Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Cirque du Vitam et Mortem

image from cinemasterpieces.com

Cirque du Vitam et Mortem

“Time is a circus, always packing up
and moving away.”--Ben Hecht.

Who can ever forget
their first visit to the circus?
Mine was in 1952,
in the Big Top,
set up in a farmer’s field
outside of Seattle--
Ringling Bros--Barnum & Bailey.

I remember
fresh sawdust,
wooden bleachers,
tall vendors in red striped pants
selling peanuts, cotton candy & popcorn,
the distinct oder of exotic manure--
elephants, horses, lions & tigers.

There were three big rings,
about 50 feet in diameter
circus is from the Latin for circle.
We sat by the middle one,
so that we could see the ringmaster.
There was a thrilling opening parade,
complete with marching band & clown cars.

Lion & tiger trainers
and the trapeze/high wire acts
were my favorites, amidst
a cacophony of brass instruments,
crowd clatter, lion roars, & elephant trumpeting.
Huge colorful balloons were tethered to everything.

Being an inquisitive eight-year old,
I wanted to know the history of the circus.
My Mom told me it was a tradition
that started in England in 1770,
and that most of the high wire/trapeze acts
that we had just seen were
recruited in Europe.
“The clowns too?” I asked.
“No, dear, they have their own school in Florida.”
“Can I go to clown school?”
“You don’t have to,” she said,
“You’re a natural clown already.”

She may have been right,
but when she died at 39,
the copious tears of a clown
flooded the neighborhood.

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over at dVerse Poets Pub


sarah said...

What an ending. Memories work like that, don't they? One follows another, bam bam bam.

brudberg said...

Love the end... and there is nothing strange a clown crying... they all do. You really took us back there with that snippet of dialogue and the ending.

susan said...

Wow. You really caught me off guard with that ending. Well done!

Unknown said...

Oh Glenn - you drew us in with your vibrant description, made us laugh with Mother/son dialogue, and then punched us with such a tragic ending.

sillyfrogsusan said...

Wow. Talk about the danger of falling off a thrill ride. It's nice to remember happy times. At some point, memories are all we have. Nicely done.

indybev said...

You took us to the circus, then touched us with the tears of the clown. A gem of a poem, Glenn!

Anmol (HA) said...

OH, this is just wonderful. The imagery that springs forth from the memory of the first circus is so vivid and exemplary in its craftsmanship.
Like others, I was left with a dull ache in how the poem shifts towards that conversation and that surprising, heartfelt end.

Frank J. Tassone said...

A brilliant tribute with a tragic ending. Beautifully done, Glenn!

Kim M. Russell said...

You're a master at finding excellent quotes, Glenn. You're also a mine of memories. You evoked the circus for me with the:
'fresh sawdust,
wooden bleachers,
tall vendors in red striped pants
selling peanuts, cotton candy & popcorn',
even though I can't remember anything from my one short visit when I was little and pretty much screamed the tent down, I was so terrified!
I'm more familiar with the death and tears at the end.

Gina said...

you took me on a beautiful ride, i loved the circus, my memories of it are tied to my dad, i smiled wide when you asked about clown school and your mother's reply, such innocence encountered with vulnerability

annell4 said...

Katherine Ann Porter, a Texas writer, wrote a wonderful short story about the circus. If you don't know it, I think you would like it.

lillianthehomepoet.wordpress.com said...

You've described your circus so well with excellent detail. We are right there with you....you've drawn us in. Your mother's comment to you.....And then.....
Your mother was far too young to become an angel.

Frank Hubeny said...

Nice lines: "“Can I go to clown school?”
“You don’t have to,” she said,
“You’re a natural clown already.”"

And lovely ending stanza in memory of her at the end.

Dwight L. Roth said...

How nice to view the circus from an 8 year old's perspective. You had a very wise mom. So sad tht you lost her at such a young age.

Amaya said...

Well, it's something you don't expect. A mother to forever depart at a young age and a crying clown. I bet you cherish that humorous memory with her, what she lovingly said to you.