Bush’s Legacy — less than zero

From the end of Richard Cohen’s piece in the Washington Post: “A Hole in Which Hopes Are Buried.”
Little wonder Bush focuses on posterity. The present has to be painful. His embrace of incompetents, not to mention his own incompetence, is impossible to exaggerate. Rummy still runs the Pentagon. The only generals who have been penalized are those who spoke the truth. (They should get some sort of medal.) Victory in Iraq is now three years or so overdue and a bit over budget. Lives have been lost for no good reason — never mind the money — and now Bush suggests that his successor may still have to keep troops in Iraq. Those of us who once advocated this war are humbled. It’s not just that we grossly underestimated the enemy. We vastly overestimated the Bush administration.
This hallowed ground, this pitiless pit, has become Exhibit A on the inability of government to function. Plans get announced, news conferences held, breathtaking models shown of buildings reaching for the sky — and nothing happens. George Pataki, the governor of New York, supposedly fashions himself a presidential candidate, yet he cannot even get this development underway. He is at loggerheads with the site’s developer, and so nothing happens. In a city where developers are king — this is Donald Trump’s home town, after all — you can still go to Ground Zero and see zero. This is 16 acres of Katrina and all it taught us about feeble political leaders.
Maybe we should leave Ground Zero as it is. The imagination can provide a fitting memorial to those who died. “We dig a grave in the breezes,” Paul Celan wrote in his Holocaust poem “Death Fugue.” We can dig ours as deep as the World Trade Center once was tall. The ugly emptiness will remind us always to be wary of the grand schemes of politicians. They can’t build a building. They cannot capture a mass murderer. They cannot wage war in Iraq. This is their hole. It is, by dint of failure, George Bush’s presidential library. His proper legacy is a void.

I wrote this poem decades ago, about a personal disaster. But speaking of Ground Zero, and thinking of Katrina….
Ground Zero
Where the hurrican hits hardest
there is not proof left
that a home once grew
in this forsaken place.
The ground cringes in shock,
disoriented in its stones —
the very heart of matter
consumed by an elemental peristalsis,
a raw cosmic mastication
of doorknobs and latches
and the wooden blocks of childhood.
Where time-worthy walls
once dared the night’s intrusion,
now the offal wind,
the excretion of stars,
the seminal sludge of infinity.

1 thought on “Bush’s Legacy — less than zero

  1. i, too, have a poem called “ground zero”. but i’m too shy to post it in your comments, so if you’re interested, drop me an email and i’ll send it to you in the text of my reply.

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