It's 1954 And Emmett Kelly Remembers - Poem by Hans Ostrom

the Hartford, Connecticut, circus fire,
1944: the big tent went up,

and people panicked like animals,
but the big cats got strangely calm.

The famous clown rushed from
the small dressing-tent in makeup,

managed more authority than a cop
because a clown's not supposed

to speak, so when he spoke,
the wild eyed customers listened.

They let him save their lives
with a frown. Back in his tent,

he said to Willie in the mirror,
'No show tonight. No show

in Clown Alley.' Other clowns
entered, hysterical, said who'd lived,

who hadn't. (168 hadn't.)
'You were wonderful, ' they told Emmett,

who had removed half of Willie's face.
As Kelly he shrugged. 'I did what I could.'

Now in 1954, Madison Square Garden,
Emmett's put on half of Willie's face.

He feels weary. He tells an interviewer,
'Clowning is nothing you can study for.'



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Poems by Hans Ostrom

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