Stand Up

I'm a stand-up. I daub the air
with the edge of my mouth,
with the dead spit of wit and polish.

Here's a good one,
swiped from behind the back of some blather
up the pub. My act consists
of a cackle
like a hen hawking corn
(laugh and the world
may never laugh with you,
but at least they'll not chuck you up),

and some overalls
dipped in a lime-green dye.
I am as luminous as lawn
on an autumn morning; they cannot miss.
I fire my gags at intervals,
hoping to dredge up applause.

Sometimes I stub
my jokes on the open air.
No problem. I cough up
a gullet of scum,
and paste it over the cracks.

I'm a riot;
but the audience is quiet.
Perhaps I have died
and returned as a thin bag of crisps.
I'm rattled. I rattle
easily enough,
pushing smut like the mike was a mincer.

After a few,
they'll rest even gristle
on the loll of their tar-stained tongues.

Have you heard the one
Now there was this
I was telling my friend

When you reach the end,
the pay-off
is stuffed by the rumble
of shifting bums.
My talent is in the balance.
I'm a stand-up,
until somebody stands me up.

From the book Robinson Crusoe's Bank Holiday Monday