Make a Joke and I Will Sigh and You Will Laugh and I Will Cry by Tony Tr ig i l io

Scantily Clad Press, 2008


Yesterday morning, a red spot on the bridge of my nose. My wife said it’s a zit. It’s not a bump. I’m afraid to look at myself in the mirror, in case the spot grows larger.

Lake Shore Drive shut down. My students beat by police. Joggers arrested. Henry came to class a slash cut above his eye, baton bruise in flight along on his back.

I tried to park on my block a glutted street Crowd of 3- and 4-story apartment buildings the whole neighborhood owns cars Found an open space -- blocked by someone doubleparked, flashers on.

2 For 2 weeks a package sat in our building lobby. The address is correct, but my neighbor moved 6 months ago. The mail carrier could take the package away. It’s been here 2 weeks, she knows the names of everyone in the building.

I drove to Office Max today. When I stepped out of the car saw a peach-colored streak, bottom of my right pant leg. I looked again: hairball trail my cat vomited on the bed this afternoon. The pants were on the bed, but I thought I cleaned everything. No time to drive back home and I needed a new box of computer paper. I bought the paper, cat vomit on my right pant leg as I walked through the store.

3 A man, the table next to me, ordered a bagel to go The woman behind the counter threw it toasted and wrapped She threw the bagel too hard and it whizzed past him and hit me in the shoulder I was struck by a bagel in the coffee shop This isn’t a beer commercial or a Drew Barrymore movie I was hit by a bagel

4 Three weeks ago the superintendent of our building made labels with our last names, stuck them on the apartment buzzer buttons and mailboxes. He misspelled my surname -- it’s “ethnic.” Last year, when we moved in, I taped a homemade laser-printed label on the mailbox with my name of course spelled correctly. He could have transcribed my name from this label. It’s not like I’m called “Mr. Mxyzptlk” or anything. I called and he apologized and said he’d fix it. Three weeks ago. I called again today and he didn’t remember our original conversation. That’s OK, I said, I just called to let you know the label hasn’t been corrected yet. He said, These things take time to order. I didn’t know. Of course it takes time, he said. Then he told me: Look, if you want, you can just go to Clark-Devon Hardware and order one yourself. I want all the labels for everyone in the building to look the same. They’re all black with gold lettering. If I order one that is irregular -- in font or color -- all the labels on the buzzer and the mailbox will look terrible. I was polite. I just want my name spelled correctly. We’re talking about my home.

Drove to school today -- taught my last night class of the semester & wanted to spoil myself -- the wait for the subway at 9:15 p.m. takes forever -near Loyola University, lake shore, just a couple miles from my apartment -- trees on the north side of the street waved their arms -- blew themselves into my car --

their fingertips swiped snow and gust -- nothing but Kubrick white in front of me --

5 I think an old friend of mine, Andy, someone I’ve known 14 years, got married without telling me. We live in the same city, barely 5 miles from each other. Usually we keep in regular contact. But the last time I saw him was back in September, when we went to a baseball game together. He didn’t say anything about marriage. Talking recently with a mutual friend, I discovered Andy might have gotten married this fall. His wife might be pregnant. The last time we spoke, a phone conversation at Christmas, he canceled two cat-sitting gigs my wife and I planned to do for him over the holidays. He said thanks, but his cat could be alone both those weekends. He didn’t say he was married or that he was going to be a father. I’ve lived in two different cities with him. Helped him through a divorce and his father’s terminal illness. He listens to me struggle with my father’s senility. I called my father on his cell phone yesterday. “Are you at home?” I asked. He said, “No, I’m in the living room watching TV.” I tried to reestablish communication with Andy last week, an email asking for advice on a company to repair our hardwood floors. He hasn’t responded.

6 My wife started nicknaming me “big shot” and “funny boy.” She says things like, “Who are you emailing now, big shot?” or “Why don’t you buy us a bottle of wine, funny boy?”

7 On the way to our neighborhood café this past Sunday, I stopped at the convenience store to buy a newspaper. A sign on the door said the store opened at 9 a.m. It was already 10 in the morning. But the store wasn’t open. They do this, especially on weekends.

