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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Humor in the unfunny

Humorous poems often occur with a flash of wordplay or a fast dash of wit, but sometimes we have to slow down to see what’s funny. Paradoxically, the least amusing moment may eventually provide comic relief in a story or narrative poem.

The two examples shown below turned a couple of not-funny episodes into light verse and also turned out to be two of my most requested poems. Since readers usually identify with these light stories, I included both in my book, Living in the Nature Poem. If you greatly fear heights or dislike big bugs, you might identify too.

How an environmentally-friendly poet dealt with insecticide or:

by Mary Harwell Sayler

I was trying to do that big bug a favor, killing him
like that, but he wouldn't stay killed – like one
of those grade C thrillers on TV where someone
murdered keeps getting up and has to be shot
full of holes again and again, like the whole plot.

When I first found the cockroach lying there,
he was already dead – belly up, feet curled in
classic funeral position and well-prepared to be
carried off, with last rites, quite formally on a bier.
Perhaps if I'd had the good sense to uplift him

with proper gear beneath his backside, he wouldn't
have winced or squirmed. However, I've now learned
that the slightest enfolding pressure of toilet paper
against a palmetto bug's chest performs the best CPR.

With his feeble feet flagging, "I am alive!"
my tolerance could not survive this rally.
I pushed, pressed, squished, smushed, and still
his quivering antenna thrilled at my tough touch.

Although I was much impressed by his hearty level
of arousal, I crushed him – hard – and watched
him flatten into ooze. There's simply no excuse
for such behavior! That bug had better get it
through his head, what's dead is dead, and I'm
no savior.

©2002, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. “Bugged” first appeared in my chapbook Speaking Peach (shown on the right), was requested in poetry readings, then saw print in the book Living in the Nature Poem published in 2012 by the environmentally-focused publisher, Hiraeth Press

How a scaredy-cat person threw caution in the air to blast past a fear of heights or:

The Middle-Aged Mother Goes Up, Up, Up
In Iambic Pentameter With Champagne After

by Mary Harwell Sayler

The pictures show me shivering – silk
stripes of basic colors as a backdrop
against the wind with a woven wicker basket
as the only place for me to stand, appalled

at the thought of going up in a balloon.
No doubt, hot air had talked me into this
adventure, first depicted by cold terror
and cold wind, drifting from the Arizona

desert where we'd come for a vacation
then rose with bursts of heat beside my ear
and my nose frozen and my hands tightly
gripped in fear – so afraid of letting go

the familiar landscape of ground beneath my feet,
I could hardly stand to breathe as we floated
over pavement: parked cars and parking lots
where I feared we'd fall into the asphalt

and last be seen on a ten o'clock newscast.
I gasped as we dipped, low, over rooftops;
winced at the startling blast of fire to lift
us exorbitantly higher than the animal-

shaped mountains; sighed at the sudden swift
sight of a slow stream sounding somewhat
like heaven with nothing below me but, oooh,
the most breathtaking view! And then, I flew.

©2002, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. This poem first saw print in a 2002 issue of Kalliope and the same year in Speaking Peach chapbook (shown on the right-hand side of this page), then Issue 3, Vol. 7, 2008 of Slow Trains, then the book Living in the Nature Poem, published in 2012 by Hiraeth Press.

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