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.
From North Sea, published by Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1978. Copyright © 1978 by Mark Jarman. All rights reserved. Used with permission.