86 THE MISSOURI REVIEW • FALL 2019
My father is a funny man.
What killed him the most
was not being able to make
my mother laugh
in this new language.
And no, I’m not talking
about a mayonnaise knock-knock joke or a chicken crossing
the road. I’m talking about a joke
you don’t tell in polite company.
The Midwest is full of manners
but we come from a place of brutal
intimacy. It took him months of study,
listening to the other men at the factory
tell their jokes during lunchtime,
all Pepsi and sandwiches,
until he came home one day
shaking and ready.
He sat her down on the good chair
and we huddled around the table
as if we were at a comedy club
You see there was a woman
and a taxicab and a driver
who tells her
that a man with large feet
has a large penis
and a woman with a small mouth
has a small vagina
And after a long silence my mother
scrunched up her lips tightly
Are you serious?