There needs to be a word for laughing at horror
When something’s so awful that you laugh in surprise
And you say, “I know it’s not funny…”
But there’s still a laughing look in your eyes.
Like when you hear of the man who was a quadriplegic for life
Falling down in the kitchen to land on a knife.
He would scream out in pain, but he can’t move his lips!
He’d get off the knife, but he can’t move his hips!
Still he’s not quite dead yet, the very poor dear—
Though he may wish he were, as he’s overtaken with fear—
For in the thin walls of his house, a bad electrical wire
Has found inflammable ground and started a fire!
And as the flames rise up, our victim’s consumed
By smoke and fire that blaze him to his doom.
Whoever it was that said Nature’s so sweet
Has never been chaff, has been only wheat.
But for a man like me who is often the chaff
When cruel tragedy happens, I have to weep as I laugh!
And I know it’s not funny to laugh at these things,
When the blades of life are cutting one’s wings,
And the depths of horror are so profound that you cry
Yet an inapt smile appears near the tear from your eye!
So what can you call it when you are laughing at horror?
It’s not quite “schadenfreude,” and not quite “sadistic;”
It’s certainly not “tasteless,” because that’s too simplistic.
I really believe that we must make a word
For a feeling that each of us has sometimes incurred.
I have no proposals, nor have I quaint dictum,
So, like all of you, I’ll just try to not be a victim.
“Clean” Dean the mighty Marine
Couldn’t tell whom
He’d killed or he’d seen.
He was classified to be in many Black Ops
And his superiors referred to him as one of their “mops,”
Because Dean Ian the Cleaning Machine
Was able to leave no trace at a scene.
A contractor is working?
Now he’s working no more.
Disappeared forever to even a score.
Clean Dean the Careful Marine
Left the place looking like
His hit had never been.
One day Clean Dean left the Marines.
He stopped lifting weights;
He became long and lean.
He got into the horses;
He got into the tracks;
He read books about gardening
And espionage paperbacks.
Clean Dean the mighty Marine
Met a lady one day whose name was Colleen.
They got along smoothly,
And he bought her a ring.
He proposed in the fall,
And they were married in spring.
Clean Dean bought a car for the baby
A safe car with four doors
Because Collen was expecting.
The years passed by,
These Dean could not sweep away.
He lived through the seasons;
He lived through the days.
Clean Dean grew old and found God.
His babies had babies,
And he once thought how odd
It was to grow old,
When he’d been convinced he’d die young.
Clean Dean, however, lived till he was ninety-one,
And before he died, his doctor marveled at him
Said, “It must be good living that has kept you so trim.”
And Clean Dean the Ruthless Marine
Gave not a thought to the horrors that he had seen
To the corpses he’d made or the dark places he’d been,
But said with a smile,
“Doc, what’s fascinating,
Is how the world keeps on turning,
Without taking notice of you
It’s a sphere of green and of white and of blue,
And taken at a distance, like from the nearest star,
We folk are so very tiny, that no one knows who we are.”
And so Clean Dean the Mighty Marine
Died one day and Earth kept revolving,
Persisting in its course as it does for all men,
Going and going as if we’d never been.
I met a fellow in the bar last night
Who thought he was William Tell
Wanted to shoot a beer can off my head
I told him to go to Hell.
But he gave me a look like the last buffalo
Dying out on the plains
So sad and lonely it made me act
Like I had forgotten all of my brains…
The barman told us to take it outside
But I told him that I liked where I was
Sitting in front of that big saloon mirror,
Listening to the neon lights buzz.
I took up a bottle of cold Miller Lite
And I set it on top of my head
But when the fellow stumbled ten paces off
I figured I’d soon end up dead.
He cocked back the hammer on his Colt three fifty-seven
And as I watched the cylinder turn
I froze up with my brain full of spiders,
And my stomach crawling with worms.
He closed one eye, and I saw the gun waving
Not a few inches upwards and down
And I cautiously asked him whether he meant
to shoot up the ceiling or into the ground?
The fellow slurred, “I used to do this when I’d hunt antelope
I’d calculate the angle, the distance, and slope.
