Three Poems

Carl Rakosi

Quips and Quacks in Vaudeville

Quips is dressed like a clown. He holds a bicycle horn in his hand that farts when he squeezes it and he has a bright red bulb on his nose.

Quack, his partner, is dressed similarly.

Quack: ‘There’s talk in Washington
that we may be going to war.’

Quips: ‘I know how to stop it.’

Quack: ‘How?’

Quips: ‘For starters . . .’

He makes a peremptory fart on his horn.

Quack waits: ‘That’s it?’

Quips: ‘No. After that we blitz
the enemy with popcorn.’

Quack: ‘Who’s the enemy?’

Quips: ‘Washington, of course.
When they see all those

soft explosions drifting down,
they’ll go into a crazy dance

and fall on their ass
in paroxysms of laughter.

Next thing you know,
the President will go

into a conference
with Santa Claus.

That’s where we get ‘em.
There is no Santa Claus.’

Quips squeezes his horn again.

Quack: ‘My sentiments exactly.’

Quips removes his false nose. There are tears in his eyes.

They look helplessly at each other.

Oil of Humours

I’m reading from
an ancient pharmacopoeia:

‘Rye is good
for reducing humours

but it causes
melancholia.’

Well, sez I, I know
the remedy for that.

It’s in a garden. There’s
a charming young lady there

transfixed in time.
She gracefully lifts

the hem of her dress
and at the same time

shoos away the birds
with a gesture of her hand.

Voilà! That’s it . . .

or try some oil of sagacity.

Travelling in the Genetic Code

My heart is looking
for Elysium

some simple country
not on the map

with only three
lawyers
and no embassies

but it has strayed
into an unfamiliar land
inhabited by genomes

older than God

an infinitesimal point
on the map of man.