Clapham Common Clowns. Photo: Tim Marshall, poem: Tim Turnbull. (1/4)

Sir Robert Fosset’s Circus. © Tim Marshall 1984

Clown Rapture Imminent

See them assemble under tarpaulin,
raggy-arsed, rowdy, dim-wit conventicle,
googling their eyes, goofing and pratfalling,
red-nosed and panstuck, no two identical.

The Jingles and Joeys, Buttons and Beppos
stream, in their thousands, the dusty back roads
trudging with bindles and holes in their boot toes,
arrive in jalopies which promptly explode,

but nobody’s certain why they are here –
on the ramshackle outskirts of showbiz –
none of them has the remotest idea
who ought to feed, what, even, the joke is.

So, on they caper, cavort through the night,
dance by the light of a torched charabanc,
engaging in ever more savage pie-fights
with nail-studded slapsticks and ironwood planks.

They wake where they fell, spent and depleted,
clown-pants beshitten, all covered with flies
as Weary Willy, throwing back his head,
howls ‘We are forsaken!’ to an empty sky.

… for The London Column. © Tim Turnbull 2012.