Umbrella’s lighter offshoot

James Toupin

is a retired government lawyer who lives in Washington, D.C.

A previous contributor to Umbrella, he has seen poems appear in numerous print and online journals, most recently Qarrtsiluni, Yellow Medicine Review and Frame Lines.

He has also published a book-length translation of Selected Letters of Alexis de Tocqueville.

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President Clinton Speaks to the Conference of Clergy

Did you see him? I loved it. How wonderful
That mouth of his is, the way when he smiles
The corners of his mouth turn down, so at will
He can bend a smirk into a grimace, grimace
Into a grin that joins your joy, a grin
Into a frown, and what an arsenal
Of frownsdeep concentration on another’s
Troubles, the most withering look of disdain . . .

And that voice, so raspy from a career
Of speechifyingyou’d think it would sound tired,
But, with that gaggle of clerics, you could hear him
Shift it one gear softer for reflection,
A second gear down for sadness, then
Into reverse for determination.
It was like he could not help it: He drove
Circles around them and they had to thank him.

They knew from contrition, how it crashes
In waves and pulls back down in undertow,
But they had not seen anything like this.
They knew they were being taken in
Like fishes by a whale’s grazing, and
They had to go. Here was regret that tells you,
You can trust him to remember if only
You will forget.
He floated the magic carpet
Of his shameless shamefacedness out over
The audience. TheyI should be honest,
Wecould not help but want to ride. All I
Could bring to mind was, How dare he retire?
I wanted to vote for him again and again.