April 2: Poetry A Bad Joke by Paul Mariani

My blogger self has been waiting for this month for 11 months.  April is poetry month!  I've been saving up poems to post on this blog and to reflect on.  Of course many of them have been saved on my work computer and most of our poetry is upstairs.  Creaky steps and sleeping child prohibit me from making the trek.

What of poetry do we have downstairs on these shelves of ours? And what poems are marked has important to me somehow...

I am aware of the fullness of this April...Holy Week is right now...baby's due date is in three weeks...I am full and ripe...the garden is starting to ache for some attention...and by some small miracle the sun is shining today.

The life and the soft attachment we truly have on it is captured in this.  Though, perhaps what I find most moving is the relationships the son-in-law and his father in law...the father and the son.  There is a tenderness and fear that captivates me...and as a parent I wish to hold my child in her moments too...

A Bad Joke
By: Paul Mariani

Because they had to cut deep
to get the cancer in this throat,
my father-in-law was wheezing out

this joke in his old stage manner,
the one about the woman who tells
 the butcher to keep on slicing

till he's halfway through
the roast beef before she tells him.
dat's good dankyou now she'll take

the next two pieces.  I took him
by the arm as we crossed the street,
one eye on the lookout for idiots

peeling up the avenue, the other
on those hip-cracking ice slicks
(the Christmas sun up over

the new high risers useless
to stop the stupid wind from moaning 
off the ocean) and thinking

all the while of my fifteen-year-old
son, whose voice is boom-bellowing
into manhood now and who just last week

was joking at the kitchen table
when all at once I could see
 his lanky frame start shaking

as the thing crawled crab-like
over him again: his fear of turning 
into elements the way the brilliant

lemur-snouted kid in Chem class 
told him happened when you die,
so that I had to grab him 

by the elbow as he pushed past
my chair to hold him, his rib-cage 
heaving as I told him not to worry

while he had his old man there
to help him, for which white lie,
or worse, bad joke, I beg him

some day to forgive me.

Mariani, Paul, Prime Mover, Grove Press: New York, 1985. (pages 14-15)


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