The Circus – poem by Red Skelton

The Circus – poem by Red Skelton

Red Skelton wrote this poem in honor of his father, a former circus clown, whom Red never knew — Red’s father died two months before Red was born.  Years later, a young Red also clowned in the circus — at the very same circus where his father had performed years before.

The Circus

The circus! The magical city
That appears and disappears with the bat of an eye.
A cathedral for children and adults
Made of canvas and trimmed with red wagons,
A sunburst of wheel, pink lemonade and cotton candy.
A temple housing the unity of man and beast…

All performing for the good of their fellow man
With shouts of glory.

The perfomers’ only reward is the echo of the applause
And laughter of children.
It cradles them to sleep.
As the red wagons roll from city to city.

The clown hides his sorrows behind a mask —
Sometimes grotesque, sometimes sad,
but always with a whimsy that is an encouragement
That makes any deformity of life seem minute.

A lesson in humanity, where man and beast risk life
and limb for the meager reward of applause.

How sad it would be if my youth would pass away
And not see the beauty of the big red wagons,
And taste the rare vintage of pink lemonade!

Or become so blasé that I couldn’t offer a silent prayer
For the man on the flying trapeze,
Or sigh as I watch him swing to and fro.

I see my own life in motion like the pendulum
On the huge clock that ticks away life.

Oh, keep me young without prejudices.
Without haste, so that I will be young.
So that my heart will be filled with glee
Next year, when the big red wagons roll in again!

To me, a great clown said that — my Dad.

Red Skelton

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    • John Tarter
    • April 8, 2011

    Red was a saint and an American institution.
    He devoted his professional life to the memory of his dad, the clown.
    I honor that memory.
    Thanks Red.

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