All Because I Was Born Laughing
by Joan Jobe Smith

My mother had this picture taken of just us two in a
photo booth in Paris, Texas, February, 1940, to give to
her rich cousin Mae who was related to Jesse James to
show me some day what my mother looked like who
couldn’t take care of me, she had to go to work, be a
waitress, so she gave me away to her rich cousin Mae
related to Jesse James because Mae had a big ranch and
plenty of money for a nanny to take care of me because
I was born laughing, I was not born dead like the doctors
said, because I was born feet first and stopped being born
at the knees for 14 hours till my feet and legs turned purple.
And because I was born laughing instead of being dead,
the doctors said I’d never be right in the head because of
lack of oxygen to my brain those 14 hours and I’d never
walk or talk or feed myself, button buttons, tie my shoes,
get a job and earn my keep, be a wife or mother because
I was born laughing and that proved their theory that I was
not all there–my laughter merely neurological spasms and
my laughter so depressed my father, he went away (but he’d
later come back) and, so, there I am in that photo, only
four weeks old as my bereaving mother hugs me tightly
in her arms in the photo booth, the first photo ever taken
of just us two to give to her Jesse James cousin Mae to
show me some day (if I can understand) because I was
born laughing, laughing in that photo because I’m happy,
surely knowing that my mother is beautiful, so very happy
because I can feel her heart beat, hear her sighs telling me
she’ll come back to get me in just 3 weeks because her heart
will nearly break (she’ll tell me when I’m grown) because
she’ll miss me which is what my mother did. All because
I was born laughing.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Jobe Smith, founding editor of Pearl and Bukowski Review, worked for seven years as a go-go dancer before receiving her BA from CSULB and MFA from University of California, Irvine. A Pushcart Honoree, her award-winning work has appeared internationally in more than five hundred publications, including Outlaw Bible, Ambit, Beat Scene, Wormwood Review, and Nerve Cowboy—and she has published twenty collections, including Jehovah Jukebox (Event Horizon Press, US) and The Pow Wow Cafe (The Poetry Business, UK), a finalist for the UK 1999 Forward Prize. In July 2012, with her husband, poet Fred Voss, she did her sixth reading tour of England (debuting at the 1991 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival), featured at the Humber Mouth Literature Festival in Hull. She is the author of the literary memoir Charles Bukowski Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women (& me) (Silver Birch Press, 2012). Her writing is featured in LADYLAND, an anthology of writing by American women (13e note Éditions, Paris, 2014). Her poem “Uncle Ray on New Year’s Day . . .”  won the 2012 Philadelphia Poets John Petracca Prize. Her latest book is Tales of an Ancient Go-Go Girl. She will appear at the Sunday Salon of the Los Angeles Visionaries Association (LAVA) on April 26, 2015 from 2-4 p.m. in downtown Los Angeles — find out more at