How Clowns Go
An old clown hands out fliers at the station
for a traveling circus. No doubt
this is how clowns go-replacing vending machines (or children).
I watch him carefully: I want to know how clowns go.
The captivating balance between sadness
and mad, infectious laughter slowly slips;
each year the furrow in the cheeks grows deeper.
What’s left is the desperately oversized nose
and an old man’s clumsiness-not a parody
of healthy, silly humans, but a broadside
on the body’s flaws, the builder’s
errors. What’s left is the large gleaming forehead, a lamp
made of white cheese (not painted now), thin lips
and eyes from which a stranger coldly
gazes, perhaps the face’s next tenant–
if the lease on this grief can be renewed.
This is how clowns go-when the world’s great indifference
invades us, enters us bitterly, like lead between our teeth.
ADAM ZAGAJEWSKI was born in Lvov, Poland in 1945. His previous books, all published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, include the poetry collections Tremor (1985), Canvas (1992), and Mysticism for Beginners (1998); and the essay collections Two Cities(1995) and Another Beauty (2000). He currently lives in Paris and Houston.
Copyright New England Review Winter 2002
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