Elegy for the mask with the lips turned up

We are grieving
people we do not personally know –
Robin Williams,
humor like his heart-tail hanging out,
Joan Rivers,
jokes sharp as a shattered headlight
on an icy curve.

We grieve the death of laughter –
vulnerable or edgy.

Make us laugh – we demand
of these fragile ones.
We expect it of you again and again,
for we cannot do it ourselves.

Make us laugh –
it is a dry autumn, a lonely morning,
the cliff at the end of our world,
or the daily news
that scares our socks off.

And we will clap for it, pay for it,
pray for it —
from some twenty-year old stand-up
or aging comic saint —

break or melt or loose,
startle, tickle, bully or birth,
with a depth charge or stitch dropped,

this human thing – our laughter,
now and at the hour
of anyone’s, everyone’s death.

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