Posts Tagged ‘humor’

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s the first day of National Poetry Month, a celebration most people observe by deleting Poem-a-Day emails.


Today is also the most important secular holiday of the year: April Fool’s Day.


And I am Marie of Romania, as Dorothy Parker would say.


Actually I’m as serious as a person who hides poems in the grocery store can be.


Bright among all the other days of the year is this one day when we take ourselves less seriously, laugh at our own expense, shake up routine and defy expectations.  The fact that April Fool’s Day has been celebrated since ancient Roman times and today is celebrated all over the world should give the holiday a little respect.


I’m celebrating April Fool’s Day with light verse, another underappreciated cultural artifact.  Light verse is the adult version of nonsense rhyme, which is usually a child’s first introduction to poetry.  Gene Kelly couldn’t leap onto the lamppost if he hadn’t learned to walk first, and so the value of Mother Goose, riddle poems and jump rope rhymes.  I was lucky to have a mother well-versed in silliness, so I grew up with limericks about Paul who went to the Halloween ball, ditties at bedtime like good night sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite, and the gruesome and delightful Little Willie poems.


I left a few samples of light verse and nonsense rhymes around town.  (The Billy Collins’ poem is not light verse, but I thought it was funny so I included it.)


At the Costco gas station I left a poem called “Three Riddled Rhymes.”

poem is on pump above Wrong Way sign

poem is on pump above Wrong Way sign


I collect stamps/and coconuts is going to be my answer the next time someone asks me what I do.

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I taped a set of Little Willie poems outside an Irish bar.  My mother is Irish and she learned the poems from her Irish father.

poems are on post below Brady's sign

poems are on post below Brady’s sign


I’m just noticing that I duplicated the first poem.  Oh well, much worse things happen in these poems.  You can read more here and also the history of these great little poems.

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I went to the wake of the father of a friend and left “The Optimist” in the funeral home bathroom.  He was Irish too, so I figured he’d enjoy a little humor.

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poem is hidden in candy bowl below mirror


I’m not sure if this is meant to be a poem or would be a better New Yorker cartoon:

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A guest Poem Elf-er, my daughter Lizzie, left an epitaph poem on a city sidewalk.

poem is on planter

poem is on planter


I used to love these epitaph poems.  Remember Lesley Moore, no less, no more?

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I swim a few times a week at a high school just after the swim team finishes using the pool.  Entering the locker room full of teenage girls is like entering a birdcage.  Just the place for Billy Collins’ “Oh, My God!”

second top locker from the right. . . poem is peeking through the grate

second top locker from the right. . . poem is peeking through the grate


Having this line, outbursts of praise/spring unbidden from their glossy lips, in my head makes the girls high-pitched chatter less irritating.

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Enjoy the foolery today.  Any good jokes or tricks?


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To write my last post I had to look up the cast of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.  I came across an amusing bit from the script.  Terry Thomas, playing his usual upper-crust Englishman equal parts outraged and dastardly, serves up this rant on an American obsession:


“As far as I can see, American men have been totally emasculated — they’re like slaves! They die like flies from coronary thrombosis while their women sit under hairdryers eating chocolates and arranging for every second Tuesday to be some sort of Mother’s Day! And this infantile preoccupation with bosoms. In all my time in this godforsaken country, the one thing that has appalled me most of all is this preposterous preoccupation with bosoms. Don’t you realize they have become the dominant theme in American culture: in literature, advertising and all fields of entertainment. I’ll wager you anything you like that if American women stopped wearing brassieres, your whole national economy would collapse overnight.”


CN00028698 by annaparrucchiera

no bon bons

It’s dated but familiar.  The idea of American men slaving to keep their castrating wives happy under hair dryers nibbling away on chocolates wasn’t true even in 1963, but the misogyny of Thomas’ character is still a ”dominant theme in American culture,” as anyone who watched Superbowl commercials will attest.  Thomas’ scenario has echoes in the Teleflora ad in which someone named Adriana Lima lasciviously explains Valentine’s Day to men: “Give and you shall receive.”  And the Dannon lady who head-butts her partner to get the most yogurt is a younger and prettier version of Thomas’s nemesis, Ethel Merman.  Screeching her way towards the buried treasure, Merman repeatedly thrashes the men in the movie with her hefty pocketbook.


Few would dispute Thomas’ characterization of our national bosom obsession, but some might—politely—point out that the English have a reputation for a juvenile preoccupation with buttocks.


Jeez, look at me, sucking out all the humor.  I don’t mean to.  Dated or not, his speech makes me laugh. Say prepostorous preoccupation with bosoms with an English accent.  All that spit and all those bilabial plosives!  Funny!  Bosom is a great big fun word.


In defense of my adolescent sense of humor:  growing up we prayed the Stations of the Cross in our living room every night during Lent.  This was a solemn activity, often a dreaded one, at least until we got to the 13th station, Jesus is Taken Down From the Cross.  We took turns reading and if the 13th station landed on you, rather like hot potato, you would be required to say a very embarrassing phrase out loud.   Usually the reader would start giggling and be unable to complete the reading and then everyone else would start sniggering.  After three or four attempts to say it without laughing, we gave up and my mother took over.  “And pressed Him to her BOSOM,” she would say firmly, trying to sound unamused, which was about the funniest part of all.


