Vincent Colistro

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.