About suffering they were never wrong,
the Old Sit Coms: how well they understood
its relation to the comic:
Lucy stuffing her mouth with both chocolates
then with Ethel, in cut-n-dry black-and-white,
stomping grapes as if they were globules of female inequity.
Later, Ricky waiting for the miraculous birth
(miraculous, because the parents slept in separate beds)
could never forget the dreadful martyrdom
of remaining in a frustrating marriage.
They divorced by Kennedy—like two halves of America.
And so Archie, a Bunker in name and attitude,
festered in his untidy spot
where Meathead went on with his Meathead life,
stuck with each other for love of Gloria.
His armchair was a coliseum
where the crowd learned laughter
was part of slaughter.
In Garry Marshall’s Happy Days, for instance:
how everyone turned
off the channel after Fonzie jumped the shark.
Walter Cronkite may have heard the splash,
the forsaken Heeeeyyyy!,
but for him it was not an important half-hour.
Yet we ten-year-olds watched as we had to,
and my tired parents, who must have seen something amazing,
a blue-collar man rising into the sky
over a sea full of teeth and enthusiasm,
riding his hubris like a motorcycle,
had their own labyrinths to escape,
predators in suits and a repo man’s tow-truck to avoid,
and turned their backs almost leisurely to the spectacle.
At the dinner table, they wrote out checks
for partial payments
amid whatever canned laughter would bleed
into the kitchen,
filled their mouths with some whisky,
then got into separate spaces
in the same bed
and failed calmly on.