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