Jennie E Owen

The Clown Service

“Here we go again,” as Grimaldi would say
“busting out,”
 		or in,
 to the Holy Trinity.  First
grey February of the year and damp London’s
asplash with ruffle collars, 
baggy pants, big shoes
that rub and squeak one another like old
friends.  	I’m all a-sweat under the full white face, 
the one that takes an hour to paint.  So little
call now for that, the artistry – the tradition.

Stood like some odd couple, I curtsey 
blue wig to hassock – I’m working 
my “business” 
by honking the nose
by twisting my kipper tie.  The emcee 
recites our prayer and I repeat,
nod at old “Rickets” spread thin in his tramp,
at the back - worked Islington for 30 years. 
 “Chins,” appears slack 
at his side with her cockscomb
wobbling jolly red, a tiny pink brolly cuts above
  her head.

As always, the audience travels. Small bread
and butter faces and hands, giggles 
and pointing.  One lip
shakes uncertain and a baker’s dozen
against the urge to fall over 
our feet, squirt a flower,
whilst producing piles of hankies from sleeves
to create a smile, a snort.

Then candles are lit against the lilt of  Send in the clowns. 

Off and out we go, parade into town,
one last show toward Camden, peeling away
in ones and pairs and bunches.  The drizzle 
adds a final sheen to motley and slap, 
faces flag and slip off 
as neat as a banana skin gag.

*Once a year Clown International hold a service at Holy Trinity Church, Dalston, London.  This is to honour clowns who have passed on and remember Joseph Grimaldi.

International Man of Mystery

You were the Mr Benn living cartoon of our childhood
usually abroad at some far away store, trying 
on the revolve-a-door disguises
of a hundred different men.  You’d
return with scars, dangerous toys with glass eyes, 
secrets in briefcases.
You were
a veritable man from U.N.C.L.E, back then, 
one of the Monkeys, Rod Stewart, Freddie Mercury. 
At home
we never knew who you’d be, we’d place bets
with buttons and two penny pieces. Some days
you’d be Indiana Jones, others
James Bond (played by Roger Moore). You 
might be a sailor; a traveller, a navy man
pulling coloured flags out of your sleeves, tapping
morse code on the dining table
with the tip of a pale fingernail.  
you’d be a professor straight off BBC 2, 
with half-moon glasses and a pipe, 
(later gobbled
by the thaw of a hungry snowman)  Once, 
you were Acker Bilk 
although we all agreed 
you never quite pulled that off.  You
Then one day,
you encouraged us
to try on costumes of our own
a teacher, a poet, a painter, a leader
a mother, a sister, a daughter.
An artist of the miniature moss gardens
found in empty outside pools, garnered
with beech nuts, spun with stolen petals,
sea glass letters 
snail trail sentences.  
                                                                 You taught me
about the power of fake moustaches,
the quick-handed
change of a hat.

Rocket at the Moon

Who cares about the gauzy ball, shivering
in its dawn taffeta; it’s all too obvious 
negligee.  Not least billionaires, 
who at best,
find it blocks
out their pointillist star views, 
their satellite dot dot dashes.  They 
might argue it hangs, 
only fodder now
for fallen song writers and poets
(pity us) or,
a spectacle for the last young lovers, 
when they look up confused
and rare from their phones.
(No cheese even, up there)
It may stir the tide, 
rock the last old fishermen to sleep,
encased in creaking timber, but 
who are we, the past
to stand in the way 
of better Wifi?
We’ll line up (virtually of course)
to buy tickets, ordering 
telescopes and binoculars,
Pulling our infants 
onto our shoulders to peek
through 3D glasses,  
through screens and phones.
The explosion (not to be missed)
 will be fact checked
relayed on tik-tok
youtube,  Re-enacted.
Removed.  Even
the rights to this,
are theirs alone.

Jennie E. Owen’s writing has been widely published online, in literary journals and anthologies.  She teaches Creative Writing for The Open University and lives in Lancashire, UK with her husband and three children. She is currently working towards her PhD with Manchester Metropolitan University.

Flights, Issue Six, September 2022