Forevermore, “bosom” is my word of choice for describing mammaries, even though my kids cringe when I say it.  “Boob” is just too coarse and  “breast” has too many associations with cancer for a bosom-less gal like me.


One last bosom story:  I fondly remember my husband’s uncle reminiscing about his wife in a party dress when she was a college student:  She had a lovely bosom, he sighed.


Aren’t they all.





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reading by Pacu007Books in the bathroom are as essential as toilet paper.  But not to be used for the same purpose, except in cases of emergency.  And then only if the book is already full of what it will be full of if used for such purposes.


For one (back to reading books, not wiping with them), keeping books handy in the bathroom is a tricky way to get the residents of your household reading.  It’s also a proven method of reading something yourself that you wouldn’t find the time to read in any other room of your abode.


The perfect bathroom book can either be read in one sitting or has self-contained chapters or segments that can be digested in 5 to 10 minutes.  The Perfect Bathroom Book has illustrations, although an exception is made for books of poetry and Helen Vendler’s book about Emily Dickinson’s poetry.


Here are a few of the books in my bathrooms:


Stupor by Steve Hughes is a favorite, but not appropriate for all readers


In my bathroom:

The puzzle book has never been used but I can't get rid of it


The girls’ bathroom:

The book of brain teasers was mine from girlhood, obviously a keeper


One more:

No one said P.B.B.'s have to be highbrow


If you’re tired of the angel books you’ve had in your bathroom for the past ten years and you’re ready for something a little more fun or provocative, I found a new source for P.B.B.’s when I was in Chestertown, Maryland a few weekends ago.


DSC_0035 by Jody C.Idiots’ Books is small press in Chestertown that produces small books.  Husband and wife team Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr write, illustrate and publish their little gems from an old barn downtown where they live with two young children.  The books are offbeat, clever, charming, disarming and sometimes warming.


I bought The Baby is Disappointing, Facial Features of French Explorers, Homer Was an Epic Poet, and my favorite, The Nearly Perfect Sisters of the Holy Bliss, at a local Chestertown bookstore.  You can buy them individually online or through a subscription service:  6 books a year for $60.


Note: the books are illustrated but they are not children’s books.  You can see more on the Idiots’ Books website.  Even if you don’t want to buy, check out the couple’s blog.  Theirs is a charmed life, at least from the vantage point of my bathroom.

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poem is on the window pane

O Luxury


by Guy Longchamps


O what a luxury it be

how exquisite, what perfect bliss

so ordinary and yet chic

to pee to piss to take a leak


To feel your bladder just go free

and open like the Mighty Miss

and all your cares go down the creek

to pee to piss to take a leak


for gentlemen of great physique

who can hold water for one week

for ladies who one-quarter cup

of tea can fill completely up

for folks in urinalysis

for Viennese and Greek and Swiss

for little kids just learning this

for everyone it’s pretty great

to urinate

women are quite circumspect

but men can piss with great effect

with terrible hydraulic force

can make a stream or change its course

can put out fires or cigarettes

and sometimes

laying down our bets

late at night outside the bars

we like to aim up at the stars


Yes for men it’s much more grand

women sit or squat

we stand

and hold the fellow in our hand

and proudly watch the yellow arc

adjust the range and make our mark

on stones and posts for rival men

to smell and not come back again


but first I left it on the wall above the toilet

If you’ve ever leafed through old notebooks and noticed a preponderance of one particular doodle—mouths, perhaps, or shoes—and been startled that you have unwittingly documented an obsession, you’ll understand how I felt when I realized how many of my poem elfings have been in bathrooms.  I posted Edna St. Vincent Millay in a coffee shop lavatory, Seamus Heaney in a hotel lobby ladies’ lounge, and poor Billy Collins has twice been positioned in the loo—once in my mother’s bathroom and later in swankier surroundings. 


Bathroom Elf has had her moment and it’s time for her to retire, but first a finale performance: a poem about urination taped next to a restaurant toilet. Not exactly clever, but satisfying nonetheless.


I could defend my fondness for bathroom elfing by saying that bathrooms are one of the last great distraction-free reading spaces (and twice I’ve posted pictures of toilets for just that purpose), but those close to me would point out that my sense of humor has ever been—er—juvenile, to be discreet. Scatological, if you want to be accurate.


Just to illustrate, twenty years after reading Love in the Time of Cholera, the only part I remember is the description of Dr. Urbino’s whizzing force.  Here’s the passage where Urbino’s wife listens to her new husband going to the bathroom on their wedding night:


the sound of his stallion’s stream seemed so potent, so replete with authority, that it increased her terror of the devastation to come.  That memory often returned to her as the years weakened the stream, for she never could resign herself to his wetting the rim of the toilet bowl each time he used it.


In his old age, Dr. Urbino remembers his glory days:


as a young man his stream was so defined, and so direct that when he was at school he won contests for marksmanship in filling bottles, but with the ravages of age it was not only decreasing, it was also becoming oblique and scattered, and had at last turned into a fantastic fountain, impossible to control despite his many efforts to direct it.


