Two clowns step off the elevator
with crowded, static-angry
balloons tied to their wrists
just as the hospital cafeteria
shuts down. You redirect them
to the children’s floor.
But the children don’t want them either.
They have suffered enough good cheer—
as have the well-meaning clowns,
trying for just one laugh
with their large plastic combs
and bungle-stuffed catchall satchels.
After all, you’re the one with the sad face.
Somehow, despite the cool reception,
they stick around
secretly glad not to be you.
They tell you hair comes back,
pointing to the screaming red
flames just above their ears.
You may as well love a pet rat,
the way it worries in morning light
and in the afternoon,
how it nightly attempts to decipher
with practiced hands
a clump of dirt
before taking it into its mouth.
Let it circle your neck,
run its tail across your open mouth.
Laughter, isn’t it the best medicine?
Yes, keep laughing.
It’s dragged its tail
through much worse.
A founding editor of Four Way Books, Dzvinia Orlowsky currently teaches at the Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing of Pine Manor College. Her fourth poetry collection, Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press. She received a 2006 Pushcart Prize in poetry. (9/2006)