Laughter Epidemic by Jonathan Taylor

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.

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