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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