“To the Man About to Put the Lampshade on His Head” by Ken Wagner

Ken Wagner


it’s not funny

no matter how much scotch we drink

it’s not funny

the only way you can top yourself at the next party 
is to enter in a floral print dress   lipstick   and heels
and that’s even more not funny than the lampshade

so as you finger the fringe on the shade of the table lamp
mustering the courage or more likely squelching your dignity
let us follow the natural progression of your un-comedic arc

you will don the lampshade and say   I feel lightheaded
followed by   Get it   Get it

and then a limerick about the man off the coast of Cape Cod
which we’ve all heard a thousand times before 
but some of the men will make the mistake
of giving you an obligatory chuckle

which will only make you try harder
which is even more less funny

then all the women will turn away   and in sync roll their eyes
your wife will leave the room and the men will fan away saying   
Classic you

when your wife returns with your coat on her arm
she’ll jingle the keys at you and say   Roger   Come

and you’ll sheepishly walk to the door
keeping the lampshade on as you wave goodbye

and all the men will bend slightly in sympathy pain
and all the women will start to clean up the bar

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015

[download audio]


Ken Wagner: “I’ve stumbled through life as a great gawker of odd little moments. Moments mostly comprised of my own foolishness or my perception of someone else’s embarrassment. While amusing, I always wondered what they were good for. I found Hoagland and Olds, Kooser, and read all of Wagoner and the other masters, which helped me understand those moments presented to me were possible poems knocking at my door.”

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