Laurel and Hardy Convention, Las Vegas, 1992
I am passing behind one of five Ringling
Brothers clowns, the one with green hair
and white piping on billowing outline,
as he stands at the back of the convention
and watches the film.
He is sensing
the staircasing in his body,
the coiling within the standstill,
while two shadow-and-light gentlemen
goof with all the hopeful grandeur
of one’s double-fat face, his tasty pique—
his partner’s pencil elementariness
and high-pitched sniffling
bringing the spat to a damp, shy close.
Green Hair follows every movement
for the years it takes
to bone this costume out as a human if.
The act feels so new, of these old two,
that he lives to know what makes it so.
While, to his right, the transvestite,
modeling his attention,
wears his study of the wives,
his Forties Schiaparelli suit,
fox stole, wartime entire costume change
of earrings, brooch, and hat,
his lingerie blouse complementing
the gray slender silhouette
of rationed jersey (square shoulders
mostly his own). And plastic shoes.
And those of us who dress up as ourselves
seem the slackest students, ready-to-wear,
unscripted as chit-chat, our gestures flat,
our timing countable by neither chimes nor jewels.
We can only revere
the elderly child actors on the dais,
tracking the other definition of genius,
that guardian spirit of earlier place and time,
watching reels of their creator-child,
re-running around, that scrappy, indefatigable guide
to the unrecoverable self.