the red on my cheeks
overpowered the powder.
The serious principal
abandoned any semblance
of craft when he pointed at me,
then pointed at the door.
It was all because I kept
showing up early to lecture
to practice my classical moves.
Needless to say, everyone ended up
in soundproof boxes
pretty much all the time.
Being out on the streets
when you’re an eighteen-year-old mime
is actually a good business opportunity.
That is, until a cop walked up
and asked for my union card.
Then the streets became harsh.
I had to sell my striped shirt
to a dude who wore glasses
with a key-shaped bridge.
The dude was very liberal,
so I had to apologize
for my use of white-face.
In hopes of turning things around,
I fake-blended and drank a shake
made of raw eggs, then I for-real
jogged up a set of library stairs
to prove to myself that I wasn’t
just going through the motions.
I ended up sitting down on the top step,
breathlessly huffing and puffing,
then switched to crying.
When I cry, it’s completely silent
and it washes off most of my makeup.
Which it turns out is how most people cry.
This is one of those rare poems that was pretty close to finished after one draft. I’m pretty sure I only changed a line or two and then fit the poem into six-line stanzas, which according to a Google search, are called sexains if they don’t appear in the final lines of a sonnet. I took inspiration from “Clown” by Chelsey Minnis, both in the sense that a mime is adjacent to a clown and that I also wanted to write a poem that was simultaneously funny and sad. At the time (as well as currently), I was interested in writing poems that feature a ridiculous character in a normal situation or vice versa, which is something I discovered after reading some of James Tate’s later collections (The Ghost Soldiers and Dome of the Hidden Pavilion, in particular). So I decided to have a mime fall on tough times. And I decided to try to rhyme overpowered with powder. And then I included a scene influenced by Rocky even though I’ve never seen the film. Like the Minnis poem, I tried to end with a punchy truth about the world (which sounds corny when I say it like that). Long story short, if you’ve never read Chelsey Minnis’s poems, you really need to, especially Poemland.