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Joe Thompson Nov 2020
Ode to the Serif

There are those I have heard that just couldn't care if
There were no letters left that featured a serif -
Old fashioned and useless and a bit of a joke
Those last little marks at the end of a stroke.
This is the age of Sans serifs designers may shout
(Sans being a French word that just means without,
which is odd in a way cause the word serif is dutch
and the Romans invented them - mixed up very much?)

Serifs are busy, Sans serifs are leaner
Sans serifs, they say have a more hip demeanor.
But I beg to differ. (you suspected I would)
I think that serifs are perfectly good.
They have class and panache and a long history
while Sans serif letters lack all mystery.
Imagine a monument - maybe marble or bronze
with the name of the hero set in bold comic sans.
So be like the Romans, who in sunshine or drizzle
just finished each letter with a smack on the chisel.
Joe Thompson Nov 2020
RIP: The greatest show on earth

The announcement came:
This was the last year for the circus–
The working man's circus,
The last ******* child of Ringling Brothers
And P.T. Barnum

Good, my wife said
Think about the animals.
I nod in absent agreement -

But I am at Coney Island as it might have been, once.
And watching amusement parks in Celeron, Bay Ridge, the Palisades and a hundred others places vanish -
One by one like altar candles extinguished before the recessional.

I am a young boy staying up late tearing through Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked this Way Comes"
while everyone else in the house is sleeping.

I am at a City Lights book store in San Francisco
Where Lawrence Ferlinghetti is sharing his cotton candy with Diane Arbus and Allen Ginsburg

I am listening to "Take Five" in stereophonic sound.

I am behind the Big-Top
with Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens
trying to catch a glimpse of the show through the shadows -
Then being told to get away by a large sweaty man who doesn't smile.

I am eating peanuts salted in the shell.

I am holding my daughters tiny hand
while my son hides behind me–
a clown is walking by.
Joe Thompson Nov 2020
The elephant in the room
Is tired of being a metaphor.
He is tired of standing in for unpleasant, awkward things.
He is tired of being ignored -
Of being invisible.
He wants to do the same things
All elephants like to do
Like painting his toenails red;
Hiding in apple trees;
Jumping on ants.
If he could, he would pack his trunk
And cram himself into the backseat of a Volkswagen beetle
With a couple of his friends.
Maybe head down the ocean
For a weekend.
But he knows he can't.
Because however he got into our room
The door isn't big enough
For him to get out.
He could just smash through
But that would be pretty awkward and uncomfortable for everyone.
He hates being awkward.

Joe Thompson 2019
Joe Thompson Nov 2020
The sand and driftwood on our little beach
Is rearranged regularly
By the tide and wind and waves
While the large stones that abut the sea wall (river wall?)
Seem to hold their ground stoicly.
In time they will shift as well.
A trio of young boys ride their bicycles past us
Casually ignoring the young girl tagging along behind them.
On the news
Stories of people protesting the stay at home orders

Oblivious to the risks they take home to their families.
The streets of major cities become war zones
When activists are joined by rioters and bigots with guns
A new president is elected.
The old one tweets and sues and continues his angry lies
But it's all for show.

I turn off the television.
Aware that behind the black screen the outside world continues to unravel.
Joe Thompson Sep 2020
Inside and out

My oldest brother,
After a lifetime of smoking,
Found himself tethered to an oxygen tank
Which, exacerbated by the steps up to the street,
made his trips out of the house
More and more Infrequent
Until they stopped.
My mother
Spent the last twenty years of her life
Ensconced in a small dark apartment
rarely leaving her own mind.
My other brother stayed with her
Making occasional trips to the store
For food, cigarettes and beer.

I think about them today
As I shelter in place
Hiding from the pandemic
Practicing the banjo
Watching old movies
And wrestling with anxiety.
Outside the window
A brazenly red cardinal
Stops by for just a moment
Before heading off
to another engagement
Joe Thompson Sep 2020
The banjo is an instrument
for expressing joy and pain
Perhaps designed by Beelzebub
To drive one’s family insane

And that could be the truth of it
I find it hard to tell
Until the day I join the band
That practices in hell.

Though I suppose there is a chance
I end up in the other place,
And St Peter says “The banjo’s fine.
It’s not as if you played the bass.”
Joe Thompson Sep 2020
I could do magic as a child
Real magic
Not tricks.
Once I made it snow
By destroying a dragon
cleverly disguised as a bush
Hiding in my backyard.

And once I flew like Peter Pan
For an instant
Before gravity intervened
Pulling me to the ground
Where my wrist was sliced open
And blood gushed forth
(Which upset my guardians
Who were no doubt worried
That with a little more practice
I might have flown even longer and gotten farther away from their expensive unhappy house.)

I still do magic
Small magic
Woven into designs and words, colors and sounds.
By itself it can't heal the sick
depose tyrants
Or even make it snow.
But together with thousands of other magicians
Maybe we could weave a web of hope
To catch a few falling souls
And teach them to fly free.
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