Monday, June 23, 2014

Three Poems by J.P. Dancing Bear

All Souls’ Day
Here I shall lay a wreath
of sugar skulls
in hopes that a prayer can
release my dead.
The candle flame lunges back and forth
to a music only heard
between the breaths of the living.
In my quiet making,
the shrine rises up out of needful things
that miss their place in a hand
as a (dare I say this word:) possession.
Offerings of wine, of smoke, of favorites.
The morsels I forego
on this day of my dead.
How do I begin to say the words
of the tiniest remembrances
I have of them?
The shard that cannot
remake a complete image.
Yes, I too have a shimmery thing
within me, a body of water,
a fog that rolls in each morning
and out each afternoon—a thing I call my soul.
And who do I believe would pray for it
when I won't? Who do I think will
bother an offering on its behalf?
It will go back to the collective pool
of eternal waiting. Eventually forgetting
everything for the repetitive motion
of a ripple.
There is no one way to build a altar, like the many dead, each remains a life that was served individually. The ornate cloth of one altar attracts its intended while repulsing others. Each spirit makes its way. The candled pumpkin and marigold light the way. We summon these dead to us to embrace. Here all the words that bond one person to the next are offered on the altar. What was shared is reconnected again.
I do not know what happens after life. It does not even matter what I believe or cannot. The dead know but stay silent.  Good for them. I take this day to remember my dead and thank them.
If the naked soul travels
then let them see what is offered.
It is in their memory that I am here.
I leave all my words on the altar
beneath those things that made a life so memorable.

International Clown Day
Behind the big tent
where the sad elephants are lead
back to their cages, where the trainers
rest their whips
and smoke cigarettes
among the stogied
porcelain faces,
the grease paint creases
of old men who are too tired
to smile and thus
paint one on.
No one ever has the same markings—
such a lonely business
tearing down the circus
building it in a new town
never to see a familiar.
Never to mirror
a true love.
Among the hysterical babies
one bouquet of squirting flowers
is produced for a star-eyed
love. And for a moment
the candy red cheek
might evaporate with true blush.
By a dim lit mirror
the layers of sweat
and colors are wiped away.
The fright wig rests
on the blank head;
the television rolls horizontal lines
in the background
of his cramped trailer—
no news of the day
different from yesterday.
For most, it is not a world of tiny cars and teasing lion tamers, but a world of 2am laundromats and waiting for the spin cycle to remove the sticky sweet smudges of an unimpressed child's birthday party. Start 'em early, as the memory of countless crying babies in highchairs try desperately to get away. Older children complain of no Batman or Woody or Spiderman. And the life of a clown is a life of compromises and settlements played out before you in the acts of family dramas.
The life of a clown is to be the disappointment oft times punctuated in fear. A lost art no one cares about. Nary a true critic of the art is left. But as the old joke goes, at least you're not a mime.
No feature of face paint on the news.
The scent of witch hazel and a large jar
of clown white
beneath the blink of a dying
bulb at the edge
of a mirror is more of a mark
on the calendar
than this day which passes
as easily as a make-up pad
across a scarred cheek.

I just ate my feelings. They were equal to a sizable portion of cheesecake. -Dyana Bagby
What I saw in the cake was the silver reflection
the cold eye I hate the most about myself
calculating the cut and then adjusting for a selfish portion
that would slide down and disappear
like a collapsed star in my gut—
eventually pulling in everything, but not
at first, and not for a long time...
thousands of slices later, in fact.
All the while whatever was there that I saw
within myself, real or imagined, regenerated—
like something fresh from hell's oven.
I rode the pastry cart like one of the four horsemen.
Each new sweetness a misery, a pang,
a feeling I had forgotten, refused, denied;
until something escaped the gravity well within me,
something sparking, alive, and angry,
the little imp of self-improvement,
ready to phoenix me, right after I blazed down to ashes.

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