My parents have come home laughing
From the feast for Robert Burns, late, on foot;
They have leaned against graveyard walls,
Have bent double in the glittering frost,
Their bladders heavy with tea and ginger.
Burns, suspended in a drop, is flicked away
As they wipe their eyes, and is not offended.
What could offend him? Not the squeaking bagpipe
Nor the haggis which, when it was sliced, collapsed
In a meal of blood and oats
Nor the man who read a poem by Scott
As the audience hissed embarrassment
Nor the principal speaker whose topic,
“Burns’ View of Crop Rotation,” was intended
For farmers, who were not present,
Nor his attempt to cover this error, reciting
The only Burns poem all evening,
“Nine Inch Will Please a Lady,” to thickening silence.
They drop their coats in the hall,
Mother first to the toilet, then Father,
And then stand giggling at the phone,
Debating a call to the States, decide no,
And the strength to keep laughing breaks
In a sigh. I hear, as their tired ribs
Press together, their bedroom door not close
And hear also a weeping from both of them
That seems not to be pain, and it comforts me.
“My Parents Have Come Laughing” — Mark Jarman