After growing up I grew an ear
for that note of sadness hidden in laughter.
We assume all sorrow is redacted there.
We trust the mouth as a medium
but often the louvers of anguish
don’t make a good seal, causing the laughter
we hear to carry a second sound
overheard, as with the whistling of radiator
steam, hearing heat inside
the pipe like some darkness in the larynx.
It’s not a musical note and not
not an echo either. When two people fall
into insuppressible laughter, brut
champagne pouring out of their noses,
one may not be able to stop, may
even need help getting up off the floor.
Christopher Salerno is the author of four books of poems and the editor of Saturnalia Books. His most recent collection is Sun & Urn (UGA 2017), selected by the late Tom Lux for the Georgia Poetry Prize. Previous books include ATM, (Georgetown Review Poetry Prize 2014), Minimum Heroic (Mississippi Review Poetry Prize 2010), and Whirligig (2006). He is a recipient of the Laurel Review Chapbook Prize, the Two Sylvia’s Press chapbook prize, the Prairie Schooner Glenna Luschei Award, and a New Jersey State Council on the Arts fellowship. His poems have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, American Poetry Review, New England Review, The Academy of American Poets series, and elsewhere. He is a Professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey.