Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Paul Mariani

Paul Mariani is a 70-year old American poet living and teaching in Boston, and the poem below is taken from one of his collections from the early 1980s. Little time for other introductory matters, so enjoy!

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A Bad Joke

By Paul Mariani

Because they had to cut deep
to get the caner in his 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 happens 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 had had his old man there
to help him, for which white lie,
or worse, bad joke, I beg him

some day to forgive me.

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