No Joke

No Joke

HAVE YOU HEARD THE ONE ABOUT THE NIGHT SKY?
It’s aflame with corpses. We live in the past.
Every dead star still burning in our eyes.

It’s hard to speak when there’s something in your mouth
that you can’t spit out, but I keep trying to say
what I mean. What I mean

is I like spring because it stays light
late into the evening. What I mean is
I’m staring directly at the sun. Power lines

shred the blue of the twilight and I am choking
on the nothing in my mouth, the nothing wrong
I’ve lived with my whole life. I am overcome
by melancholy when, in the full dark

after sunset, my nostalgia begins to light up,
constellating in my eyes like a detached eyelash.

I’ve cried while riding a bicycle more times than
I’ve accidentally broken dishes in the sink.
I wash dishes at least once a day. I crack

a joke when I’m worried about appearing too serious,
which is most times. I’ve been called
intimidating and I’m not sure why. More like
in-TIM-idating. I’m sorry. Jokes are the only words

small enough to fit around all of the blood
between my teeth. All of the silent mouth

inside my loudmouth. It’s funny to think about
all the ways we don’t exist. But not like ha ha.

My life is a firmament I’ve been staring into
waiting for a meteor to unzip the night
but the stars fell moments after I closed my eyes
the sky dark and still by the time I looked back.

About the author

Timothy Otte

Timothy Otte is a poet and critic. Poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Denver Quarterly, Reservoir, Sixth Finch, SAND Journal, and others. Book reviews have appeared in the Poetry Project Newsletter, and on Colorado Review, LitHub, and Chicago Review of Books, among others. He is from and lives in Minneapolis, where he works at Coffee House Press, but keeps a home on the internet: www.timothyotte.com.