Stop Me If You've Heard This One
A man sits in an analyst's office Doc he says I am miserable every day I wake but can't get out of bed my work no longer interests me I make a custom of staring straight ahead in the diner expressions of love sicken me my country has broken my heart there is no tenderness left no tenderness for anything I pass dogs in the street & nothing happens a hawk sits on a lamppost & I think what do I care & even when I witness a great beauty it only fills me with greater sorrow doc I've grown old & useless & bitter & lonely nothing brings me the joy it used to I am a potato crushed in the molars of despair oh doc what can I do & the analyst says The great clown Pagliacci is performing tonight my good man you should see him if the tales told of him are true you will laugh as you have never laughed & know wonders such as you have never known & surely relocate the joy that has been lost to you & the man says But doc & opens a large duffel bag & pulls out the severed head of a clown with the eyes torn out & pulls out the blood-soaked arms of a clown in their costume sleeves & the legs of a clown with jagged bones poking out from the flesh & the analyst hears a great cracking sound from inside the man's body & the man contorts & grunts & sobs as a fur the color of houseflies ripples over his flesh & his teeth pop from his gums to make way for new teeth & his hands become clawed & his legs bend back he is growing now his shirt straining & ripping & out of his back bursts a pair of wings coated in the same green-black fur the wings are enormous the size of the analyst's office they spread & the office walls are blasted outward & the building cracks in half & the halves fall away & the man takes the analyst into his hands & holds him to his chest & flies up up up they are almost to the moon the moon is the size of a pomegranate & the man cracks it open & swallows the seeds & says I am Pagliacci & vomits out a joy a hot & dark & buzzing joy that swarms back down to earth & envelops the earth & spins like a dervish through the cities where the people smear everything they can think of onto their doorframes but nothing works & the man hovers in space hovers in ecstasy & the people scream at each other in the streets I am Pagliacci I am Pagliacci & tear each other's heads off & arms & legs & bring them to analysts in duffel bags & tell the analysts of their sorrows & the analysts all say Go see Pagliacci & the people all say I am Pagliacci & everyone transforms into joyous & terrible angels there is nothing left but joyous & terrible angels & joyous & terrible angels & joyous & terrible angels without mothers
Jeremy Radin is a poet, actor, and teacher. His poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Gulf Coast, The Journal, Passages North, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Collapsar, Winter Tangerine, and elsewhere. He is the author of two collections of poetry, Slow Dance with Sasquatch (Write Bloody Publishing, 2012) and Dear Sal (not a cult press, 2017). He lives in Los Angeles with his four plants and refrigerator. Follow him @germyradin.