Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Hospital For Carnies

At the hospital for carnies,

The aerialist expresses that she only feels at ease when riding her unicycle across a tightrope

Fifty feet above the crowd.

In social situations,

Sitting on a cushioned wrought-iron chair on the cement patio of an outdoor cafe,

The world shifts with every incomprehensible word.

Yawning chasms open with every change of expression around her

Until she wonders why the passing traffic doesn't just slide to either end of the street,

Crazily piled and on fire.

She prefers faces from a distance,


Amazed and munching popcorn.

Injured clowns lie in beds lined up like file drawers,

Their temperatures and symptoms noted fastidiously in orderly notes written by efficient nurses.

At precise three-foot intervals on the walls of the ward, there are edifying posters--


(with your useless limbs)


(with your wasted bodies)

Improve yourselves!

(so that you can leave uncommonly large shoes to fill)

The clowns weep, which disrupts their electrolytes--

They flicker like faulty bulbs.

To cheer them,

Children are brought in;

Most of the clowns improve, though the youngsters are of no provable value.

However, a few of the clowns exhibit pedophobia--

Their terror only weakens them further.

In the basement of the hospital for carnies is the morgue.

The sword swallower is lying on his back on a stainless steel table.

"I died out there tonight," he reports. His melancholy must be removed and make-up applied before the public can be allowed to see him again.

Carnies, like anyone else, are subject to microbe and mishap--

Someone must tend to them.

The horses with their beautiful plumes cannot do it,

Nor can the tigers, long since cowed by whip and chair.

The elephants would, but are distracted by peanuts and water buckets,

While chimpanzees care only for themselves and certain edibles, such as mango and papaya.

Enter the staff of the hospital for carnies--

"Primum non nocere," they recite in unison as an ambulance delivers a stilt walker on a long gurney.

He is propelled by paramedics through hoops of fire at the bay doors,

Followed by Tom Thumb, riding in an upside down top hat balanced on a seal's nose.

Complaining of a small headache,

Tom is rescued by the largesse of the doctors,

Who hang from rings like subway riders,

All of them double-jointed

And ever at the ready to treat and heal.


For One Shoot Sunday. Photo by jackAZ



hedgewitch said...

What a zoo! er, circus...I seem to have met all these unfortunates somewhere in a hallucination. I love it that children are sent in to cheer up the clowns, and some have an irrational fear thereof. And any day that starts with Leon Russell is a good day. Amazingly vivid and real piece, full of detail that hits close to home despite all the fantasy touches.

Jerry said...

The image definately would befit a hospital for carnies. Most excellent and fun one to read.
So full of oddities just like the circuses.

Raven said...

LOL I really wanted to say something witty about this poem, as it is deserving of something witty, but I barely slept last night and haven't made coffee, so it's all I can do to sit upright and type.

It's a delightful poem though. I think it's hilarious that some of the clowns have a fear of children. I hate clowns.

dustus said...

Read your poem as a poignant commentary on literary art. "aerialist"... prompted me to think of Plath amid the many ironies which followed.(curious, have you read Geek Love?)

Glynn said...

We have an old hospital building near downtown St. Louis that looks very much like the one on the photo. Long closed, it was rehabbed into condos a few years ago. Your poem makes me wonder what ghosts, what memories wander down those hallways. Great poem.

Brian Miller said...

i was one of those clowns name was sunshine...i wore yellow pants...i hated those inspirational.posters...

hpicasso said...

picking your pics're a rebel...HA...I read and started wanting something...the view from inside, looking out...

double jointed doctors, of course

a wonderful flight here

Peace, hp

I did two

Helen said...

Mornin'! I've gone back to 'Happy Bunny' ... playing catch up today.

You are one of the most fascinating artists I've encountered in blogland or anywhere for that matter!

I so enjoy your wit and brilliant mind.

Helen said...

... forgot to thank you for Leon Russell ... a favorite of mine. Perfect pairing of poem and song.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I especially love the aerialist who "prefers faces from a distance, upturned, amazed and munching popcorn". And the beds lined up like file drawers.

This is such a whimsical tale, told with love of life's odd creatures. Loved it.

Claudia said...

you can't rely on youth any more..they don't even manage to cheer the clowns up nowadays...ts...ts... fun write shay

Ami Mattison said...

Sheer brilliance as far as I'm concerned! And so imaginative and clever as usual.

You must have visited the mental health clinic where I get meds. The in-house pharmacy closes for the weekend at 5pm. Every Friday at 4:45pm, it's like the circus has set up a tent in the waiting room. Pedophobic clowns, dead sword-swallowers, always some woman who imagines herself a tight-rope walker and then me, imagining tearing those posters into tiny bits and bottling them for the doctors and pharmacists to take before meals. No, I'm not bitter. ;)

Anonymous said...

i once stayed up all night singing Neil Young and imbibing... well, imbibing... with a carnie couple. one of the most fun nights of my life even though no one was double-jointed.

this poem is absolutely brilliant, Shay! i love every line - reading your poetry is like closing my eyes and seeing the wonderful, vivid pictures you are painting with your words.

fabulous tune to start my Sunday with.

thanks for such a fun ride.
dani ♥

Anonymous said...

I wonder are they taking patients/ labrats/ volunteers? If they are I'll be packing my bag for a well deserved break. Thanks Shay, for sharing your cerebral pen with us.

Margaret said...

My favorite line...His melancholy must be removed and make-up applied before the public can be allowed to see him again.

That is why my kids are afraid of clowns - they think hiding behind the smiling mask is something sinister. I guess kind of like this wonderful, beautiful mansion. Not all is what it seems.

Loved this "crazy" romp.

Reflections said...

Clowns, aerelists... hospitals long awaiting the injuries... hope for new days. Tight write across the wire here.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Children are brought in to cheer them..... That is wonderful.

Nice, nice job.

xo jj

jen revved said...

I LOVE this macabre yet tender take on the photo. To even imagine a hospital for carnies.... truly wondrous. If you resend the poems you originally sent me as a list of hot link titles I can try pasting it into blog directly from g-mail.

Are you going to put up a link? xxxxj

moondustwriter said...

sometimes I just can't
I just cant understand
understand is an understatement
where do you find them?
them who?
the words
yes the ones that do your bidding

Ok lady you are on - will give you the date and time

Mama Zen said...

"(so that you can leave uncommonly large shoes to fill)"


Steve Isaak said...

Stunning, empathetic, perfect.

Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

This is how I love you best Shay.
When you just let the words rip.
I imagine you reciting this on a knife throwers wheel, in a gold costume. Spinning, grinning, the knives are sharp but your words are honed to pointy perfection.

Kerry O'Connor said...

This is so outside the's in a different dimension altogether. I loved every witty, poignant, philosophical line. Brilliant work.