I feel no small trepidation about posting poems while this hilarity is ongoing (be sure to read the comments; I defy you not to chortle in your chair, even if you don't know all the originals--or even if you not only know but also revere all the originals). I don't want these two poems to get tagged when I mean them in such great earnest (even though I think that #1 would actually be a great candidate for the joke). But I'm going to brave the danger anyhow, never having been one to let my earnestness get in the way of a terrific joke, or vice versa. (One reason I like the joke so much, by the way, is that it reminds me of a grad school friend who suggested that all dissertation titles should end with the words "Who knew?"--as in, "Figurations of Masculinity in Romantic Poetry: Who Knew?"; "Lacanian Theory Goes to the Movies: Who Knew?"; and so on.)
Without further ado:
The One Thing in Life
Wherever I go now I lie down on my own bed of straw
and bury my face in my own pillow.
I can stop in any city I want to
and pull the stiff blanket up to my chin.
It's easy now, walking up a flight of carpeted stairs
and down a hall past the painted fire doors.
It's easy bumping my knees on a rickety table
and bending down to a tiny sink.
There is a sweetness buried in my mind;
there is water with a small cave behind it;
there's a mouth speaking Greek.
It is what I keep to myself; what I return to;
the one thing that no one else wanted.
The Sweetness of Life
After the heavy rain we were able to tell about the mushrooms,
which ones made us sick, which ones had the dry bitterness,
which ones caused stomach pains and dizziness and hallucinations.
It was the beginning of religion again--on the river--
all the battles and ecstasies and persecutions
taking place beside the hackberries and the fallen locust.
I sat there like a lunatic,
weeping, raving, standing on my head, living
in three and four and five places at once.
I sat there letting the wild and domestic combine,
finally accepting the sweetness of life,
on my own mushy log,
in the white and spotted moonlight.--Gerald Stern