Pity how even the starving dogs quit on me,
won’ t take my handouts,
skitter away from my hunks of meat, the curs.
So what hope have I with the children,
or their parents,
the handsome man, the lovely blonde woman,
or even the oldsters up in the back row,
hand in arthritic hand,
pretending like they’re sixteen.
I paint myself bloody-mouthed and black-eyed.
But it’s all the same.
Not a grin to be had.
My nose is like a tomato on a bread stick,
pantaloons flutter wide as houses,
but the little boy swallows his eyes with his hands,
his sister screams like I’m the third reel of a horror movie,
and handsome and lovely
grab those kiddies by the arms,
haul them out toward the ticket office, vomiting and cussing.
And the trainers are out there somewhere
in the dark streets
trying to round up the dogs.
But no one will leap through fiery hoops tonight.
No one will ride the tiny bicycle around the ring.
I’ve heard the elephant stomped his trainer in disgust.
The tigers are beating up on that fool in khaki
with his own whips and stools.
The trapeze artists pissed their silks.
The tight-rope walker’s in his van
negotiating a flimsy string
tied between the shaking ganglion of his brain.
I’m just a clown, why all the terror?
I’m here to make you laugh.
But it looks like, once again,
I’m here to make me laugh.
John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in The Lyric, Vallum and the science fiction anthology, The Kennedy Curse with work upcoming in Bryant Literary Magazine, Natural Bridge, Southern California Review and the Oyez Review.