Author note: "Dear Donald Trump" was written circa 2009 and published in the collection What on Earth (Moon Pie press 2010). The poem was prompted by a flash of retail nostalgia and fueled by the discovery of its subject's heedless destruction of a beloved Manhattan landmark. The poet now reflects on the time of its writing as an age of sublime innocence...
Dear Donald Trump:
I had to write to say that yesterday
I found a folded Bonwit Teller shopping bag—
white and strewn with violets, the violets
tied with ribbon, logo
classic and still fine. It’s decades old now
but I couldn’t throw it out, since it was beautiful
I’ve been living with my Bonwit Teller bag
for one full day now, breathing in
the crocus air of April on Fifth Avenue—
boxed powders, scarves, colognes,
the regal staircase leading up to Millinery,
to crisp spring dresses, coats
in pastel tones.
So intense was my nostalgia
that by mid-day today,
I was compelled to ascertain
the fate of that lost, lovely store.
As it turns out, Mr. Trump,
some simple research shows
that you tore Bonwit Teller down
to erect Trump Tower
which we all know is short on violets
or loveliness. The glass and glitz
replacement comes up short on every count:
so full of costly junk and charmless,
that it gives most visitors and all natives
a kind of vertigo, the feeling
they’re a tumbling fragment
in the end of your kaleidoscope.
So on behalf of all who loved
and somehow still love Bonwit Teller,
those who knew you couldn’t change your life
in a revolving door,
but felt for a day that you might—
for all of us who think
a lot of worldly problems
could be better sorted out
over the glove counter, fingering
pale kid with pearl wrist buttons
or black cotton for city trains—
I’m writing to ask
that you put it back.
It shouldn’t be too hard
for a man of your ambitions.
It would be a first, you see—
building back what you tore down in haste
or greed. It would put you on the map
for something more than epic brashness
and that problem hair. Imagine
all the free publicity in major markets,
column-inches blooming with violets!
Count all those shopping bags
heavy with gratitude.
You’ve got to admit
it’s a home-run-slam-dunk kind of score
But in case you need a little nudge,
I enclose herewith a folded totem.
Know I part with it reluctantly
and look forward to shopping with you in the future.
For Sonia Sanchez
She eschews the high “paternalistic podium”
while a stagehand hustles a pile of books
for her to stand on.
Fire in her tiny person and voice—trilling,
clucking, keening, staccato, vibrato—
she cries out her rapid-fire invocation
Martin Luther King
Bill and Melinda Gates
William Butler Yeats
Susan B. Anthony
life-service in the name of peace
or art or healing, dignity
or justice, some lessening of suffering
now Burma, now
our own New Orleans…
Halfway through her reading, hotel fire alarms go off.
Around the ballroom, intermittent strobes flash, horns blat
for the deaf and the blind.
The poet smiles and reads on.
This is what she expects
the world to do when she speaks.
Sonia exhorts, hectors, lectures, pleads,
Chiseling her names into air.
Carry the message, the bundled aid of poetry
out to the schools, the shelters—
to the young, the old, the women,
the drugged, the dying, imprisoned,
the broken-backed worker,
the war-addled, starved,
the abused, abandoned, forgotten.
Leave this room with poems on the soles of your feet,
she seems to say, run wild
with the hope of speaking
You can’t help
feeling found out. She’s seen you—there
in Row 12. She’s a woodpecker
wanting to hammer your name
into her massive tree.
Marcia F. Brown is the author of four collections of poetry, including When We Invented Water (Moon Pies Press 2014) and What on Earth (Moon Pie Press 2010), and the editor of the anthology, Port City Poems--Contemporary Poets Celebrate Portland, Maine. Her most recent book is Well Read, Well Fed: A Year of Great Reads and Simple Dishes for Book Groups. She has co-hosted the Maine reading series Local Writers at The Local Buzz since 2011, and served as Poet Laureate for the city of Portland, Maine, from 2013-2015.