In the form of a joke
After Steven Wright

I got a humidifier and a dehumidifier
put them in the same room
let them fight it out

now my house is all shiny
a confusion of moisture
finding holes in the walls

I watch the neighbours
cooking eggs thoughtlessly

walk up to strangers and scratch
a penny on their hand
as an act of blood-copper tenderness

I feel like that all the time
marching between the barricades
like a weary insurrectionist

I yearn indecisively
for the furniture to be removed

stepping shameful into the future
we obey only the most facile rules

measuring distance in misunderstandings
piled like the bodies of ants

there’s so much between us
unspoken and loud as a flag

if we’ve failed to communicate meaningfully
it’s because sometimes I’m in parentheses
while you’re italicised like rain



Jack Emsden was shortlisted for the Wolverhampton Literature Festival competition 2021, and was awarded 2nd place prize in the Verve Poetry Press Community competition 2019. He also hosts regular open mic night Poetry at the Beer Café.