by David Erdos
I never thought I would put the words Robert Rinder
In one of these poems, but when he wrote of Zelensky
In the Evening Standard, eyes bright – the story
Struck hard, as did Zelensky’s piano rendition
Of Hava Nagila for Rinder, not to mention his role
As light’s leader when pitted against Putin’s night.
As with Vaclav Havel before, moving from dissident
To President, free of fiction, Volodymr Zelensky
Has shown how the world we once deemed real
Is absurd as he turns the fanciful tale of his self-
Penned and self-starring sitcom into an option
In which actual talent trumps power with a legitimate
Win for the word. Now the entertainer he was
And the appeal he engendered emboldens
The Ukrainian nation to feature in this new play;
Which is one of survival, sustained across
A continuing horror series, where the episode
Book (trade name: Bible) starts trying to plot
Better ways to make the protagonist show
That he and they are the heroes in a world at war
And a country that wishes to invoke different days.
And so the sitcom stands up to cold eyed aggression
And evil, and to an antagonist altered by just too much
Tyranny. As Putin performs his own maligned epic,
His own moustacheless version of Stalin to make
The Public Number One Enemy. Not just to Ukraine
But to the world as we know it, as so many institutions
And system turns Russia back to the time detailed
In the first films of Tarkovsky, in which Andrei Rublev
Saw hardships for which even the starkness of Stalker
Or Gogol’s Dead Souls could make free. Today, though
Koba The Dread can’t hold a handle to Putin. Who seems
To move through this madness with a psychopath’s lack
Of care. It is the worst kind of plot, belonging no doubt
To a shit-com, or some late night B-Movie in which
Both standards and sense have been dared.
In America not too long ago there was a rash of
What if we had the right leaders type films,
Or TV series: Dave. Clear and Present Danger.
The West Wing. The American President. Designated
Survivor, before House of Cards toppled both expectation
And what representation itself could achieve. There was
A gaping void these shows filled. They were candy, not
For kids, but for adults, convincing folk while boxsetting
That everything beyond remained free. Putin has shown
It was not in this worthless expression of power,
While Zelensky, a writer from the other side of page
Sagas on. He may get to be a legend one day,
A statue of course in the making, blowing out both
Breath and colour before a future voice sings his song.
What will they sing of Putin? Perhaps the soundtrack
Sneers they gave Hitler. Does he have one ball? Is he
Sleeping and who could now take him out? Only
The men who are employed to protect him. As he
Attends to his mistress and his baby boys, does he
Doubt? Or even think. Certainly that lizard look
Keeps all secrets. As Volodymr emotes, he is fighting;
Not so Vladimir; who watches his world as it burns
Both in Kyiv and in Moscow. As Zelensky becomes
Luke Skywalker, Putin pours what’s left of his soul
Into Vader. But how does one hero win against
A world’s fear? The sitcom as such is a slice of life
In this country. In fact, in all countries they have
More or less, the same scheme. It purports to show
Life as it is being lived by its people and it attempts
Through the comic to reveal tragedy. Tom Good
Lost his job. Basil Fawlty falls into a breakdown.
Steptoe can’t leave father, and even the sense stung
Larry David can’t bask. But as fate casts its net
To fry us all this one actor mirrors his equivalent’s
Motives even if they exist at all, or stay masked
To show that the dream to make a change can still
Happen. You just have to get through the fire.
But then that’s the thing about fire. There is no-one
To turn to and not even a convenient God you can ask.
And so they fight on as we think of them, daily.
That sitcom becomes every story. We just have to
Write it well, that’s the task.