Adlai and Eagleton by Christopher Schaeffer

An Apocalyptic Sonnet Crown Including Aleksandr Skidan’s “The Large Glass”



Don’t shit me George I said I said I said

I said I said I said I said I said

while lit all up and down with sudden beams,

and startling systems, noises and wet dreams.

I think I’m getting something from below

about the governed and the governing,

two photographs stacked one above the other—

I’m thinking of them as McGovern screams:

We have flechettes that penetrate the skin

we have napalm and jellied gasoline—

white phosphorus that cannot be shrugged off

like garments. I have shrugged off in my time,

solicitous and fond, the motion in its grace

<the spitting image of an American father>



<the spitting image of an American father>

ascending from the vault with loaded gun—

I mean, descending with unloaded gun,

with cake in hand, with textual surprises.

I mean, I’m coming down with gun in hand,

be warned, take cover, smooth your checkered pleats.

The third time is the charm I’ve often found,

a rusted object held in place by springs.

The spitting image caught in place by rust,

up to its knees in gingham and wet fleece,

re-registered in ordinary motions

as taught and demonstrated. It repeats

and doesn’t cease. This party trick is called:

<what they’re doing in the elevator> now



Just <what they’re doing in the elevator>

I wouldn’t learn til Princeton, second round.

An older boy in military dress

salutes the screen and demonstrates the way

a circuit is completed in a fluid.

Our cousins all collapse in sloppy joy.

A side-note: other narratives employed

in outer space, Korea, or a void

through which William Jennings Bryant moves,

an influence not yet felt at this point,

but drifting vast and undetectable

towards immanence. I wanted to impress,

by jet du sang, by coup d’etat, mais oui

<surely only by a big stretch> correct



<surely only by a big <temporal> stretch>

I found myself back in the public’s mouth,

dissolving on the lips of Mao Zedong

and Archie Bunker, A and A and A.

George asked if I had anything to hide,

to which I winked and took off all my clothes–

Each word is an unnecessary stain

on silence and etc., well, implied.

Recuperating later, struck upon

the semblance between speed and politics.

Beaten to the punch, perhaps, but pleased

To see it worked out within certain lines.

Namely, as elucidated first,

<si come mostra esperienza e arte>



<si come mostra esperienza e arte>

an intermission glancing towards events

that may or may not come fully disclosed

in texts revealed by gestii performed hence.

Namely, frozen in a gulf of ice

three thousand miles off Alaska’s shores,

ole’ Bryant’s mummy, incorrupt and blessed,

a (cite this later) “yearning to be free”:

Or was he from a meteor discharged,

or set back down to earth by UFOs,

or, clawing at the earth, did Willaim J.

void forcefully from bleak Amduat’s pores?

The man’s first words, restored and (ibid) yearning,

said shaking: <father, father I am burning>



<father, father> <father > <I am burning>

interjected, mea culpa, talking sense

and sprinkling all the Middle West with Latin.

In heaven interruptions spread like ivy

across a citadel of polished diction,

twenty-seven times or more applauded,

not bombast, nor abuse, nor double-talk

shall breach this portal to the Golden Age—

I’ll say, if it might play to single mothers.

But father, anyway, I came to ask

about the blood of women and the state

of circuses before the fall of Eden—

I mean, I’m caught up in my own smooth throat,

<larynx transformed into an anomaly>



<larynx transformed into an anomaly>

live on camera during What’s My Line?

Humilating, as you might imagine,

no wonder I was startled into death.

By death, that is, I passed into some state

between two contact pads pressed to a swath

of flesh, and out of flesh, and out of passion,

my Catholic vessel donated to science.

And donate this to Scientology,

and lend my mangled genitals unto

the cameras and the light cast out of mouths

towards spirits going forth in love and through—

O! back me, God, one thousand percent, back

<material fluids of the soul>, and lack



indexed <material fluids of the soul>

pestered into statements on eugenics.

The substance held in question being viscous,

we freeze the issue in a vacuum chamber.

