Puppeteer (for Igor Fokin)

Three shows an hour on summer nights,
when the crowd hushed around him

on the sidewalk, four deep, staring at
the rickety scaffold, where his troupe

was suspended from a beam, helpless:
jazzman, lips forever fused to his trumpet;

acrobatic cyclists, spinning tandem,
dizzying end over end, so no mortal

could ever follow; a shy, two legged
aardvark rabbit, no bigger than a pear,

with its perpetually shocked eyes,
snout blossoming at the tip

into an exotic flower, and towering above,
young Prospero, dramatic long sweeping hair,

fine sculpted face, high cheeks, sharp chin,
warm onyx eyes, irrepressible pleasure in what

he'd wrought, so nearly did he vanish,
bestow undreamt freedom, choices

to the puppets, who frisked, crawled,
tottered, strutted, as suited them,

even the Devil felt entitled to work
the crowd, he trotted around the inner

rim of the circle on pointed little
hooved legs, stopped and assessed

souls at random, as if to ponder,
could this be the one, is it his time,

and if it was, he would hop onto your knee,
tilt his bawdy, garish face at you,

fixedly, not exactly grinning, and then
without your permission, drift

up your arm, his carved leg dabbing at
your skin, by now crawling and cold,

and if you held perfectly still
the thing climbed your shoulder,

nestled confidentially by your ear,
whispered secrets you already knew:

that Prospero would not live long in Milan,
would not see Miranda thrive, died

at thirty-six, his family in a strange land,
with no chants or commands to support them,

that the other puppets, the hapless ones
on their strings would have another fate --

stay in perpetual dark, hanging from hooks,
or sold, who knows where or why anything ends

the way it does, would it offend dramatic
unity for him to have stayed longer, for when

he walked the creatures around the ring,
some children laughed, others watched warily,

he always knew who could accept a visit, who
might willingly suspend disbelief, even

if our older, disillusioned selves got
the willies when a puppet stopped

before us, sat on its haunches, gazed up
stoically into our eyes, somewhere inside,

in a space hollowed ages ago, we knew
the thing was alive, its current steadily

running from string to hand to heart to head
all the way irrevocably to Creator.

Brad Clompus


This poem was sent in by Brad Clompus with his letter of support for the Memorial Sculpture Project. I asked if I could post it for everyone to read. He told me I could, but asked that you not copy or re-post this without his permission. You can, however, link people directly to this page.
Thanks again, Brad.

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