Andrea Cohen

Slow Thinker
December 12, 2013 Cohen Andrea

Slow Thinker


Audiences love the slow

thinker, not the frozen

Rodin, but the flesh

and bloodied one, the tragedian


in drag who gets kicked

in the rear and hits

the pause button

before bawling. Timing


is all in wowing

the crowd: cry

when you see the kick

coming, or the moment


the steel toe reaches

you, and you lose them.

Abuse, to be humor,

must come with a lag,


as if the pain were paid

for on installment, as

if the pain came,

not from the kick,


but from the slow

boil of mulling it over.

Buster Keaton was a genius

of slow thinking. He did


his own stunts, including

a 17-year stint as a kid

getting kicked on stage

by dear old dad. Back


then, they called the shtick

Vaudeville, before Buster

and his mother called

it quits, leaving pop to drop-


kick dead air, which got

laughs for (at) Charlie Brown,

but not Pater Keaton. Buster, dead-

panning, lived to make everyman


think he’d laughed at someone

else, until, thinking a little

longer on the sadsack

trying to build a house


inside a tornado, until

the anesthesia of the heart

wore off, and everyman

saw himself stumbling on.

Andrea Cohen is the author of eight poetry collections, including Everything, Nightshade, and The Sorrow Apartments (forthcoming). She directs the Blacksmith House Poetry Series in Cambridge, MA.