Children universally find clown wall paper frightening and unknowable.
Each one wears the white face of deletion,
Their baggy suits so uselessly ballooned,
Their enormous shoes spread like helpless sails.
Each evening passes without knowing them,
But some are splayed sideways, skidding across
What seems to be a cloudless, wind-swept sky.
Some are seated on nothing, plummeting
From unseen planes. Or they’re twisted, headfirst,
Bright smiles lasting to the floor where their legs
Still pedal air, the child, upon waking,
Most frightened by the arms-extended clowns
Who concentrate on improbable flight.
The child asks about sky, where it begins.
At the far edge of everything, he’s told,
Where clear weather is always expected.
The clowns, then, must fall from above the sun,
But some mornings he thinks they’re carried up
To fall again by an anger of wind
Inside the wall where scratching lives with fright.
When he holds his mouth exactly like theirs
As he stands in his father’s floppy shoes,
He feels the floor fall out from under him.
He would disappear if he held that smile;
He would know who they were as he tumbled.
Gary Fincke is the author of several poetry collections, most recently The Fire Landscape (2008) from the University of Arkansas Press. A memoir, The Canals of Mars, will be published by Michigan State University Press, which earlier published Amp’d, a nonfiction account of his son’s much more famous life as the lead guitarist in the multi-platinum rock band Breaking Benjamin.
“Strangers, Falling” appears in our Summer 2010 issue.