Read and weep, young men.  And you, young women:  some day, when one of you has a room of her own, not only will you not have to put the seat down, you will be free to write a similar passage on the majesty of female urination.  There’s a voice waiting to be heard on this important subject, a voice crying out in the wilderness, Does anyone have toilet paper?


Even though poet Guy Longchamps gives lip service to the universal pleasure of a good wee-wee


for everyone it’s pretty great

to urinate


and a brief nod to the frequent bathroom visits of tea-drinking ladies, his poem is really an ode to the glories of male micturition:


Yes for men it’s much more grand

women sit or squat

we stand.


Maybe Longchamps is riffing on Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae.  In her bestseller (how can you not love an academic book that’s a bestseller), the ever-controversial Paglia writes,


Male urination really is a kind of accomplishment, an arc of transcendence.  A woman merely waters the ground she stands on.  Male urination is a form of commentary.  It can be friendly when shared but is often aggressive, as in the defacement of public monuments by Sixties rock stars…..Women, like female dogs, are earthbound squatters.  There is no projection beyond the boundaries of the self.


True, having the ability to deface public monuments or “put out fires or cigarettes” might be fun sometimes (and now with the availability of “Whiz Freedom,” a pleasure women can enjoy as well), but let me defend the “luxury” of female urinary relief.  Follow any woman into a rest stop off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and you’ll hear the same “terrible hydraulic force” Longchamps seems to think is exclusive territory of men.  As for urination being “much more grand” for men, a certain close relative of mine can wax rhapsodic about the delight she experiences when she eliminates outdoors on her daily run through the woods.


This is the section of my post where I usually provide a short biography of the poet. Who is Guy Longchamps and how does “O Luxury” fit into his oeuvre?  But I can’t do this because Guy Longchamps does not exist.


Originally I found “O Luxury” in an anthology edited by humorist Garrison Keillor called Good Poems. Unable to find Longchamps outside of this little ditty and one other he wrote called “Mrs. Sullivan,” I did a little online sleuthing.  First I found a comment on another blog that pointed out that the biographical sketch of Longchamps in the back of Keillor’s anthology notes that he is the “manager of Brock’s Soda Fountain in Anoka and a driver on the Anoka-Minneapolis bus line.” Keillor just happens to be from Anoka, Minnesota. On the same blog, someone else traced the poem to Keillor himself and here you can see the poem attributed to Keillor.


I should have guessed.  Can’t you just hear Keillor’s dignified baritone amping up the silliness of this poem?  Can’t you imagine his elfish pleasure at including a poem about pee in an anthology of “Good” poems, in the section called “Yellow,” side by side with the works of Emily Dickinson and May Sarton?


I left “O Luxury” in the tiny bathroom of the best deli in the state of Michigan, Lake Street Market in Boyne City. In the spirit of “O Luxury,” I offer a light verse tribute to the deli and its bathroom:


If you want a ham and swiss

There is no better place than this

But if you want to take a piss

Best to sit so you don’t miss.


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This just in

scheduled poetry readings will be unattended

National Poetry Month, scheduled to begin today, April 1, has been cancelled due to lack of interest.  “I’m disappointed,” said poetry fan Mary Hathway. “I was ready for some kick-ass parties.”

Local libraries have cancelled poetry readings and contests.  “Poem-a-day” apps for the iphone are still available but can only be downloaded once a week.

National Endowment for the Arts chairman Rocco Landesman announced that April will be re-named National Short-Short Story Month.   “Poetry takes too long to read,” Chairman Landesman read from a prepared statement.  “Our society is crying out for brief, to-the-point material that can read in the bathroom.  Across the country citizens are asking for stories to read during long pauses in dinner conversations.  We believe that short-short stories will be the solution.”

Traditionally short-short stories, also known as flash fiction, are defined as works of fiction under 300 words.  During the month of April only stories under 15  words will be allowed.  All other stories will be banned and subject to fines.

National Short-Short Story Month will be commemorated with a new postage stamp embossed with a complete story by famed 3-word short-short story writer John Savercool.

“The short-short story lobby obviously has more insider connections than we do,” complained U.S. Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin.  “They’ve got corporate funding, most notably Twitter, and private donors with buckets of cash.”  Merwin declined to mention who these donors were, but sources on Capitol Hill suggest one of them is anti-poetry activist David Schwimmer.

Hours after the NEA announcement, poet Maya Angelou began what she terms a “song strike” in protest.  Dressed uncharacteristically in a vintage Dior suit and spectator pumps, Angelou is sitting on the steps of the Capitol building singing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.”  Taking a short break from her singing, she announced, “I’m not going to stop until this decision is reversed.” The Poet Laureate did not join the protest.  He released a statement saying that he was busy updating his resume and hoped to find employment writing copy for Groupon.

In related news, the New York offices of Vestal Review, a journal of flash fiction, were vandalized.  Piles of leaves and grass clogged the sinks and toilets of the Review’s restrooms.  Arrested at the scene was Beau Lamontagne, co- president of the Walt Whitman Society for the Betterment of American Youth Between the Ages of 11 and 14.

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