3 Variations on a Joke Vincent Colistro Paying only minimal attention to / As I understand / In accordance with The paradigms of the story / A priest / A rabbi / A German / Walks into a tavern and sees / is greeted by / sits down next to An enigmatic tourist who bets him that the coin / the flagon of beer / the tomato in the palm of his hand is too dense for any thinking man to lift / too cursed for any good man to hold / too cold for any patriot of this country to bear to which the priest / rabbi / German naturally replies / Ha / Pfft / Ah so / and grabs it anyways . / — / ; What kind of joke is this? asks the priest / rabbi / German who lifts / holds / bears it with no issue, proudly looking around to the other patrons. But the other patrons have vanished— / presto! / poof! / futsch! Nothing remains but the two men and the coin / flagon / tomato. All else is warm void, humming and complete. / Who are you? / What are you? / Where am I? And what is this black sorcery? But looking back at the priest / rabbi / German is no longer a tourist; it is a dark mirror with embossed edges depicting /Gethsemane, / The Parashat Bo, / Otto Von Bismarck, verdigris eating away at its ridges. Shall I try again, then? asks the mirror. / I think I shall says the priest / I must says the rabbi / I must says the German who picks up the coin / flagon / tomato again and finds that he has given his life to only a semblance, cold / cavernous / incomplete. ____________________________ Vincent Colistro's poetry has appeared in various publications, including The Walrus, Hazlitt and Geist. His first book of poetry, Late Victorians, is forthcoming with Vehicule Press.