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Humor Difficult to Translate

By Zara Houshmand

The label says Afghan Comedian
and nothing more, no artist, no provenance,
just a monitor’s unlidded eye embedded
in the blond paneled desert of a gallery
wall among prints of a now old war.
The man sits tailor fashion—seven at one blow!—
his Pashto patter flows
in an indecipherable rush,
but for a moment he’s clearly a woman,
now perhaps a child.
Impersonation interrupted, audience request:
he unstraps his prosthetic shin
and hoists the hollow tube to his shoulder.
Ak ak ak ak ak ak ak! he sweeps the sky,
setting up his punch line, in English: Antiaircraft!
Then the coup de grâce: Bazooka! he announces,
takes aim at the camera, and Boom! almost
falling over from its kick before he bobs
back, half smiling, to applause.

Edward Uhl dies at 92
along with Colonel Leslie A. Skinner
he invented the bazooka
named after an improvised tubular musical instrument
that comedian Bob Burns had popularized

—the bubble gum came later—
a close friend and hunting partner
of Werner Von Braun
after the war Mr. Uhl climbed rapidly
through the aerospace industry
transformed Fairchild from an airplane
producer into a powerhouse
that also made missiles.
Uhl passed away peacefully, survived
by Mary his wife of forty-four years
sons Kim and Scott, daughter Cynthia
two stepsons, a sister, four
grandchildren, and five

—approaching a village now—

Asia Society exhibition, Through Afghan Eyes, 2002
New York Times obituary, May 9, 2010

Added: Wednesday, July 2, 2014  /  Used with permission.
Zara Houshmand

Zara Houshmand is an Iranian-American writer living in northern California. Her work includes fiction, collaborative memoir, poetry, theatre, virtual reality as an art form, and literary translation from the Persian. She has also edited many books on Buddhism and on the Mind and Life dialogues between the Dalai Lama and scientists.

Other poems by this author