Joke Day

posted in: Memoir, Poetry, Uncategorized | 0

The silly and the serious, featuring pieces by Anne Anthony, Susan Morse and Fran Markover.
8 minutes


July 1st was International Joke Day. I have no idea where that came from. But I do know that humor’s a good thing. Scientists say that humor helps us relax, it boosts our immune systems, it gives us a hit of endorphins, it boosts our cardiovascular systems like good exercise. AND it often diffuses angry and otherwise tense situations.

But I digress… Let’s get back to some serious literature. Someone recently asked me what the ninth letter of the alphabet was. It was a complete guess, but I was right. What occurs once every minute, twice every millennium, but never in a hundred years? The letter M. Do you know Paul McCartney’s favorite consonant? Letter B Letter B Letter B letter B…

Here are two excerpts from Anne Anthony’s “Drowning in a Bowl of Alphabet Soup.”

Infection, Jam, Kitchen

An unexplained infection leveled our mother. The surgeon repaired the hole the other doctor poked into her colon. “A one in 10,000 chance of an error.” Our mother woke more confused than usual.

In the basement, I pulled a jar of raspberry jam from the metal shelf bottled by our father four years before he died. I read the label, Farmer John’s Jam, and smiled.

I wiped out the exploded can of fruit cocktail from inside our parents’ kitchen cabinet. The expiration date on the label marked from 20 years before. The buildup of methane gas, like feelings, caused its eruption.

Prayer, Quicksand, Real Estate, Silence

Bright morning light blinded me when I crossed the bridge headed to our mother’s hospital room to speak to her doctors. I slipped into prayer a practice discarded years before.

My grief slid like quicksand to dark places.

“The value here is the real estate, not the contents of the house.” I disagreed, shook my head, so certain that four boys and two girls grew up in this house, our home, not real estate. I sorted through what was left of our lives together.

In the silence of the house where I learned how to kiss, tucked in the corner of the kitchen, hidden by the open refrigerator door, the echo of our mother’s voice returned from nowhere. “Close the refrigerator door. I know you two are up to no good.”

Excerpts from “Drowning in a Bowl of Alphabet Soup” by Anne Anthony from Passager Issue 76, Winter 2024.

What do you call a dog that can do magic tricks? A labracadabrador.
How many magicians does it take to do magic? Just one will do the trick.
What do you get when you mix Harry Houdini, a basketball, and the 17th president? Magic Johnson.

From Passager’s 2023 Poetry Contest Issue, Susan Morse’s poem, “Levitation.”

When Sunny levitated that summer
and also my father suddenly died
I became unfocused
and when things like that happen,
one might begin to believe that tiny birds
can ferry souls,
souls that fan out over receding horizons
as a larger aerial view hones in
filled with now smaller, but distinct objects I could not grasp before –
the sea shrinking away from solid sands
winds that drift down and are captured
within a new flow of canyon lands
large, uplifted forest plateaus like a checkerboard of tables
yet no one feasting not yet –
for they must be called to the table
like Sunny
(and isn’t it strange that was her name?)
thin and tall and hungry
with a cross always hung over her bed.
She was the one who believed, though I could not.
When the magician we once hired for a seance
levitated her in someone’s kitchen
three inches above a formica table,
we all saw it.

That was forty years ago
and still I wonder
what she felt in the moment before she ascended –
the touch of his hand?
had it the softness of grains of rice?
did she eat from a bamboo bowl?
and later, what did she believe
laid out flat on that table again after glimpsing
the brilliance of those small yellow birds
that gods are made of?

Susan Morse’s poem, “Levitation.”

A man goes into a diner, sits down at the counter and orders coffee, no cream. The waitress says, “I’m sorry, sir, we’re all out of cream; I can give you coffee, no milk.” That was one of my grandfather’s favorite jokes. Here’s Fran Markover’s poem about one of her favorite grandfathers, “How Grandfather Plays the Mandolin.”

As if each note is code.
Each discord – harmonic chord.
As if military brass tempers
the mettle he’ll need to become
journeyman, riveter of bridges,
elevators, buildings that scrape
the sky. He plays as if he feels
in his bones the architecture
of words he could die for – justice,
peace, equality. As if the Lady
who’ll welcome him into a city
will offer a torch song – give me
your tired, your poor, your
huddled masses as if she really
means it. As if he can summon
Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, carry
their truths to a new land. As if
military comrades display arms
to farm, pray in temple, light
candles. He plays and his fingers
open slowly, as if angels on the
battlefield become doting parents
who hover over him, whispering
live, whispering Sh’ma, Yisrael . . .
He plays as if he can someday
strum his mandolin in his own
home, as if Mother and brothers
are alive, his tribe not scattered,
no need to raise any fist except
in dance.

Fran Markover’s poem “How Grandfather Plays the Mandolin” from her book Grandfather’s Mandolin.

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For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.