personal and analytical reasons for posting "If a Clown"
as requested by a few concerned noders
There were five of us kids, all within a few years of each other, so something was always breaking or on the brink of disaster. My mother made some soft polka-dotted clown dolls with felt eyes, nose, and mouth and red yarn hair. In my memory, she started out to make five, but only completed one and somehow I got to keep it. Probably was around the time I had my tonsils removed. "Clownie" became quite the fall guy in our house. Even when we played school, Clownie got D's and F's, for not writing neatly, talking too much, or making mistakes. Clownie was also very badly behaved on car rides, lied a blue streak, and wouldn't go to church. The adult family members, being teachers, cops, regular church goers, and nuns who had all lived through The Depression and World War II, couldn't understand his behaviour. One day he just disappeared.
Over the years, I've gotten to know a few real life clowns. One, who was part of Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth, and supported his family by being a clown. Another, who was a female Methodist pastor going through a divorce and thought of it as a religious ministry. My favorite was a man I met who taught free meditation techniques at a cancer center, himself a five time survivor, who was an electrical engineer most of his life and volunteered as a clown for children in hospitals in between meditation classes. All were good-hearted, in a shall I say misunderstood occupation/vocation. I also bought a used TV from a clown's wife, but that's another story.
Stephen Dunn's poem has the disarming simplicity and charm of a children's book, by the way he instantly describes the main character and draws you in by asking what would YOU do? (Think: "IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE") It becomes more complex when he introduces the fear factor comparison of a bear encounter versus a clown encounter. Questions are raised: would you face your fear?, would you believe the clown?, would you go out of your comfort zone for the sake of compassion? The poet deftly puts you in the clown's shoes momentarily, as well as the child's, "the birthday boy", and then he shows no mercy at the end by nailing you (the reader) to the wall. (not that I condone gratuitous violence) There is also "the friend", who I believe was the poet himself, and the angry family, the guests who left before the clown finally arrived. Overall, I saw a balance of subtlety, wholeness, and questioning of response to life, all because of a clown who may or may not have actually appeared at the edge of someone's property. Plus, the poem didn't rhyme and it fit on one page.