39: a Tuesday morning comic

Everyone knows the joke
(with the exception of cultures
who don’t know dogs):
it’s always the clever boy
who tells it. The others
gather and he asks
“Why does a dog lick its balls?”

First the boys suspect a serious lesson,
they smell the memory of school,
then the possibilities come,
answers they know aren’t the right ones,
(because they’re not funny)
then the clever boy gives
that punch line
and everyone laughs,
though just barely
because for the younger ones,
or for the ones who haven’t paid enough attention,
it takes time to make the connection
between what they have
and what the dog has
and the notion of desire.

Invariably, the boys
call up an impossible image,
and, invariably, one boy will say:
“I don’t get it.”

Maybe arguments will rise:
some of the boys will disagree
with the metaphor of balls.
“They’re not at all like balls.”
“More like sacks.”
“Why’re they called balls?”
And the least clever boy
persists: “Why are you laughing?”

But none of this will matter
because the image has been made.
The boys will all be imagining
themselves as dogs
doing what dogs do
but would die before admitting it.
Invariably, the boy
who said “I don’t get it”
will at once get it
(because the others
could never really explain it)
and this boy, invariably,
will imagine himself
home with his dog,
a golden retriever or a dachshund,
imaging what he will do
when no one’s looking.