I’d never miss then,
I’d put bullets through hearts,
For gunmanship is nothing but poise and practice and smarts,
And I possess each in equal parts!”
He stuck his tongue between his lips
And told me to stand very still
And as the barrel waved before my face
I turned a snake green, and I felt very ill.
The fellow slurred, “Whatcher eyes wide for?
I won’t do you no harm!”
Then he licked his lips and drooled a little spittle,
And then the fucker shot me—right in the arm!
The bullet knocked me back against the bar
And the patrons all screamed and ran
A tequila bottle shattered, my stool fell and clattered,
And I heard a shout of “Goddamn!”
Well I clutched my arm, and I started to stand
When I saw the fellow aiming again
I started a prayer, and I leapt out of there,
Talking fast on my way to, “Amen!”
He fired the gun, and the mirror blew out,
Shards of glass flew all over the place.
I poked my head up over a table
And found him aiming the gun at my face.
So I made myself scarce as the gun fired again
And destroyed a bottle of gin.
“Ceasefire, truce!” I shouted to him,
“The bottle’s broken—you win!
If you want me to tell folks you shot it first try,
By heaven, I’ll put it in song!”
“Can I count on you?” he slurred in a shout,
“I want ’em to know I don’t shoot wrong!”
“You can count on me till the end of your days,
From now until the end of all this!
By the time I’m done talking
The people will say, There goes the man who never once missed!”
“Well, I suppose that’s allright,” the drunk fellow said,
“My friend I’ll take up your word.”
Then he looked all around and he put the gun down,
And he said, “I’m sorry I shot up the bar.
But to see the mirror blow out
And hear folks scream and shout
Well that’s enough to make a man’s day.
And after all no one got hurt, just men being men,
Let me buy you a drink, my new friend.
This’ll all turn out right, the world’ll keep turning,
And we’ll all end the same in the end.”
I said I could use a beer and cigarette,
As I picked myself up off the floor.
“A cig?” he said, “I could shoot the cherry off it, I bet.”
And I took off running—right out the door!
Bill “The Butcher” Proctor was the town’s local doctor
And he had had much more than a nip.
When a woman came in with a broken hand,
He took off her leg at the hip.
When the woman woke up she just looked down and sobbed.
“Why, oh why, do you cry?” asked Doctor Proctor,
“It may be true that you’re left with one thigh,
But you’ll get used to that by and by.”
“You fool, you bastard!” the woman screamed at the man,
“I came in to your clinic with a pain in my hand!”
“Hm,” said the doctor, looking down at her leg.
“Well. Yes. Hm. I see.
“In my condition I thought I saw something wrong with the knee.”
And he thought, “Left uncorrected, this could spell serious trouble for me!”
“I’ll sue your quack practice for all that it’s worth!”
Screamed his patient in fury as she wept and she cursed.
Dr. Proctor scratched at his chin, then he put her under again.
He murmured, “I’ll fix this wreck right up in a sec!”
And with the sound of a snick and the sound of a sneck
He cut off his patient’s head at the neck!
“There,” he said, holding her head up by the hair,
“There, there, there! Now, now, she can’t complain to anyone anywhere!”
She heard the click of the ratchet,
and saw the oil pan, sweat, and the grease.
Heat waves shimmered out over the prairie,
while wind stroked the wheat.
From his back beneath his black ’70 Camaro,
he saw her bronzed, crossed legs swinging.
He tightened the oil plug, came out from under the car,
and filled the reservoir with oil.
He wiped his hands with a red rag, and he felt
her eyes on him.
She was sitting on a lawn chair sipping lemonade,
with the prairie stretched out behind.
She didn’t smile when he looked at her,
but she met his eyes.
He checked the oil level, shut the hood,
and ran the car while he put his tools away.
Want to go for a ride, he said.
Yeah. Where to?
It’s the road that matters, he said,
And what you do while you’re on it.
So you don’t know where you’re going?
I know exactly where I’m going, he said.
I’m going where my heart leads.
She smiled at that, and she got in.
They drove out past the steel pump jacks
into a fairy land of wind farms, where the towers
stood like giants and cast shadows
that bent northeast.
As the stars wheeled up, they stopped roadside
to pick buffalo grass and daisies, then they drove on again.
