It is rare that a bill can succeed on The Hill
based on only the skill of a hobbyist.
If you suffer the lack of a plan of attack,
what you need is the knack of a lobbyist.

Since their fee must be paid and expenses defrayed,
I’ll dispense with all shades and pretenses.
You’ll need cash and a lot, or you’ll be a have-not,
peeking meekly through wrought iron fences.

Making law often can be more tortuous than
winding streets in Old Tangiers, Morocco.
But with cash, you’ll be in. They will greet you with grins,
wide and warm as the winds of Sirocco.

Is the nation a mess? Are the flyovers restive?
If so, then success may be tasted.
Be strategic and clever. Use angst as a lever.
A crisis should never be wasted.

If there’s no pressing need, then you must sow the seed,
with a chant loud, repeated and rhythmic:
“Pass this bill or we’ll see locusts, storms and debris,
plus a plague that will be cataclysmic.”

If a shutdown is looming, it’s safe to assume
there’ll be fear and some room then to wrangle.
Put your bill on the block. They’re unlikely to squawk,
since they won’t let democracy dangle.

Here’s the smart power play. Tuck your slim bill away
in a CR with pages aplenty.
You evade and elude. Like the deep-staters do.
It’s the trick of the true cognoscenti.

Give them minutes to read the bill. Vote at full speed.
Let the push to proceed be incessant.
When you press, just expect that a few will object,
with the rest circumspect and quiescent.

Swapping votes is an act both pragmatic and practical.
It’s just a pact, yours for mine.
It reduces the prattle. A vote cast for cattle
will earn, tit-for-tat, one for swine.

If things stall, then supply them with pork barrel pie,
like that bridge to the Island Gravina.
Spreading pork all around gets things done in this town,
with no risk of a downstream subpoena.

Court the press and be bold. Full court press is your goal.
Then your bill will get sold to the masses.
It takes charm and some luck. Be a mensch, not a schmuck,
or your bill will be stuck in molasses.

If your foes face election, your goal is eject them.
With ads that connect, you can beat them.
Make the strike as intense as the fierce Tet Offensive.
You might just upend and defeat them.

If you choose to apply this assistance, then I
say it’s likely you’ll triumph with splendor.
If you don’t, you won’t win. You will grimace, chagrined,
saying “I could have been a contender.”

Yes, the goalposts are wider if you’re an insider.
A point you may try to ignore.
But it’s they, you will see, who will grace the marquee.
…And so shall it be, evermore.



Mark F. Stone grew up near Seattle, Washington. After graduating from Brandeis University and Stanford Law School, he worked as an attorney for the United States Air Force for 33 years. He served 11 years as an active duty Air Force JAG attorney. He then served 22 years as an Air Force civilian attorney (while serving part time in the Air Force Reserves as a JAG attorney).  He began writing poems in 2005, as a way to woo his bride-to-be into wedlock.  He recently retired, giving him time to focus on poetry. He lives in central Ohio.

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20 Responses

  1. Leo Zoutewelle

    A delightful (and clever) verse about a miserable reality: that is quite an accomplishment!
    Well done Mark, thanks.

      • James Sale

        Agree with Leo – very skilful, well done – you are becoming one of the leading comic poet on these pages, Mark! You constantly entertain with your clever word plays – excellent.

      • Mark F. Stone

        James, Your comments (which are below) are very flattering. Thank you for dropping by! Mark

  2. Julian D. Woodruff

    The stanza beginning “Court the press …” is especially delicious. I hope there are at least a few legislators among your readers.

    • Mark F. Stone

      Julian, Thank you! I’ll have to send the poem to some Members of Congress. Mark

  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    The making of legislation is like the making of sausage — it won’t do to look too closely at the details.

  4. Paul Oratofsky

    Cleverly wrought. In stanza 3, the city called Tangier has no “s” at the end.

    • Mark F. Stone

      Paul, I’m glad you enjoyed the poem. And thank you for pointing out the spelling mistake. Can’t believe I missed that. I’ll fix it in future publications. Mark

  5. David Watt

    I wouldn’t usually enjoy reading a commentary on the power plays inherent in the passing of legislation. However, the humor, internal rhymes, and anapestic musicality combine to make this a delightful read.

  6. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    An admirably crafted, spot-on poetic observation of political skulduggery. Your rhyming skills are truly inspirational. Great stuff!

    • Mark F. Stone

      Susan, I’m pleased that you enjoyed the rhyming. Thank you for stopping by! Mark

  7. Monty

    The fact that I’m on this side of the pond and thus have no knowledge of the subject-matter . . didn’t detract from the pleasure I got in reading the piece. It’s so intricately crafted, and the diction/syntax never once suffers from the (obviously difficult) task of internal-rhyming. That in itself is a high achievement in a fairly long poem such as yours.

    I have to say . . some of your rhymes are truly outstanding, eg: rhythmic/clysmic.. aplenty/scenti.. incessant/quiescent.. vina/poena . . they’re so unusual; some real captures.

    In S12, I would’ve felt compelled to contract the word ‘them’ to ‘’em’, as in . . can beat ‘em.
    ..upend and defeat ‘em.
    . . just as a way of disguising that the same word (them) is being used twice for a rhyme.

    Jolly well-written.

  8. Mark F. Stone

    Monty, In stanza 12, I see the rhyme as: can beat them / defeat them. So I’m comfortable with using “them” twice. I’m very pleased that you enjoyed the poem! Mark

    • C.B. Anderson

      You are correct, Mark. The rhyme here is “beat/-feat” and it doesn’t matter what the unstressed portion of the feminine rhyme is, so long as it is the same (or roughly the same) in both rhyme endings.

  9. Cyrus J

    Smart, skillful, funny, meaningful, topical, original, historical, wonderful. Everything poetry should be and then some. Kudos to you, Mr. Stone.

  10. Gary Colter

    Haven’t read a poem in years – my fault.

    Came across this – man was it great! Love the creativity – Great job – thanks for the inspiration and hope Mark F. Stone!!!


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