Mad Libs: Deep State


Poem by Susan Terris


“County Storm” © Jennifer Powers; used with permission

Deep State Crosses Familiar Lines

It is a truth, universally acknowledged,
that a big man in possession of a good fortune
must be in want of a knife

Memo: Hack truths. Replace with alternate ones.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy
family man is paranoid in his own way

Memo: Replace tiny hands with yuge ones.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the
White House clocks were striking

Memo: It's not his fault. Nothing ever is.

Stately, plump Buckaroo came from the
stairhead bearing a bowl of lies
on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed

Memo: He's armed now with razor & knife.

It was the best of times, until the big man
whose clock struck thirteen made
it the worst of times

Memo: He says it's always the best of times.

It was a pleasure to burn

Memo: Was it? But climate change is a hoax.

Call the big man Ishmael, and he will cut
you—you terrorist from the Deep State,
you radical Islamic loser

Memo: And he'll mess you up bigly. Sad.

All this happened, more or less—
with more alt-lies until bigot-man
made America hate again


Note: Famous first lines used here, with some modification, are from the following novels (in order of appearance): Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Ulysses, A Tale of Two Cities, Fahrenheit 451, Moby-Dick, and Slaughterhouse-Five.

Art Information

  • “County Storm” © Jennifer Powers; used with permission.

Susan TerrisSusan Terris’s most recent books are Take Two: Film Studies (Omnidawn Publishing, Fall 2017), Memos (Omnidawn Publishing), and Ghost of Yesterday: New and Selected Poems (Marsh Hawk Press). She is the author of six books of poetry, sixteen chapbooks, three artist's books, and one play. Her journal publications include the Southern Review, Denver Quarterly, Georgia Review, Ploughshares, and several past works in Talking Writing. A poem of hers from Field appeared in Pushcart Prize XXXI. A poem from Memos was in Best American Poetry 2015.

Terris was editor of Spillway Magazine and is a poetry editor of Pedestal Magazine. For more information, visit Susan Terris's website.

Photo of Susan Terris by Margaretta Mitchell.

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