Humor, Essay by Mal

Essay, Mal

There is absolutely no place for humor in poetry. Poetry should only present the dark recesses of the human soul, the alleyways of failed suicide attempts and empty barbiturate bottles, the nooks of violation and despair, watching the water in the bathtub slowly turn pink, then red, the primal scream of abandonment, of lost childhood and rheumatism, warts that won’t go away, flat tires on the interstate, recalcitrant pickle jar lids, horseflies, Sylvia Plath’s oven, John Berryman’s bridge (was it in Minneapolis or St. Paul, where Berryman took his fall?), Hemingway cocking the stock, tears of regret, tears of the shattered psyche, shingles, decay of the body and rot of the spirit, unredeemable deposit bottles, coitus interruptus, unrequited love of animals, misdiagnosed strep throat, inoperable swine flu, slime mold in the fridge, frogs in the sink …

Poetry should make you cry, bleed, pustulate, ooze, ache, hallucinate insects, foam from the nose, lick stamps, crave vinegar, self-flagellate, believe in Nigerian email, bet on the Cubs, sob, sympathize, empathize, tremble, walk in circles, horde plums, paint wheelbarrows, fall from the sky, lay siege, charge into Crimea, drift at sea, dread peaches, cower in unshaven rooms, empty your pockets, hit the road, stop in the woods, ride a cockhorse to Banbury Cross, but never laugh.

If there are no ideas but in things, make them weapons, give us a rope flung over a rafter, a doorknob being turned from the other side, a gun on the nightstand and a knife in a drawer, a paper cut, a band-aid, baking soda paste on a bee sting, Noxzema on sunburn, the sting of mercurochrome, a split thumbnail and an inopportune nosebleed. Please, no tossed pies, no whoopee cushions on the veranda, no hand buzzers or squirting boutonnieres, no dribble glasses with toast & tea, no prank daffodils, no ‘Gotcha!’ with fake concupiscent curds.

Paint your poetry somber, mourn, be mourned, put a black armband around the sleeve of your poem, let it be all six pallbearers, your headstone, your ashes, your obituary, the beer at the party afterwards, your house on the market and your car up for grabs, let it be worth more now that you’re gone. No miracle recoveries, no ‘it turned out to be gas’, no kiss & make it better, no reconciliations, remissions, or renegotiations. Don’t tell us that the note was just a joke, and the plums are still in the fridge.


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