The clowns were funny in the ring,
as they joked and tumbled and fell -
but in the camp, after the show,
they made our young lives hell.
Still in their masks of garish paint
and drunk on Vodka shots,
they cut and bruised and beat us,
hatching cruel, twisted plots.
I never saw the demons
lurking safe behind the masks
and who would have suspected them
as they went about their tasks?
We couldn’t tell our parents,
although so great was our need
to escape their vile clutches,
“Blaming clowns, indeed!”
So as they slept in caravans
painted in autumn shades,
some friends and I crept up on them,
our young hearts so afraid.
We lit a little fire
underneath the sleeping nest
and jammed tree branches in the doors.
Oh, what a jolly jest.
We banged nails in the window frames
and waited for the screams
when those inside rushed at the door.
I hear them in my dreams.
They cursed and swore unholy vengeance
in strange Romany tongues,
as flames and smoke lapped around them
and scorched into their lungs.
The paint on every caravan
peeled and bubbled like hell
and we swore an oath between us
that we would never, ever, tell.
We stood at the far side of the field
as the garish wagons burned.
The shades of autumn lit the sky
as one by one we turned.
The shrieks in the night sounded like
frenzied jesters frying
in a three ring circus of the night.
The children stopped their crying.
The shades of autumn blurred
across an unforgiving sky.
We even raised the alarm ourselves
As we waited for them to die.
Our handiwork went undetected,
just more ash in the rubble.
None of us were suspected then
and no one got into trouble -
but now my friends have all passed on,
as age comes to us all,
every autumn I wait for them
to come around and call.
For every year since that fateful day,
as the night sky burns in season
of falling leaves and epitaphs,
they seem to have a reason
to return to that scorched cradle
and pitch their caravan,
in the same spot in that killing field
where years ago we ran.
I fear them, not for our redemptive past
but, because I see the eyes
of Paul, Peter, John and Mark
and hear their mournful cries
spilling from cracked and crumbled greasepaint faces
of each and every ghost
that visits me upon that night
I dread and fear the most.
When autumn visits with the clowns
I come to realise,
that I stand in the twilight of my life
and winter, soon, will rise.
The flaming oranges will pass
and give way to the white,
smudged with the ashes of my guilt
and many years of lies.
The clowns will wait round corners
with their evil, coal-black stare
and I will smell them first,
the acrid scent of burning hair.
In livery of orange and gold
they will open the doors wide
on their caravan of collected souls -
and I will step inside.
(Ian Whiteley was born in Wakefield and now lives in Wigan He is a Performance Poet who enjoys writing about anything and everything - usually with a dark twist, it's not all free-verse or a slave to rhythm and rhyme. The recurring themes of life and the human condition are dealt with head on or with a dark humour. It is the world of the free spirit with a day job, the open road with traffic cones and of being happy never after. He uses imagery gleaned from such diverse sources as religion, the supernatural, social politics, pop culture and rock music.
He has performed throughout Lancashire and Yorkshire and is widely published in collections and anthologies.
His first collection of poems, 'A Step Towards Winter', was published in 2013 as well as a CD of his work, ‘Poetic License’, which is a collection of poetry set to rock, punk, folk and electronic musical backings, released under his music project ‘The Crows Of Albion’.
He has a web page at: http://www.thecrowsofalbion.com/)