There’s nothing better than a smart, funny collection of thoughts to take the bite out of hard-to-think-about things. Jennifer Michael Hecht’s collection, Funny, is an amazing and insightful work of art. I’ve read a lot of poetry, and most of the award-winning stuff is either totally inaccessible to most of us or so far up its own ass that we don’t get anything from it. THIS, though, is just enough mental yoga mixed with the funniest person you ever had drinks with. And this isn’t even Hecht’s day job: She has a Ph.D. in the history of science and works as a professor of history in New York. Here’s a sample for you…
The Propagation of the Species Jennifer Michael Hecht
It is likely that someone will be standing there at the end of time, looking up at the fireball or down at the organs of desire.
It won’t be us, but only because odds are odds: uncanny, cranky, spare. Thus we may conclude the world to be a safe enough place. These are the cares of the day, the age of probability having replaced historic ne’er-do-wells with numbers. As for us, we live in surprise; why not share this mood and facial disposition with some scion of the future generation?
We spent our meditation-time instead confessing. The exercise delivered unexpected fruit. Perhaps we’ve better quarry than the truth.
The fruit of all of this is possession and release, mango and bananas.
Especially bananas. Try expressing to a friend, when next you are feeling unglued or blue, say: I’m bananas. Explain to others that your lover, while very sweet and handsomely randy, is a mite bananas; is bananas. With a meaningful look in your eye, gesture an unpeeling.
It is your autobiography you are living. The actor eating scampi to my left says he is not yet off-book, but will be. Folks, I am ever-so-slightly off-book; Friends, I am bananas.
We parse the problem, nouning out the principle players: friends, families, prospects. I interview the possibility of a child; ask it questions. Intone the word: Interested? Then: Want to learn the word for widget? Want to read Beowulf? Want to get named?
Shall we grin and bear it? I admit, existence is where woeful was conjured. Nonetheless, to recommend it, there is Jell-O; average rainfall; the anchovy app at Luna’s; and the fact that in the middle, many change their minds on the whole shebang — get a good one off in both directions. But you and I are going to have to choose.
It is our autobiography we are eating; you snooze you lose. Still, in the midst of going too slowly, all hell has been known to break loose.
A gang of snails attacks a tree sloth, steals her wallet. Down at the station, police chief questions: How’d they get ya?
Sloth says, I dunno, it all happened so fast.
Ain’t it the truth. All this wallowing
in the details of engagement and when the battle comes, it isn’t quite expected. It’s slower. Also, over much too fast to make a fair assessment. Lounging in her tea tree, chewing leaves and dreaming, she sees them: tiny, slimy things with spiral shells and damp antennae that float like sea anemone above their wet-tongue heads. She wonders softly: Is it a moment for decision?
Shall I bolt or battle? Or better yet, might this pass me by without regret? It took days for the battalion to cross the stretch of trunk and reach her, yet she was still mulling it over when she found herself succumbed. Years later, still on her way home from the station, she wondered what she had wanted with a wallet, anyway.
There is no way to parry ordinary disaster. There are no odds worth playing.
Animal-stars from early motion-pictures eat bonbons and wear feathered mules in their trailers; the old-age home; the zoo. What, on the other hand, will become of you and I?
Side by side, the Studebakers inside us ride along the Côte du Rhone, our hair getting tangled in the violent wind of speed.
And how do you propose we un-knot all these tangles? Not, I trust, on the rocks below: brave souls pick a hotel from the travel guide and go.
What do fools do? Don’t know. Probably the same but badly. Bombardiers stay home. Bombardiers know too much of bombs to roam.
Still, it is a question of the result of one’s actions. Mendel was a monk, watching pea-pods, but had a wild effect on pillow talk in centuries to follow; mumblings of the pregnant engineer.
What do you get from a threesome of a tiger, a scorpion, and a fly? Bumble-bee. How do you get a zebra? Mix a horse and a tiger. How you get a tiger? Mix a lion with that same zebra from before.
Let us accept a rainy August day as if it were a single, unlikely fabrication. As if these movies had never been on television before, as if we’d never heard of Mamie Eisenhower, as if her tiny bangs could still cause us to smile.
The recovering tree sloth hangs upside-down, her three-toed feet hooked to the fat branch above her as she lollingly observes the tropic scene. Much, she muses, to which we cling, turns out to be . . . ah well. She’s lost her train of thought, chewing a mild leaf and swinging gently with the breeze.
Odds of the home-front; odds of the sun; odds of a herringbone. Run, run, run.
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