Oral History of a Joke

By | 1 November 2019

To my great-grandfather who exists in me
as a ratio of nose-to-mouth, blueprints for which
lie within that withered photograph of the gaudy
bridal feast, full of buildings and no doors.

I am travelling back to you as a tragic mime at your nuptial
hour, to you I long to announce my recurring nightmare:
kind of like the dream of the haunted stage
but without the costumes, without feeling like Gilles,

no sequence of embarrassments, no. I shall describe it for you.
Imagine writing a poem titled “Nostalgia” in a glass carriage
a hundred years into the future, and now imagine
the glass carriage as some kind of metaphor

for the transparency of your hunger. And for what,
for whom? Plausibly it’s my desire for another great
memory machine, with flashing eyes, no snooze alarm,
runs only on steam and purple rice. And so here I am

along a road I presume is caked in dirt. Me, a dust mote
among the scrolling dragons on the tablecloth, the wall hangings
and the window shade, the textiles, the flags. You don’t know it
yet, how the recipients of your present’s future wait

at the end of a sentence, punchline of modernity’s
grand joke, the one that starts with the bar and ends
with a peace conference, tries again from the top and does the
pun with the ears in the cornfield, their uselessness.

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