Our souvenir gold fox grew hot to touch,

and sounds of commerce traveled through the lab

like granges and the smell of well-worn hats.

I don’t want to be fired from my job,

I don’t want to be put to death by God.

I don’t want to be fired from my job,

I think I’m seeing something that I’m not—

The face of Bryant issuing commands—

cracked plane enunciates <shepard my lambs>



<Shepard my lambs> he hailed on NBC—

So viva George McGovern, grift and swerve!

Ah ave his clinamen and his verve!

Three cheers from we beneath the altern depth,

the sponge between my eyes, my capstan-neck!

For didn’t young Theresa freeze as well,

disordered and evicted from the swell

of photo-ops and cheerful, well-lit rooms

for press teams to converge and chat and groom

our profane temple-nits from well-heeled heads.

Ah hail contemporaries, hail the dead!

Morgan bucks laid on my eyes— paid full—

My body wrung to heel on NBC—

<hath lacked a something <twas but marginal>>



<hath lacked a something <twas but marginal>>

a fresh corsage, rose water in a bowl—

my father, draped in ink, adjusts my tie,

applies a daub of blue-black ash between

the brown and the already hazy line

of demarcation where my hair-line lies.

One thousand paternosters before bed—

just kidding—never Catholic—simply flush.

Please don’t recall the sliding of the doors,

the passage of the gears around a winch—

a rather slow machine, but dignified

by some glum Continental elegance.

A curtsy, soft implosion, then—it lifts!

Ascend— <and their right hand is full of gifts>



<and their right hand is full of gifts> and speech

plucked fondly from his famous ‘cross of gold’

and garnished with the science of defeat.

Alive but small and hard and sad and old,

can he still quote the Letter to the Romans,

reiterate the grafted olive vine

for populii hostile to old-style omens

and his swelled pseudo-Marcionish mien?

Poor Bryant keeps erupting from his sleep

with vomit on his lips and bloody palms.

Would it be too much of a tonal leap

to posit that he just may be—come on—

yet, even now we turn towards turning dross—

<about $300 an ounce>— to Cross.



<about $300 bucks an ounce> to eat

and shake hands with the president-to-be.

Black tie, of course, and bells tied to the necks

of every sun-tanned non-voting ephebe.

That is to say, ahem, ahem, he’s not,

quite strictly speaking, the Commodus type—

like Claudius he might confide to some

archaic torso winding down the night

with one last high-ball downed before the fridge,

the gun jammed in his silk pajama waist.

A politician has to wash his hands

of blood. Old Adlai here’s called to create,

not wreck! The lift ascends him past old gore

and shame-faced press. Next stop! <the fourteenth floor>—



<the fourteenth floor>, I may at this point note,

in our abstract geography of youth,

stands in for certain primal scenes, as proof

that Adlai’s angst is something more than rote.

Despite his image as the monkish vote,

egg-headed and austere in his degrees,

he’s as Lacanian as you or me.

That gun of his that seems to gently float

from verse to verse on memory’s crude boat

is no mere prop of cheap Freudian glitz—

he’s fucked fucked fucked by violent youth and his

—apologies to Nixon—King Bathos.

Still twelve, still drenched in blood and rust he hopes

that <everything’s the same>. Begin Sukkoth.



So after Bryant <everything’s the same>

but beautiful, and wreathed in constant flame.

The end of law for righteousness he claimed

and ushered in time’s messianic stage.

But, for the most part, we continue on,

electrocuted, executing, mute,

our ballots cast in history’s black booth

as tokens of a type. In Chalcedon,

the Law met with the Book and disagreed

to fitfully agree until the hour

when William Jennings Bryant finally

came roaring over earth in his bleak power

to stop the clocks, revive that ghost “Big Tent.”

<and everything imperceptibly different>



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Christopher Schaeffer is currently earning a PhD at Temple University. His recent work has appeared in The Volta, The Philadelphia Review of Books, A Literation, No Assholes, and elsewhere.