poem 5/4/10 – The Freak Show

Big Tent Poetry is keeping the prompts going by posting one every Monday.  (I also know weekly are Writer’s Island and We Write Poems)

Big Tent’s prompt yesterday – “Have you ever wanted to run off and join the circus?… This week, try on a different hat. Change your costume. Assume an identity. In poets’ speak: write a persona poem. Need inspiration? Try researching the history of the circus. Google “circus jobs.” Do whatever it takes to stumble upon that perfect persona.”

Maybe my most personal poem – I’ve probably said that before, I know, but… – the ending broadsided me. So despite my misgivings – or of course because of them, I post it.


The Freak Show

That little boy
maybe 4 or 5
brown pants white shirt
out there in the crowd

Of course I’m up on the Sideshow Stage
the world’s smallest man they say
next to The
World’s Tallest Man
between him and
The Bearded Lady –
even down here I can smell the glue –

Me and the boy
make eye contact
uh oh, big mistake –
he just screams
screams shrilling screams

Everyone looks
his father frowns down
angry and concerned – but angry
takes his little quivering hand
leads him out, inconsolable
cuts this night short and goes home

Everyone thinks he was scared
of the growling moustachioed Strongman
The Human Pretzel’s double joints
the thought of The Bearded Lady’s kiss
or scared of me hapless helpless in my size

But I know and he knows
he just felt so sorry for us freaks
like for his sister the retard –
and screamed and screamed
because that was all he was allowed to say


11 responses to “poem 5/4/10 – The Freak Show

  1. Seems like most of life is a sideshow of one type or another…just read what folks said about the oil spill…and as Tom Lehrer said “the outpatients are out in force”…so compared to that this all sounds very normal. 😉 Enjoyed your post.

  2. Oh, I know how your small boy feels. Really well brought to life. I do so love narrative poems!

  3. Powerful words, Lawrence. You laugh or you scream!

  4. This is a painful poem, Larry, but it’s really well done.

  5. Lawrence,
    Painful and powerful.

  6. and screamed and screamed
    because that was all he was allowed to say

    Moving poem, nicely achieved!

  7. that last stanza is amazing. truly. truly. wow.

  8. A surprising & compelling twist. Powerful, yes.

    (Glad you joined the Big Top. Welcome.)

  9. I really enjoyed your poem. I interpreted it as a look ‘behind the scenes’ at the lives of those who play a part in the circus. To us, it’s all fun and games and a good time…to them its their life and it might not be so great on the inside. Well done!

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