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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

SELECTED SHORT SUBJECT

by James Penha


Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them,
his American jailers continued to torment him.
--Tim Golden, NY Times, May 20, 2005



                                                           ESTRAGON
: I wasn't doing anything.
                                                           VLADIMIR: Then why did they beat you?
                                                           ESTRAGON
: I don't know.
                                                           VLADIMIR: Ah no, Gogo, the truth is there are
                                                           things that escape you that don't escape me,
                                                           you must feel it yourself.
--Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot



Like little Lou Costello mistaken
for a man with brains to power
the Frankenstein monster
and so shackled by the undead,
Dilawar stutters to explain
he doesn’t know.
In the audience, we love
fear in burlesque:

           “H-H-H . . . He-He-He . . .” He

swirls his index finger in space
to stir up a scream,
but inspires merely a wheeze or two:

           “H-H-H . . . He-He-He . . .” He

tries two fingers in his mouth
to whistle for help
but only blows:

           “Wh-Wh-Wh- . . .” We

laugh like crazy waiting for it every time:
the sudden esophogeal liberation:

           “Hey, Abbott! Hey, Abbott!”

But when Bud arrives the monsters hide
so Bud too smacks Lou
demanding to know what’s wrong?
when nothing’s wrong!
Without words
for what he can not comprehend,
Lou dribbles
and gibbers,
and we are all as hysterical
as Military Intelligence Buds at Bagram
smacking Dilawar with peritoneal strikes
to get him to holla:

           “Allah! Allah!”

Of course they drop his drawers—
a gag as old as Minsky’s. And ask—
get this:

           “You want some water?”
           Little Dilawar nods.
           “NIAGARA FALLS!”
           And a bucketful is poured on his head.

                                                                                 Boffo!

The bucket hooding his noggin,
Dilawar in the dark loses perspective;
he trips on his own underwear.

                                                                                 Ba dum doom!

We know what’s next--
A few peritoneal strikes and away we go:

           “Hey, Allah! Hey, Allah!”

We just can’t stand it!
Neither Dilawar.
By now every time MI Buds raise him up,
his skinny legs flop and flip like Ray Bolger’s
on a bad straw day.

For the Base sawbones,
MI Buds stretch Dilawar’s arms
round their shoulders
to re-erect him one last time,
before they let him
c
   o
       l                                                                        Plinkety-plunkety
           l                                                                    Plunkety-plunk.
               a
                   p
                       se with a xylophone riff.

           So the doc inquires,
           “Has this happened before?
           Dilawar nods.
           “Well, it’s happened again!”

                                                                                 Da da da da da da
                                                                                 da da da da da da
                                                                                 da da da da da da da da.

And MI Buds figure if Dilawar can’t stand on his own two feet,
they’ll hoist him up with chains
and shackle him to the ceiling
by his wrists
like Houdini.

But the Buds have made a monstrous mistake:

Houdini wasn’t funny.


James Penha edits The New Verse News.