Poetry Review: The Richard Nixon Snowglobe
Rachel Loden has an healthy obsession with President Nixon and his faithful hound Checkers.
by B.D. | 2005.09.30
Loosie knows this, and Loosie knows that, but Loosie doesn’t know jack about poetry. But instead of leaving reviews of stanzas to the experts, we blindly barrel through doorways with guns blazing, oblivious to the terrified children used as human shields that lie within. Thus we approach the latest effort of Rachel Loden, an award-winning poet from Palo Alto, whose book, The Richard Nixon Snowglobe”, appeared on our doorstep with a little Post-It note saying “Review Me!” Okay, then.
In Snowglobe, Loden rummages through the cobwebbed attic of history, blowing dust off yellowed inscriptions and occasionally trying on hats. And though her channeling of Politburo honchos, movie cowboys and vilified Commanders in Chief may be caricature, the portraits are not scrawled in the cartoonish exaggeration of ol’ Tommy Nast – she instead works with the contempt of the familiar. To Loden, these men appear not as black-hearted villains but as bewildered adherents to creaky ideology, veterans of futile wars both real and imagined. Richard Nixon, the frequent target, desperately clings to H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman and Charles W. Colson in “The Nixon Tapes”:
Here we go. What in the name of Beelzebub
are we doing on this one? I mean the axe
that stands and sings all by itself, hacking
and hewing in the wilderness. What about
the spade that rings against the rock? Is
Colson doing something about that? God
damn, twelve princesses dance their shoes
to tatters all night in a castle underground
and nobody is running their income tax
Trafficking in intimacy, Loden succeeds in sentimentalizing Milhous as more than a pair of extended victory fingers and a retreating widow’s peak. He makes a number of appearances throughout Snowglobe, all empathetic but unforgiving. Most involve Nixon’s legacy, or, more accurately, lack of one. He envies Lenin’s hallowed corpse in “My Angels, their Pink Wings” and rises, indomitable, aside his faithful pooch Checkers in “Milhous as King of the Ghosts”. Richard’s dissolution from feared leader into a pathetic punchline is captured in “In the Graveyard of Fallen Monuments” via an imagined lament to Soviet Cold War counterpart Leonid Brezhnez.
Seems like yesterday you broke out the Stoli
at your dacha, and we laughed about détente.
Those were good times. The world on a razor
of our mutually assured destruction, and yet—
comrade! you remember—we felt strangely free…
I’m late to catch an Elks convention shambling
through my Library in Yorba Linda, California,
laden with cheap “Elvis Meets Nixon” keychains
and a queer uneasiness they cannot place.
Loden’s work isn’t all Nixonian. She delves into murder, Miss October and psychiatric study gone wrong. But regardless of subject matter, her knack is for producing emotion without stooping to melodrama. Throughout Snowglobe she is an insider – and when she refers to John Wayne by his birth name, it is done by someone who herself understands the value of a pen name.
Click here to go to Loosie.com