NPS 2009 Day 2: Jesse Parent Poetry Feature

Today is the second day of the National Poetry Slam in West Palm Beach, Fl. Since poetry is being celebrated all week long in Florida, the same thing is going to happen here. I’ve already introduced you to the Salt City Slam poets with some brief bios and other information, now you get to see a little more of each poet’s work.jesse parent

Today’s feature is Jesse Parent:

Gallows Humor
by Jesse Parent

Skott Greene and I started the same summer in 1993
Working at my uncle’s tattoo parlor in East Providence.
He was always blaring Deep Purple
And trying to turn me on
To Black Sabbath and other bands with too much hair.
We’d celebrate late nights at Bickfords with Coffee
And the occasional creamer that defied gravity
With its viscosity and consistency.
The man’s ink covers much of my epidermus.

On February 20, 2003
At the Station Nightclub
In West Warwick, Rhode Island
Great White played a small concert
To a capacity crowd,
Where 100 people spent their last night
Snuffed out by flames.

One of them was Skott Greene.

He had tattooed the lead singer the day before
And been tipped tickets to his demise.
News was scarce.
I wondered how such a heavily tattooed man
Could take so long to be identified,
Slowly dawning on me with sickening realization
How blackened and charred
His ink and skin must have been.
What his last moments must have been like,
Clawing through the crowd to get out of there.

Seeking solace, I looked to see
What others were saying online,
The debates on safety,
The finger pointing,
The question of
“How could that building have gone up
In flames that fast?”
And the one answer that stood out:


And with that,
I laughed loudly in breakbeats of sobs.
And to the sick song of Gallows Humor.
That inappropriate joking that I so desperately needed.
The clinging to comedy to explain away our tragedy,
Making one mask out of two.
We’re a sick lot,
Those of us who need this.
Like teenage cutters freeing flowing emotion
With razor wit.
The off color offensive humor
Concocted between falling towers and breaking levees.
Making sense out of senses of humor.
And ignoring any outraged cries of “Too soon!”

Like my dad at his own father’s wake.
My grandfather. Our Pepere.
Looking at a room swamped with eyes
And loudly recounting how
Pep wanted to be buried face down
So the world could kiss his ass.
Breaking out this small gag box
That would shake and exclaim,
“Hey! Hey! Let me out of here!”
Whenever you bumped or shook it.
Dad threatened to put it in the coffin
With conspiratory glee.

But on a shady funeral day,
While burying our Pepere,
My father broke.
Emotion let out of him
As he was handed a triangular flag.
And for the third time in my life,
I saw him cry.
No cloak of jokes or laughter,
just raw sorrow as I turned to hold him,
Bumping his jacket pocket.
Laughing loudly as we shook in time with sobs
To that goddamn gag box
He had hidden in his pocket,
Surrounded by a shitload of shaking heads
And three sets of seven shots,
Punctuated with cries of
100 people
Trapped in a box:

Let me out of here.

For more information on Jesse and his work both in the slam community and in improv, just go HERE.
Jesse Parent

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