3 Variations on a Joke
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
/ 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.