It all started with besuited newsreaders
sniggering while reporting a massacre:
anchors passed it on to correspondents
who passed it on to interviewees
who infected millions of viewers.
A neurologist compared it to the plague
in Tanganyika, ’62, but was crying before
he could finish. His po-faced colleague
diagnosed mass psychogenic illness
but farted before she’d finished too,
as if hysteria had to escape somehow.
No one could stop themselves:
the Chancellor couldn’t take his cuts
seriously; the PM declared war
as if he were inviting everyone to a party;
brass bands snorted at the cenotaph,
historians and students at history;
Alzheimer’s and cancer were side-splitting
for untreated patients and their families.
Refugees turned back, scared of contagion.
Parliament dissolved for the election
in fits of posh giggles. There were reports
of voters dying, their hearts exhausted
by comic speeches, promises like jokes,
an outbreak of national hilarity
as unending as despair.