the joke

it most often happens when the drinking is
going well,
somebody will say, “wait a minute, that
reminds me of something, I’ve got this
joke, it will only take a minute and I
promise not to tell

he leans forward and begins to tell
it, and this is the worst part because
you know it will not be funny, and worse
than that, not even plausible, but he goes
on as your stomach feels as if you had
eaten a rotten egg, you guess the punch
line long before he gets it, then he
looks about.

there is silence, no laughter, not even
a smile.

“wait,” he says, “don’t you get it?” this
guy says, ‘I got a horseshoe up my
butt and I’m not even a ringer,’ and
the other guy says…”

“I understand,” I tell him.

then he leans back, thinks that I
have no sense of humor, have had a
bad day, or that he overestimated my

he could be right on all counts, I know
that I often watch famous comedians
who make millions upon their risibility
factors and the audience roars with
appreciation and across the nation
numberless others join in from their
living rooms
and I sit there and think, this
stuff is bad, very bad, there’s
little doubt of

yet some drunk sits in a room
with me
and is offended because I
don’t roll upon the rug
when he lays out an obvious
dead shot that even makes
the gods

but they are never offended
enough not to return
and toss in a joke as bad
as the first, or worse,
returning to the first,
having forgotten the last
reception of

in all my decades of joke-
I’ve only heard one that is
it goes like this–
no wait, I’ve forgotten

you’re probably

Charles Bukowski
Original manuscript