The moon was a quarter full, and as they swept
through the panhandle, she put her bare feet
up on the dash, and she knotted a daisy necklace.
She put it around her neck, and when he looked over
she was wearing the flower necklace,
and hanging in her ears were silver earrings
shaped like crescent moons.
Although he knew already that he was in love,
He felt it again, and he told her so.
When the night was deep and black, they stopped again,
out there on the pavement, and he put his hand around her waist.
Together they looked up to the stars,
and they made up stories for constellations,
listening to one another, to the cicadas,
and their hearts.
Limericks were popularized by the artist Edward Lear (1812 – 1888). Most of mine are grim and funny.
An Ant in a Shoe
There once was an ant in a shoe
Who said I’ve got nothing to do
Then a man came along
And he put his shoes on
Now that ant’s nothing more than a goo.
A man lived in Ecuador’s Embassy
In London by the Thames and the sea
Now no one’s sure where he’ll go
But there’s one thing we all know
Where ever he’s next is rent free. April 11th, 2019 Julian Assange is arrested.
There once was a beaver named Weaver
Who met a young furrier named Cheever
He said your tail’s like a paddle
But it would make a nice saddle
So he chopped off his tail with a cleaver.
The Big Crocodile
There once was a big crocodile
Who lived on the banks of the Nile
He said I love to munch and to crunch
And eat children for lunch
It’s the youth that make living worthwhile.
The Black Hole, Messier 87 There once were supermassive black holes
Whose hearts were darker than coal
Some folk found them odd
And tied them to God
Hoping they’d shine light on the soul. April 10th, 2019 The first image of a black hole is published.
The Boll Weevil
There once was a cotton boll weevil
Whom all the farmers called evil
When it ate all their cotton
They called the bug rotten
And sprayed Aldrin until it weren’t legal.
There once was a place called Bordeaux
With lamplighters who set streets aglow
Every dark night
They’d bring on the light
And in so doing they’d cast a shadow.
Boxing and Dance
There once was a very fine marriage
Made from man’s footwork and carriage
The marriage wed boxing and dance
In a beauty-and-beast type romance
And spanned the two fields with its fair bridge. May 4th, 2019 (Cinco de Mayo weekend) Canelo fights Jacobs
Caster Semenya There once was a woman who ran
Til a board implied she was half a man
They told her to decrease her hormone
By limiting testosterone
Or she would get permanently banned. May 1st, 2019 The IAAF rules that South African runner Caster Semenya must medically decrease her natural levels of testosterone to run the 800 and 1500 meter races. Semenya subsequently refuses.
There once were a sister and brother
Whose antics annoyed their poor mother
She said Now you had better behave
Or I’ll send you both to your grave
A phrase she recalled from her mother.
There once was a Chilean named Bean
Whom a cook tried to force through a screen
She said You’ll make a fine hash
Once you’re smashed and you’re mashed
But her words were drowned out by his scream.
The Covetous Queen
There once was a covetous queen
Who wanted everything that she’d seen
She hounded the court
Until they gave their support
To render her blind as a bean.
The Dead Shot
There once was a corpse on a cot
Whose body did nothing but rot
One day a distiller moved in
He added yeast like for gin
And said I’ll name my new drink the Dead Shot.
A Doctor Named Chris
There once was a doctor named Chris
Whose surgeries went always amiss.
He said with a shake of his head
I’ve left another one dead
The families will have to get used to this.
An Enormous Snake There once was an enormous snake
Who ate children who passed by the lake
He said if they weren’t so good raw
I’d still fill my craw
I’d just have to learn how to bake!
The Fisherman’s Wife
There once was a fisherman’s wife
Who caught a fish in the prime of its life
She said with a grin
I’ll not see you again
And she cut off its head with a knife.
There once was a deadly disease
Who traveled far and wide on a sneeze
It said Don’t wash your hands
For there are many fine lands
That I am still very anxious to see.
A Grim Slaughterhouse
There was once a grim slaughterhouse
That would kill anything from a cow to a mouse
One day a woman went there and said,
I’m very miserably wed,
Do you think you could butcher my spouse?
