The War Room

The President has been unwell for some time.
The President still thinks he is President.
Receiving round-the-clock care, his family ensure
the presidential routine is not disturbed.
A recent stroke slugged him more than the assassination attempt. 

The cigars were first to go. Glass of brandy consigned to his birthday.
The National Anthem played hourly has a soothing effect.
A television set loops his most famous speeches–
watch his lips twitch as he remembers the words–
visits to military bases, breakfasting with the troops.

He believes this is the War Room,
obsessively inspects the furniture for bugs.
The orderlies answering the mute telephone are Secret Service.
Don't worry about intruding, he will recognise you
as Secretary of State, or the new intern at least.

On a miniature battlefield occupying the dining table,
rehearsed manoeuvres play out like football training drills.
The President pauses, weighing up all options,
before sweeping swathes of plastic men across fictitious territories.
He retires to his rocking chair to consider death.

We are no longer in the same room – he’s staring through us,
lost in some infinite war. Look closely: Tears.
He will rise any second, approach the red button
sitting on its plinth, carefully lift the protective case.

Leaning in closer, extending his right index finger,
notice the sweat on his brow, the pulse in his clamped jaw.
Suspended hand in palsy, he will stand there for hours,
resisting the constant tick in his head imploring him to press.

Published in 'Southword'