Longtime readers of this space will recognize this as the annual New Year's joke column in which I faithfully re-create a bunch of hilarious jokes culled from thousands of submissions.

Okay, hundreds.

Okay, dozens.

Okay, one day this week I asked my friend Nancy if she had any jokes that weren't filthy.

Everybody loves the joke column.

Readers love it because they can get big laughs by telling my jokes to people who haven't heard them yet--groups of Japanese tourists, perhaps.

I love it because the entire column takes 20 minutes to write. And I can duck out of work and go to the movies.

Sadly, jokes aren't what they used to be in Henny Youngman's day.

A man says to a psychiatrist, "You gotta help me, Doc. I think I'm a dog."

The psychiatrist replies, "Certainly, but until we're sure, stay off the couch."

Actually, jokes are what they were in Henny Youngman's day. Only now you don't have to wait until Sunday night when Henny goes on "Ed Sullivan" to hear them. You can get the entire Henny Youngman catalogue by hitting a key on your computer.

Now, everybody knows every joke--because they're immediately circulated on the Internet.

Blond jokes. Totally Hair Barbie jokes. Klaus "Totally Herr" Barbie jokes!

There are more Web sites devoted just to spreading jokes than there are Web sites devoted to spreading something really important, like Cheez Whiz.

I have two jokes here. But I have no idea how many millions of people already know them.

Ray Saunders sent this: Little Timmy was working in the garden, filling a hole with dirt, when his neighbor peered over the fence and asked, "What are you up to there, Timmy?"

"My goldfish died," Timmy replied tearfully, without looking up. "I've just buried him."

The neighbor was concerned. "That's an awfully big hole for a goldfish, isn't it?"

Timmy patted down the last heap of earth and said, "That's because he's inside your damn cat!"

Bada-bing!

A seaman meets a pirate in a bar, and their conversation turns to their adventures at sea. The seaman notes that the pirate has a peg leg, a hook and an eye patch.

"How'd you get the peg leg?"

"We were in a storm, and I was swept overboard into a school of sharks," the pirate said. "A shark bit my leg off."

"Wow. And the hook?"

"We were boarding an enemy ship, and their sailors had swords," the pirate said. "They cut my hand off."

"Oooh. And the eye patch?"

"A sea gull dropping fell into my eye," the pirate said.

"You lost your eye to a sea gull dropping?" the seaman asked incredulously.

"Well . . . it was my first day with the hook."

Bada-boom!

Okay, no more. All the jokes I've got are either old or awful--or in these cases, both.

I'm scrapping the New Year's joke column. It's a new century, and I'm going to start a new annual tradition: a poetry column!

True story: Back in July, I got a letter from the famous conductor Leonard Slatkin asking me to take part in the National Symphony Orchestra's New Year's Eve concert. On the program was Camille Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals," which is frequently interspersed with Ogden Nash poems about a variety of animals: lions, elephants, etc. One of the animal groups included is "fossils."

Slatkin asked if I would write a poem on "fossils."

I said yes, I'd be happy to. (I say yes to everything. I have no intention of actually doing it. I'm just being nice. I mean, really, Leonard Slatkin? Like I care. The guy plays a tuba, right?)

Last week Slatkin's assistant called and asked where my poem was.

"What poem?" I said. Who do I look like, Angie Dickinson?

(That's Emily Dickinson, you idiot.)

"The poem about fossils," she said.

"Oh, that," I said. "Yes, I have it right here. Whoops, I must have left it at home. About fossils. Do me a favor: Refresh my memory. What about fossils?"

"How about using fossils as a metaphor for people in Washington?" she said.

Maestro, if you will:

If it's fossils you want, then it's fossils you'll get.

Stodgy. Decrepit. Embalmed.

They pad around Washington's Capitol Hill.

Carolinians, Jesse and Strom.

But Jesse and Strom are just two of so many,

Whose fossildom spreads far and wide.

There's Kennedy, Warner, Leahy and Dodd.

Not to mention old coot Henry Hyde.

They win an election and squat here for life,

They think it's their God-given right.

Take a look at Joe Biden. After all his presidin'

Now even his hair plugs turned white!

Lautenberg, Lieberman, McGovern, Bill Roth.

Charles Rangel, John Dingell, Chuck Robb.

They're part of the landscape, like potholes and traffic.

Don't forget both Doles, Liddy and Bob.

I've been living in Washington 20 years now.

I am fossilized as a resultant.

My column's not funny. I'm stealing the money.

So just like everyone else in town . . . I guess I'll become a consultant.