I ask my students to tell a joke at the start of every class
because jokes, like poems, have a hole in the middle,
as in “My neighbor listens to great music. He has no choice.”
If you didn’t laugh, that’s okay. The things at which
we laugh hardest are seldom worth repeating: it’s when
they’re said, after what, by whom. One student said
he tried to buy camouflage pants but couldn’t find any.
Another said he used to think he was indecisive,
but now he’s not so sure. Legend has it that
when Pygmalion kissed his statue, it sprang to life
and become flesh and blood, but what if the sculptor
had told the statue a joke instead? A word is worth
a thousand pictures, a silence, even more.
George Saunders says he was working in Sumatra
when he was just out of college, and they got their mail
once a month. Someone would go to town and collect it.
He’d been dating a girl in the States, and the first time
he got letters from her, they came in a thick packet.
The first letter said, “I love you so much and I can’t wait
to see you again.” The second said, “I love you so much.”