820: Jesus Saves
820: Jesus Saves
I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.
One of my favorite feelings in life is when I am clutched in laughter, holding myself, in tears. Better, when I have made a friend chuckle or giggle or preferably snort. I like best to catch this one friend after she has taken a swig of water. Not fair, I know, but how great to see someone lose it. Suddenly, I and whoever else is around her, are all misted with her mirth. I love the connection mutual laughter invites; it fertilizes friendships, brings us nearer.
Many consider poetry high-brow, an art of “deep” reflection, which, on some occasions, it is. Truth be told, poems can also be as enjoyable as any skillfully-told joke. How are poetry and comedy the same? Like any funny anecdote with a clincher, a poem has a structure, a surprise, and a turn. There’s the setup and the epiphany, which is often embedded in humor—the punchline so to speak. Poetry also, often, begins with the familiar, then makes a profound observation, sometimes with biting relevance or satire. Comedy and poetry both use puns and other plays of language to delight their audiences. Poets and comedians must also think about delivery. In each instance, the poet and the comedian rely on the audience to help complete their acts of wit.
In life, I am jovial but wouldn’t say that I am funny. I have to intentionally work at being silly. I believe, in the end, it’s the only way to live, a wild laughter in opposition to the ludicrous in life, all that makes us angry or sad in the headlines or in our homes. When giving a reading, I admit to a certain pleasure in hearing even one person chuckle at a poem, and experience doubt, like a comedian, when no one laughs, especially when at other times, said poem landed like a piñata of joy.
Today’s sly poem riffs off that famous setup of three holy men walking into a bar. Instead of a priest, a rabbi, and a minister, Jesus walks in, and instead of a bar, he saunters into a coffee shop. I enjoy when poets ask themselves the question “What if,” which is the crux of any joke, but also of many great poems.
by Jae Nichelle
10 cents (& the planet) when he brings his own cup to Starbucks. it’s just his hands, scarred & leaking black from the holes. by the time he goes to drink it’s all on the floor. tells the same story all the baristas are sick of—bullets not nails. pavement not wood. laid out for all the world to see. buried. resurrected by those who won’t stop saying his name. he hears his name, Jesus, your everything bagel is ready. he laughs at everything. everything. as if something could be everything.
“Jesus Saves” by Jae Nichelle from GOD THEMSELVES, © 2023 Jae Nichelle. Used by permission of Andrews McMeel Publishing.