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How Laughter

ISSUE:  Spring 1997
Tripped us up. Slapped us
with his bad jokes, tickled
our childhoods mercilessly.
How anything, once, was funny—
the peekaboo face in the cradle;
the goofy hoop! on the nose;
the hilarious grade school hijinks:
Rusty Bedsprings by I. P. Knightley;
Brown Wall by Hu Flung Pu.
How laughter, our best friend,
defended us against all possible
disaster so Bobby, the quadriplegic,
could play first base, and the Moron,
our scapegoat, could throw
his clock out the window
to see time fly. Laughter was
the bad boy in church who tickled us
during the silent prayer
or skewered the shapeless matrons
with their blue hair,
or embarrassed the flatulent old men
and added the jazzy punchline as
“the peace that passeth understanding”
popped out of the minister’s mouth.
How we tittered and snickered and giggled,
how we chuckled and chortled and roared,
how we simply could not stop laughing
at the world with its straight face.

Now laughter, grown up, polite,
appears at our cocktail parties
in his clever three-piece suit,
or makes a public appearance at
speeches—a brief nod and a wave.
He’s no longer contagious—another
defeated childhood disease. We
have laughed till we cried,
innoculated by grief. Now
we’re finally immune to merriment.
No one’s going to die laughing.


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