8 Earwax affects the way I hear music I lose sharp highs Midrange flatter than it should be Lows muffled It’s there all the time, reminding me what I’m missing Nearly every time I take the train home at mid-day, the stairs to the street smell like pee. But if I come home later the odor isn’t there. And I don’t smell it in the morning. Someone in my neighborhood pisses on the train platform at noon every day. I can handle subway urine stench -it’s part of cities like mounds of deer shit in nature. I want to know why it’s the same time every day.


Sat through a 2-hour committee meeting today watched a nearly retired colleague stare at his tie and tried to remember what tapioca pudding tastes like not just to relive the last time I ate it (a month ago) but for texture and smell, the motionless taste then the muscles in back of my throat expand and gloopy sweet pudding falls into my body

10 My wife started calling herself “La Gatta” (the cat). She signs all of her email correspondence this way. Her co-workers even call her La Gatta. I have nothing against this nickname. Cats are my favorite animals in the world. Nicknames should form organically. I’ve never known anyone who just suddenly self-bestowed a nickname like this. What’s even stranger, I’ve slipped into calling her La Gatta. It just started happening. One day, I called her La Gatta and we both giggled. Next day, I called her that and neither of us broke a laugh, as if it were the most natural thing I could do.

11 I took a pill this morning and couldn’t swallow it. It got stuck in my throat. I drank a glass of water. The pill disintegrated into powder in back of my tongue. Burned every time I swallowed. A chunk of bread could push the pill and powder down my throat. All our bread was in the freezer. I ripped open a package of bagels, my throat scorched from the stuck pill. Thirty seconds on “high” setting in the microwave. It burned when I ate the bagel. Now I’m nauseous.

12 At 7:30 this morning, my 84 year old father called and wished us a Merry Christmas. Exactly one minute later, he called and wished us a Merry Christmas -- no recollection he’d just called.

13 Yesterday, I walked from the living room into the kitchen and stumbled over a pair of my shoes in front of the apartment door. Not in my way at all. I’m just clumsy.

I dried myself after my shower this morning and saw one of my toes was purple. It’s the entire toe, the first one after my big toe on my right foot. The same foot from my oafish stumble yesterday.

It’s killing me, and I don’t know if it’s a simple bruise or something worse. I’ve never had a whole toe turn purple. If it’s a bruise, I’ll get over it. But it could be a broken blood vessel. I don’t feel light-headed or anything.

14 Last night I dreamed aquamarine insects, some gigantic, swarmed all over my childhood home. Eventually they covered the house completely, a buzzing shroud.

15 A person called my cell phone today and didn’t leave a message. I called the number right back. I said, “You called my cell phone and the Caller ID picked it up.” The woman on the other end said, “Do you work for a laminating company?”

Last night my neighbor called my cell while I was taking a cab home. How did he get my number? He said, “I have the flu. Can you pick up some things for me at the convenience store? I need a 2-liter bottle of diet 7-Up. Diet. A carton of orange juice. Not from concentrate. A bottle of Ny-Quil. And those funny blue aspirin. You know what I mean. Those blue aspirin.” I said, “My cab just turned on our street. I have to go. I don’t know blue aspirin. But I’ll get everything else. And Ny-Quil contains aspirin anyway.”

16 Tomorrow I’ll get up as usual around 7 a.m. Feed the cat. Make a pot of coffee. Check the weather. Take a piss. Look in the bathroom mirror. I’ll either shave or not. Then check my email. The coffee will be done. I’ll drink a cup. Enough energy for a shower. I’ll dress for work. My clothing is serviceable, but I’ll remind myself to buy new shoes this weekend. I forgot last weekend. Then I’ll walk to the subway.

17 Acknowledgments These poems were originally written, in different forms, in response to Heike Liss and Michael Trigilio’s conceptual art website, The Complaint Project.

Tony Trigilio is the author or editor of four books, including the poetry collection The Lama’s English Lessons (Three Candles); two books of criticism, Allen Ginsberg’s Buddhist Poetics (Southern Illinois University Press) and “Strange Prophecies Anew” (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press); and an anthology, co-edited with Tim Prchal, Visions and Divisions: American Immigration Literature, 1870-1930 (Rutgers University Press). He teaches at Columbia College Chicago, where he directs the program in Creative Writing - Poetry and co-edits the poetry magazine Court Green.

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