The Mercury Messenger is still on a summer holiday hiatus to recharge and regroup. The column will reappear June 12. In its place, a poem for laughter and sanity.
Thanks for your interest and many comments.
There are three things which are real: God, human folly,
and laughter. Since the first two pass our comprehension,
we must do what we can with the third.
– Aubrey Menen from the Ramayana, courtesy of Richard Fox
SLIP-UP NUMBER ONE: REALITY
To fall or not to fall in the shower
that is the question, whether to suffer the dings
and knocks of outrageous flops or to admit
the universe likes a good laugh, that it really loves it
when you’re sucker punched by your own PR,
believing the world actually is what you’re used to
and doesn’t make change its universal solvent, that it loves
the mad race when you glance over your shoulder
and your worst nightmare flies past you on the other side
and finishes first. It’s like the pratfall sneeze relief,
the soggy Kleenex that reveals O NO snot and guck
as real as the final whoopee stop,
the cold hard tile on your coccyx.
It’s not unlike the moment you know
you can’t keep up with the future any more
and stand on the sidewalk watching time race away
into a world without you as you fidget, looking
for a park bench and feel the weight of the eons
slip from you as fast as you slam to the soapy bottom
on your soapy bottom. But let’s don’t laugh at each other. Hubris slams the door on the thumb you poke in your eye
while washing your face. By this time, though,
life has loosened you up and you’re so cool, so slick
harm shoots from your grasp like a bar of soap.
Humor is so hygienic.
SLIP-UP NUMBER TWO: REASON
Catching a toe on the bottom stair
with a tray full of wine in long stem glasses
tripping the quite fantastic, a tumbling high flier,
your chin sideswipes the dusty
funny bone of the cosmos, so accident prone
it’s banana peels all the way down to nada.
The mind likes to joke; it lets you think
it thinks it can fit the world into what it thinks.
And when its ideas are too small or silly
for the world to fit, reason reasons it can just
trim off what’s hanging out like so much fat and gristle.
But some people remember, become heretics even,
nasty angels of equality, and what was trimmed begins
to undo even the most powerful reasoning of oppression. That’s why reason can’t cut it, but myths and fairy tales can.
They aren’t reasonable and so ideas like Zeus,
the loather of hubris, and Santa Claus,
the god of child delight, absolutes like Artemis,
Athena and Aphrodite never get trimmed off all together.
Their little worm paths always remain.
And as you watch yourself tumble in air
like a Dali black cat hurling into the ether, know that reason hasn’t caught up with you yet, that behind the looking glass
the stand up cosmos tells the truth with a punch line in the eye;
ah, but your thumb is already there — strange victories;
laugh enough and the cosmos comes to know
that you’re the guy in the front row it can always count on.
That won’t get you much more than a wing and a prayer
but a miss is as good as a mile.
SLIP-UP NUMBER THREE: TRUTH
Boy that bathtub is slick and deep
almost as fathomless as knowing
what’s fact and what’s not,
and you a wispy bug falling off
the ring of grime. The universe laughs out loud
when you fall for the great joke of the truth
that any hack attorney, any cop or comb-over
grandstander or rival colleague can talk you out of
what you know for sure by sowing just one or two
poppy seeds or other tiny spit wads of doubt
retrieved from their dentures. The truth,
even if disproven, is still soap scum on the lens
of knowing. Just say a lie, just make an accusation,
and those with mousetrap minds will snap it up
with lethal certainty. And nothing’s more certain
than the horror inflicted by those
who are certain. They have their footing
for clambering out of the tub. But they always
crash hard, topple back then smack tied up
in knots, scrambling, inane. And when they finally
creep into bed, PJs wadded, nighties bunched,
wedgies all the way down,
the bruises too big to miss tossing and turning,
they rest in the certain conviction
they didn’t really fall, that it was all
the bathtub’s fault after all.
SLIP-UP NUMBER FOUR: LOGIC
Stepping from the curb the bus won’t stop
but your sharp old pal hauls you back by the jacket
just in time, just like you pull away the energy of worry
from breaking down in the jaws of corrupted logic
caught by absurd disguised errors in the premise,
rather like a blindsiding bus that will flatten you.
Yup, things like that break down into cosmic skits,
gangsters running governments, profiteers making fortunes
selling tragic junk food for thought to the angry,
forcing good people to imagine they actually know the good
when their knowledge is based on a comedy of slick mistakes they’ve been sold like hotcakes.
Is there a lesson in error? Is logic absurd tragedy deferred
if we see it in time? No, the world is not as it is
because it has to be, it is because it is not any other way
than it is at the moment. Could it be different,
could reflexes fail, logic jam up in the pipe
and explode in a mutually assured destruction?
Why not? It is not the best of all possible worlds,
nor the worst quite yet. And you are there on the curb
when the bus flies past, safe as if smelling the roses,
tousled haired by a zephyr clearing the air
on a sunny morning, hubris a shaggy pun,
and you grinning discretely still just a groaner
smacking your lips, gulping down sweet humble pie.
SLIP-UP NUMBER FIVE: SANITY
Tripped up by a crack in the sidewalk
you hear the cosmic comic chirp of approval
as you just miss slamming to the ground
like a lodge pole pine in the forest,
Thawoomp, and see, for no reason, that sanity
is not all its cracked up to be, but a sort of shtick
with blowhard bullies proving ego and moral
self-soiling belong, like frackers all fracked up
on a methane high, to the cosmic comedy club
in the sky. Who’s saner really: the officer
obeying orders and pushing the button
of annihilation, the cop who shoots the crazy man
for threatening him with a butter knife,
the businessman who robs everyone blind
and is considered a genius when he’s found out,
or the furry student philosopher
counting dandelions as a method
of peaceful devotion, the old folks who
refuse to even remember all the honors
of their lives, much less recount them,
the gentle harpist who can’t find her car keys
day after day but makes everyone else
feel they’re in heaven? Who’s loony?
Accidents of history bloom so fast
you just have to assume that in the right
frame of mind, the crack in the sidewalk,
and the kind person’s smile could both
make you fall for life again.