Today's poem is by Susan Blackwell Ramsey

Tell Me If You've Heard This One

Surprise is what we value in a joke
we think, a different reason for the chicken
to cross, a deeper basement to the blonde’s
bemusement, some new group screwing in a lightbulb,
odder animal walks into a bar,
the final wise word from the patient rabbi.

A priest, a Baptist minister and a rabbi
walk into a bar. Barkeep says “Is this a joke?”
Sure, and a good one, a world where every bar
is just as apt to host a talking chicken
as an ecumenical conference, but no lightbulb
ever flashing on above the blonde.

It’s compensation, making fun of blondes,
just like giving the punchline to the rabbi.
The proud are humbled, the oppressed triumph, the lightbulb
goes on – we get it, and laugh. A joke
turns power upside down until a chicken
can be the hero and walk into a bar.

And everyone seems welcome here, bar
none, not just the always-welcome blonde
but those who’d be justified in feeling chicken
about walking in, the solitary rabbi
stranded amid goyim who wouldn’t get the jokes
he tells at home, grateful that these lightbulbs

are dim. You’d have to be a pretty dim bulb
not to know that everyone in this bar
has been the butt of the lowest kind of joke,
history’s hotfoot, fate’s yanked-out chair. Blondes
took over one dark night and riddled the Polaks, the rabbi,
Cletus hazed Rastus, but yo’ mama fried that chicken

so good everybody was happy, even the chicken.
It’s verbal potluck: Luigi brings a bulb
of garlic, knock-knock the drummer delivers pizza, the rabbi
adds a little schmaltz, everyone in the bar
is flaunting their roots, eventually even the blonde,
The melting pot’s a plate, a glass, a joke.

“Rabbi, how many moths to screw in a lightbulb?”
asks the blonde chick at bar, “Only two.” “No joke?
“But like us, you’ve got to wonder how they got in there.”

Copyright © 2012 Susan Blackwell Ramsey All rights reserved
from A Mind Like This
University of Nebraska Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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