The Incredible Prude
There once was an incredible prude
Who was too shy to even bathe nude
She’d bathe in her clothes,
And she’d cover her nose,
For she thought that her nostrils were lewd.
The Lumberjack and the Trees
There once was a grove of old trees
Who grew tall living life by the seas
Along came a strong lumberjack
Who took them down with a whack
And left stumps as tall as your knees.
The Mad Man
There once was a mad man named Jim
Who hurt everyone close to him
After he found a wife
He took her life
You can’t trust a mad man my friend.
A Man Named Ajmal There once was a man named Ajmal
Who couldn’t be trusted at all
He said to a girl who was near
Won’t you come here my dear?
Then he bashed in her head with a maul.
A Man With No Legs
There once was a man with no legs
Who dearly loved to eat eggs
He said Give me ten hens
And I’ll never be hungry again
But they gave him no hens now he begs.
The Maniacal Maid
There once was a maniacal maid
Who prepared a cyanide marmalade
She spread it on toast,
On the ham, and the roast,
Then set them on the table she’d laid.
Notre-Dame de Paris
There once was a cathedral in France
Recognized by all at a glance
One day it was consumed by a fire
And down fell its spire
It shall be rebuilt and elegantly enhanced. April 15th, 2019 The Cathedral of Notre Dame Catches Fire
The Orange Cantaloupe
There once was an orange cantaloupe
Who said in a voice full of hope
Oh please do not pare me
Oh please will you spare me?
To which the fine family said Nope.
There once was a planet called Earth
The only on which there’d been birth
Its residents there
Breathed water and air
And never understood what life’s worth.
There once was a king’s wicked son
Who thought cruelty was nothing but fun
One day a thing made him sad,
And he felt so confused and so mad,
That he torched a convent of nuns.
There once was a princess named Mary
Who was frightened of anything scary
One day a lion came by
And he made the girl cry
And then he left nothing to bury.
There once was a cruel queen and king
Who forced a man to dance and to sing
Once the man was too sick to leave bed
So the royalty cut off his head
There’s always a reason to sing.
A Sarcastic Girl
There once was a sarcastic girl
Who refused to give sincerity a whirl
She said, I’m sure sincerity’s great,
Just so clear, open, and straight
For it I’d trade diamonds and pearls.
The Scorpion in the Shower
A scorpion once lived in a shower
Lying still there for many an hour
When along came a bare-ankled girl
Who turned the tap with a twirl
Now she beds in a grave with white flowers.
The Sheep Herder’s Daughter
There once was a sheep herder’s daughter
Who hated to see the sheep slaughtered
She said Oh please spare the ewe
But her father sliced it in two
So she drowned herself deep in dark water.
A Sleepless Night
One night a girl couldn’t sleep
She tossed and she turned in her sheets
She lay awake in her bed
Her hands by her head
And heard her ancient house creak.
There once was a bad educator
Whose style made the students all hate her
She was vulgar and mean
And very often obscene
She thought her harsh words made her greater.
The Termagant Wife
There once was a termagant wife
Who jabbed her husband with a dull knife
She said I must have been crazy
To have married someone so lazy
To which he agreed, You have been all of your life.
Tiger A golfer once won at the Masters
Then met with private disasters
He hurt his wife and his spine
He lost his luster and shine
Then returned to please the forecasters. April 14th, 2019 Tiger Woods wins the Masters after not winning a major for 11 years.
There once was a blonde president
Who always seemed unsoundly bent
His comments on Twitter
Felt sniveling and bitter
And his words too vulgar for print.
An Unusual Fellow
A man with two hearts and two heads
Said to the other If I die are you dead?
The other said Well probably
But maybe just wobbly
Though I’d rather you live longer instead.
There once was a violinist named May
Who practiced her songs night and day
One day a thief stole her violin
And she said, Lord above that’s a sin,
Why is it that You’re hindering my way?
The Voiceless Owl
There once was a voiceless owl
Who thought it made him less of a fowl
He said Oh if I were not mute
Then I would do nothing but hoot
I’d give my wings to utter a vowel.
The Young Mallard
There once was a young mallard duck
Who couldn’t say quack so said cluck
The chickens just loved him
The ducks all just snubbed him
And the woodsman took him home to be plucked.