tzara by andrei codrescu

Sensibility was not what spelled doom
but rather forelocks and insouciance, palabras y cadavros,
the toasts made ten years before in a Cocteau moment.
What I would like is to conduct a study
on the liberatory intensity of laughter
using recordings from the very first chortle
thought worth recording, a Chaplin audience or
a child before a bicycle in the teens of the 20th century
or an hysteric before a psychiatrist, in itself
a milestone, laughter like smiling photographs
having to wait decades before the cost of film
or equipment allowed a hint of frivolity into
the serious business of the world, furrowed brows,
severe bosoms, modesty, concentration, lack
of spontaneity and the plain duration necessary
to hold a pause or to continue being tickled
by something in the mind’s eye, the moment
in let’s say 1913, when a Jewish boy fresh
out of the ghetto of Moinesti or Czernowitz
could laugh in a burst that concentrated and released
centuries of repression and fear combined with a strict
alphabet leaving no airy gaps for sprigs of springtime
and did so on tape the cost be damned,
recognition of something new following
as surely uncontainable as a peasant’s before
the nude legs of a mannequin being dressed in a shop
window by a woman whose white ankles signalled
the death of his acquired ancestral gloom.
That is a laugh we must recover and I’d like
to study because we all know what followed.

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