Dunk the Clown

The clown sits above the water awaiting the baptism,

hurling the truth—

guessing the exact weight of the big blonde

with the skinny man attached to her side

like a vanishing twin, the errant throw

the last spasm of a hand destined

to be reabsorbed into the belly;

knocking a few inches off the little person

glaring at him defiantly, eating an elephant ear,

unaware that he has walked into the insult zone;

questioning the masculinity/femininity

of the man transitioning to woman,

the woman getting used to her new man beard;

all the victims to the secret knowledge of the clown

with the orange hair and red cap turned backwards,

black peeking from the white waterproof makeup—

that knows tiny arms can only throw downwards,

weight is heavy, and that men and women

who can’t control the aim of their emotions

means he stays dry, an extra dollar in his pocket.

A collusive chuckle sets the hook

for the barkers to initiate the $3 hustle,

corralling everything in their sight lines

for the wet revenge to drown the clown.

Only the unemotional hit the tea-plate target,

disengaging the lever that drops his hulking mass

into one hundred fifty gallons of tepid water,

the splash of money he carries from fair to fair.

He changes names in each new town:

Bozo in Montgomery, Patches in Columbia,

New Bozo in Decatur, where he can reside

in full unbridled insult without offense,

that won’t run him out of town,

or the sway of the tallest, oldest tree,

until he settles into the Miami sun,

the Jack Jackels of Santa’s Enchanted Forest

where the old Cubans can freely laugh

and flick him the ashes of their cigars.

He struggles with arthritis, new cultural norms,

the old broken right hand when he tries

to lift himself above the water, the twinge

of neuropathy in his left foot, the revenge

of years of carnival food.

“Abuela, Abuela,” he chortles at the old

Spanish woman in black crossing his path,

her hijo, a minor league prospect,

hurling a perfect tea-pitch strike

that dunks him for the hundredth time

in five hours.

As he pulls himself to his steel perch

he recalls how his great great grandfather

scared him with tales of the African Dip,

where as a savage above a boiling cauldron

he would be ladled to soup fifty times a day,

back when there were no bars, just rage

misdirected from the real target.

“Blackbird, blackbird”, he remembers

the white kids chanting as he settles

into his refuge, the iron lattice that

deflects stones, his eyes fixating on

a teen with a tube top and baby bump.

“I’m probably paying child support for you, kid.”

Anywhere else, anything else

he would be boiling in hot water,

be doing days in the county jail,

months rattling the bars of a federal pen,

just for speaking the truth.

He knows of less than ten like him

as he watches a crowd of seniors

settling in on metal benches

in the dawning sunset

beyond his eyes horizon,

coming to sit and listen

to tonight’s show filled

with insults and baptisms,

knowing he would spew

the things they were

thinking in their heads.

They lied in school, he thought,

when his teachers said,

“you can’t make a living

being a smartass.”

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