distorted. So it’s less
the details Echo glimpses on its face—

more those she can’t—that make her a believer.
Her mind supplies what’s missing, to deceive her.
he cries. That vision sets them both a-quiver.

When she repeats his self-congratulation,
he calls it independent confirmation.
Addicted to each other’s validation,
they both keep swallowing exaggeration.

He’ll drown. She’ll waste away to just a song
of glory—We were SPECIAL! We were STRONG!

and grievance—Oh, those VILLAINS did us WRONG!—
until the next Narcissus comes along.

Author's caveat: Stanza 4 above is wrong. This week, 17-year-old Tyler Linfesty (a.k.a. Plaid Shirt Guy) demonstrated that it is, indeed, possible to look askance at someone while standing behind them. I believe that the rest of the poem is still accurate, though.

Julie Steiner lives and writes in San Diego. Besides the TheNewVerse.News, the venues in which her poetry has appeared include the Able Muse Review, American Arts Quarterly, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, First Things, Rattle, and the Rat's Ass Review.