Friday, August 13, 2010


(Photo from The Orchid Club photostream on Flickr; reproduced under Creative Commons License.)

Naked, he is
Not very impressive.
He looks in the mirror
Only to apply his makeup,
To check details of disguise.

His clothing hides
His shape, skinny
And haired in odd patches.
It also hides his scars
From surgeries, supposed to
Fix his damaged heart.

The cushion that covers
His belly and crotch
Helps to fill out the plaid pants
that hang suspended from his shoulders,
A tight pull he always feels
And must ignore. After the pants,
He puts on the huge shoes, supposedly
Foreshadowing his phallus
In old wives’ tales
He knows nobody believes.
Another constriction, a bowtie,
Guards his vulnerable throat,
And looks absurd against his flannel shirt.

His face, he paints white as a mime’s,
Though any gestures he’ll make
Will be broader. His eyes, he paints
the way he thinks a woman would.
His smile, he conjures slowest --
It’s his favorite effect – it doesn’t change
No matter how he feels.

The crowning touch?
A worn fedora hat, a bit
Of Indiana Jones, though
They won’t let him hold a whip –
One time he did,
And got carried away. Last,
He puts on the bulbous rubber nose,
Which doesn’t help his cigarette-distorted breathing.
It’s red, to imply
He drinks;
One truthful note
Stuck on a symphony
Of lies.

When he appears,
Nobody laughs.
The children’s eyes only grow wide
Because they’re frightened.
So he humiliates himself
With falls and such,
Until he has them howling
Like a pack of little wolves.

Oh, well. At least
He doesn’t pose for velvet paintings.

He puts on his public persona
A piece at a time,
Like so many of us,
And, like us,
He draw’s work’s energy
From anger.

-- © 2009 by Jack Veasey

(All rights reserved. This work may not be reproduced or duplicated in any form without the author's written permission. )


  1. I like this piece a lot. You tap a nerve about clowns: we are so separated in time from the meaning of the make-up and costume that we all feel on edge, suspicious, frightened. And yes, we laugh at the misfortune, as this badly-dressed, hideous creature falls on his face or gets beaten mercilessly. The laughter is only cruel laughter, the clown becomes the scapegoat. This is a poignant sketch.

  2. Thanks for your perceptive comment, Brett. It's odd, actually, that I ended up writing such a sympathetic poem about clowns, because normally I'm scared to death of them!