The Function of Humor in the Neighborhood
—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.