During these winter months, especially in the midst of a pandemic and so much social unrest, I have been touched by the importance of laughter in our lives, the place it has in keeping our spirits buoyant and our nerves from fraying. As usual, I stumble across authors and poets who have expressed this so well, and I feel the truth of their words resonate. For example, here are a few lines pulled from Lisel Mueller’s poem The Laughter of Women:
The laughter of women sets fire
to the Halls of Injustice
and the false evidence burns
to a beautiful white lightness…
It runs across water that divides,
and reconciles two unfriendly shores
like flares that signal the news to each other
What a language it is, the laughter of women,
high-flying and subversive.
Long before law and scripture
we heard the laughter, we understood freedom.
(The full poem is published in the collection: Alive Together)
John Berger describes laughter in a beautiful passage from To The Wedding:
“Hearing a laugh, he raises his head. It takes him some time to find the one laughing. It’s a woman’s laugh…
The laughter sounds as if it comes from a field in the country. Then he spots her. She is standing at the second-storey window on the other side of the street, shaking a tablecloth or a bedcover. A tram passes but he still hears her laughter, and she is still laughing when the tram has gone, a woman no longer young, with heavy arms and short hair. When she stops laughing, she’ll have to sit down to catch her breath.”
And these lines taken from Pablo Neruda’s poem Your Laughter:
Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.
Do not take away the rose,
the lanceflower that you pluck
the water that suddenly
burst forth in your joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.
My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.
(The full poem published in the collection: The Captain’s Verses)
Luckily for all of us, laughter is contagious… no masks required.
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