Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Send in the Clowns

painting by c. nelson kellar

Send in the Clowns

“I remain just one thing, & that is a clown--which places
me on a far higher plane than most politicians.”
--Charlie Chaplin.

Actually, we have co-existed
                                  with clowns
                                               for centuries,
dating back to the medieval courts of kings,
                                               where jesters
and fools were given permission
to be outrageous
to represent bawdiness
to pretend to violate sexual norms, even
to mock the gods
              roast the aristocracy, and then later
morph into the more malicious

Extreme fear of clowns
is called Coulrophobia,
a term found on the internet since the 80’s
but not found in medical texts or dictionaries.

Many younger children have intense dislike or fear
of clowns, recognizing a familiar body
that sports an unfamiliar face, giving
no real clue what/who might be lurking
                 behind the make-up,
                 bulbous red nose
& electric pink or violent violet fright wig,
representing a frightening visage, a frightful person
whose intentions are unknowable.

Even in 12% of all adults, 
though most of them would deny it,
fear of clowns can induce panic attacks;
in isolated cases keep them out of
carnivals, circuses, horror theme parks,
& even prevent burger munching at

Theories abound that too many stories,
                                         movies & events
featuring killer klowns (From Outer Space),
                                          like Pennywise
in Stephen Kings IT, or the sinister Joker
                                           in BATMAN
have intensified & exacerbated these fears.

Emmett Kelly became famous as Weary Willie, 
but his personal life was a shambles,
& his angry ex-wife claimed that 
Willie overtook Emmett’s personality.

Emmett Kelly Jr., after losing his leg
in a train accident, bizarrely decided
that he needed to become the reincarnation
of Weary Willie, began dressing as him,
began calling himself EK III;
falling into a life of degradation, drugs, and madness.
In 1978 he was arrested for the murders
of two of his homosexual partners,
& he claimed that Willie was an accomplice.

Between 1975-78, John Wayne Gacy,
an actual killer-klown,
sodomized & murdered
33 boys & young men in the Chicago area,
claiming that he selected his prey
while performing as a clown
at their birthday parties & events. 

clowns represent the side
of human nature not totally
accepted by society;
as the conflicting dichotomy
of evil clown vs. circus clown
They seem
                  to attract
                                or repel us
secondary to holding up a funhouse mirror
to our secret inner selves. 

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets Poetics

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Claudia said...

oh heck... that killer klown made me swallow... i don't like clowns a lot but i think the jesters of former times were smart guys and had the freedom to act differently and made people think and maybe re-think things..

Björn said...

Clowns are both scary and/or sad.. a painted grin hiding sorrow, anguish or malice.. a mask, but yet not a mask.. of yes a clown will give me shivers... and I never thought that they are funny....

Brian Miller said...

ugh on the killer clown man....that is scary....did you know i was a travelling clown for a bit....smiles....my name was sunshine....tears of a clown always gets me....smiles.

Anthony Desmond said...

yeah, I ain't afraid to admit I don't fuck with clowns... I saw 'IT' and another movie about killer clown dolls when I was younger and that did it for me...

Audrey Howitt aka Divalounger said...

yeah--I steer clear of clowns--hey scare the tar out of me--always have!

ayala said...

Clowns always seem so sad..nice piece!

Anonymous said...

Now I know far more about clowns than I really ever wished to! Seriously - a great combination of poetry and information. Stephen King's IT inspired some tom-foolery in my student house at university. After watching the film toilets that flushed 'blood' and clown masks falling out of cupboards...

Beachanny said...

And while I read Judy Collins was singing in my mind..other clowns - danced through your words - Pagliacci, Pierrot and Pierrette, Pantalone and Pulcinella. I know people fear clowns, but to me they are balanced on a feather - rather than laugh I smile as I experience the true lightness of being. I very much liked your exploration here - it took us through the clowns of our own youth esp. Emmett Kelly. Well done!

Grace said...

I am even more scared of clowns now, yikes on those killer clowns ~ I appreciate the historical notes Glenn ~ Perhaps clowns are really part of our secret selves ~

Thanks for participating and wishing you Happy Week ~

Truedessa said...

Great writing but, I find clowns a
bit scary and maybe more so now..smiling..

Victoria said...

Before I even read your poem, I wondered why I'm afraid of clowns. Perhaps not so much fear as uneasiness. I've always equated it with the dissimulation that underlies clowning. I guess I want to know who I'm dealing with. Anyway, glad to know I'm not alone.

Anonymous said...

only clowns and children are free to speak the truth, for good or evil...

jo-hanna said...

Some of us may not suffer them gladly, but they still seem to be needed by society to counterbalance our ways of thinking. Lurching from one extreme to another [ pedantic mainstream vs outrageous excentric] we may yet end up on the right road, one of these days.
Nicely plotted.

Anonymous said...

such a sad and scary tale - K

lynndiane said...

Never knew a fear of clowns (a friend of mine was a happy one) but now i understand it better...clowns can hide behind the fake face

Anonymous said...

Wow! Strange as this may sounds, this was perfect! I'm a staunch fan of Stephen King, and fascinated by evil clowns so perhaps that would explain it, but seriously... Wow! Love this!

kkkkaty said...

I like the Emmett Kelley reference of course..also the enigma of the clown still exists for kids today....can see why you were drawn to that particular painting...and we can all relate to it. Was it Frank Sinatra who made the song popular?? I will have to look up who wrote it as well.

kkkkaty said...

Ahh...S. Sondheim ;)

kaykuala said...

Most ironical as clowns are supposed to be funny and are to provide laughter. Killers give them a bad name! Very informative Glenn!


Anonymous said...

I don't mind clowns anymore, but I was really afraid of them when I was a child. I did not like that they covered their face.