—with a line from Louise Glück

Humor functions in the neighborhood as it functioned in the shtetl: the only way into a world insistent on your pain. Something you’d be shot for. If they want you to cry, tears are evasive; if they want you vulnerable, vulnerability’s a cop-out; if they want a confession, your confession is cheap. “When I speak passionately, / that’s when I’m least to be trusted.” A privilege to weep when to laugh is to choke on history. Oh diaspora: seventy-five years ago I’d be gassed beside my sisters, yet here I am, running out for milk in a heated car. Does a funnier joke exist? Yet there’s so many jokes in this neighborhood, that one barely gets a laugh.

                                                                    You’re telling us. 

 

Copyright © 2020 by Allison Pitinii Davis. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 1, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

1. Because pockets are not a natural right.
2. Because the great majority of women do not want pockets. If they did they would have them.
3. Because whenever women have had pockets they have not used them.
4. Because women are required to carry enough things as it is, without the additional burden of pockets.
5. Because it would make dissension between husband and wife as to whose pockets were to be filled.
6. Because it would destroy man’s chivalry toward woman, if he did not have to carry all her things in his pockets.
7. Because men are men, and women are women. We must not fly in the face of nature.
8. Because pockets have been used by men to carry tobacco, pipes, whiskey flasks, chewing gum and compromising letters. We see no reason to suppose that women would use them more wisely.

This poem is in the public domain. 

A.k.a.

          the other gold.

                    Now that’s the stuff,

                               shredded or melted

                                         or powdered

                                                 or canned.

                                                             Behold

                                         the pinnacle of man

                     in a cheeto puff!

Now that’s the stuff

                      you’ve been primed for:

                                             fatty & salty & crunchy

          and poof—gone. There’s the proof.

Though your grandmother

                        never even had one. You can’t

                                    have just one. You

                                              inhale them puff—

                                                                     after puff—

                                                                after puff—

                               You’re a chain smoker. Tongue

                      coated & coaxed

but not saturated or satiated.

                       It’s like pure flavor,

                                   but sadder. Each pink ping

                                                       in your pinball-mouth

                                                                expertly played

                             by the makers who have studied you,

                               the human animal, and culled

                    from the rind

         your Eve in the shape

                                 of a cheese curl.

                                              Girl,

                                come curl in the dim light of the TV.

                           Veg out on the verge of no urge

                  of anything.

         Long ago we beached ourselves,

                                 climbed up the trees then

                                          down the trees,

                                                knuckled across the dirt

                               & grasses & thorns & Berber carpet.

                                           Now is the age of sitting,

                                   so sit.

           And I must say,

                       crouched on the couch like that,

                             you resemble no animal.

                                    Smug in your Snuggie and snug

                                                     in your sloth, you look

                                           nothing like a sloth.

           And you are not an anteater,

                                   an anteater eats ants

                                                   without fear

                                       of diabetes. Though breathing,

                 one could say, resembles a chronic disease. 

                                                                                            What’s real

                             cheese and what is cheese product?

                              It’s difficult to say

               but being alive today

                                      is real-

                                                real-

                                                       really

                                like a book you can’t put down, a stone

                       that plummets from a great height. Life’s

                      a “page-turner” alright.

               But don’t worry

                                      if you miss the finale

                                                of your favorite show, you can

                                                   catch in on queue. Make room

                                      for me and I’ll binge on this,

                                                            the final season with you.

Copyright © 2020 by Benjamin Garcia. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 27, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

The respectable folks,—
Where dwell they?
They whisper in the oaks,
And they sigh in the hay;
Summer and winter, night and day,
Out on the meadow, there dwell they.
They never die,
Nor snivel, nor cry,
Nor ask our pity
With a wet eye.
A sound estate they ever mend,
To every asker readily lend;
To the ocean wealth,
To the meadow health,
To Time his length,
To the rocks strength,
To the stars light,
To the weary night,
To the busy day,
To the idle play;
And so their good cheer never ends,
For all are their debtors, and all their friends.

From Poems of Nature (The Bodley Head, 1895) by Henry David Thoreau. Copyright © 1895 by Henry David Thoreau. This poem is in the public domain. This poem is in the public domain.

There is one atop each of the Girls’ heads. Clearly they have been playing this game for a while. There is only one girl whose turkey is still full of air, and that girl is Girl D. The game is called Duck, Duck, Turkey. They go through the motions of having an “it,” and having that “it” walk around the outside of the circle of sitting girls, tapping them on their turkey heads while saying, “duck, duck, duck, duck...” until they say “turkey!” while hitting the turkey on the head of a girl and then running around the circle, trying to sit down in the open spot in the circle before getting tagged. The general stance over here is based on the unshakeable belief that playing this game is going to lead to a better, more just society for all, once everybody’s turkey is equally deflated. And although most of the turkeys are, indeed, mostly deflated, none of the girls can keep themselves from glancing furtively at the head of Girl D, her hair positively radiant in the light bouncing off of the almost fully inflated rubber turkey on her head. How can this be? What is wrong with everyone else’s turkey? Did Girl D get a refill? Or more air than others to begin with? Is that really a turkey? Maybe Girl D’s turkey is not made out of rubber like the rest. What if the rubber turkey of Girl D was filled with turkey? 

Copyright © 2018 by Sawako Nakayasu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 21, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

                    For the Poet David Henderson

Hi there. My name is George
Washington
Carver.
If you bear with me
for a few minutes I
will share with you
a few
of the 30,117 uses to which
the lowly peanut has been put
by me
since yesterday afternoon.
If you will look at my feet you will notice
my sensible shoelaces made from unadulterated
peanut leaf composition that is biodegradable
in the extreme.
To your left you can observe the lovely Renoir
masterpiece reproduction that I have cleverly
pieced together from several million peanut
shell chips painted painstakingly so as to
accurately represent the colors of the original!
Overhead you will spot a squadron of Peanut B-52
Bombers flying due west.
I would extend my hands to greet you
at this time
except for the fact that I am holding a reserve
supply of high energy dry roasted peanuts
guaranteed to accelerate protein assimilation
precisely documented by my pocket peanut calculator;

May I ask when did you last contemplate the relationship
between the expanding peanut products industry
and the development of post-Marxian economic theory
which (Let me emphasize) need not exclude moral attrition
of prepuberty
polymorphic
prehensile skills within the population age sectors
of 8 to 15?
I hope you will excuse me if I appear to be staring at you
through these functional yet high fashion and prescriptive
peanut contact lenses providing for the most
minute observation of your physical response to all of this
ultimately nutritional information.
Peanut butter peanut soap peanut margarine peanut
brick houses and house and field peanut per se well
illustrate the diversified
potential of this lowly leguminous plant
to which you may correctly refer
also
as the goober the pindar the groundnut
and the ground pea/let me
interrupt to take your name down on my
pocket peanut writing pad complete with matching
peanut pencil that only 3 or 4
chewing motions of the jaws will sharpen
into pyrotechnical utility
and no sweat.
Please:
Speak right into the peanut!

Your name?

Copyright © 2017 by the June M. Jordan Literary Estate. Used with the permission of the June M. Jordan Literary Estate, www.junejordan.com.