Old Town Clown

by Tod Perry


So pleased to look the scruffy clown

his clothes were blots on polka dots

on top of rings on top of spots

paint in drips collar to cuff

half a Pollack half a Matisse.

He loved his splotches, the bounce into fame

they gave to the downward drift of his soul,

its aura rising in bubbles and blooms

gusty snowflakes butterflies dancing.

In a city so willfully confused

with paradise, he was a canvas

the emperor’s walking wardrobe

and the dotty king of art.

Awake next day still caked in paint,

that aura was deflated. No job,

except the worst like Eden’s storms,

the Georges, the Wilmas, he just scraped by

by scraping molds or hung till dizzy

on the top of roofs to hammer tin,

melting in a white heat that tore

into his shoes hotter than nails.

All work was swelter, a singular self-cook

under double wides,  and upside down

inch by inch, on a crawl, on his back

eyes stung with sweat and fearful  alert

for whatever springs from unseen spaces.

On just such a day his scheme took wing

big as a bird and deep as a cloud

like riding a fresh wind in paradise,

one day when the steam rose out of his skin

right up from his shirt in visible puffs.

Not anymore for this laid back frog

to settle in doomed in his spotted pot

in service only to those who  serve,

the time was now to change his ways,

old town spots for new town stripes,

plan to quit what doesn’t pay

just boiled up like unsweetened ice tea.

For an island on the make he’d turn

completely on the make, was resolved–

the heart of this epiphany–

to wear less showy, fresher clothes

with smoke and mirrors fix his brand

of caterpillar high, give friends

the wings to fly around the clock.


He mixes craft and business now,

books small losses on his taxes.

At home in every bar down under

he keeps a muse who helps him rise,

and offers calling cards that read:

“Purveyor + Crafts + Management”.

He juggles a social calendars

with clients seen at big events

where he arrives by SUV

chatting on his several phones.

He deals with those who drift home late

and those just on their way at dawn,

moves about in the dark off hours, around,

almost invisibly on random nights,

but then lifts anchor unexpectedly

in wisps at first like the weather

and then in puffs, dandelion in rows

that roll into thunderous clouds.

White powder puffs blown up into heaven

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