Human Laughter

Up in their space ships, the aliens are
trying to make a glossary for
what they’ve recognised as the dominant
human language on the planet, these

bursts and howls and sputterings
of what we would call laughter. They quickly
dismissed every human tongue
as being too local, idiosyncratic. Laughter

happened everywhere. The powerful
seemed to practice it more. They could
see it pass from person to person
in small or large groups. Its sound

conjured up fear, irrationality, aggression,
traits that seemed particularly human
to the watching aliens. They were puzzled
by its relative poverty of sound types

then realised the gestures humans made,
and their various grimaces were also
a part of language. Finally, they descended
in their bright machines, carefully waving

claws and tentacles, transmitting
the sound of human laughter everywhere,
millions of them, all of them trying
to communicate. It was no laughing matter

—Ciarán Parkes