Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 242

For this week’s prompt, write a circus poem. It could be a three-ring circus, media circus, flea circus, or any other interpretation. It could be about people in the circus or those watching the circus. It could be about animals, clowns, tents, vendors, peanuts, etc.

Here’s my attempt at a circus poem:

“How to Make a Clown Car”

First, you need a car–
a small one–
like a VW Beetle,
because it has to be funny,
and the smaller the funnier.

Paint the windows
and remove the interior–
even the door panels–
and strengthen the springs,
because of the weight.

But don’t stop there:
Place the driver on a milk
crate and start shoving
in the clowns with their
expandable luggage,

beach balls, and spring-
loaded giraffe necks.
If you’re lucky, you’ll
get 15 to 20 to fit;
then, you yank them out.

*****

Note: I used this Car And Driver article, “The Physics Of: Clown Cars,” as a reference for my poem today.

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Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and can’t remember the last time he went to a circus–or, for that matter, what he witnessed. He’s the author of Solving the World’s Problems, which does include a poem about eight elephants and three clowns in Manhattan (you can use your imagination if you haven’t read it yet). He’s married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets (four boys and one princess). Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

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138 thoughts on “Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 242

  1. Hubonics

    THE RINGMASTER.
    by Shane Hubbard

    A spotlight illumed the center ring
    Of the big top where the showman stood,
    The undisputed circus king,
    A puppeteer with lengths of string
    That brought the crowds off the bleacher wood.

    The candy butchers called aloud,
    Ice cold colas and popcorn in hand,
    And all the while the glazed eyes of the crowd
    Watched as the ringmaster waived and bowed,
    Their ears charmed by the circus band.

    The clowns pulled gags, and the masses roared,
    While artists, with their talents and tricks,
    Kept spellbound brains from becoming bored;
    Not one soul was to be ignored
    When pitching the nickelodeon flicks.

    Skilled magicians bedazzled with ease,
    Their sleight of hand too quick for eyes
    That see as a mindless robot sees,
    Led wherever their masters please,
    And made to believe their simple lies.

    And beyond the entertainment fun,
    Beside the glitz, behind the tents
    Where bread and circus merged as one,
    Were crafty webs the master spun
    To ensnare those lacking common sense.

    “Look here; look there! No, not behind!”
    Screamed circus minions to the willing blind,
    The ordered chaos concealing the stunt
    That tops them all in this heinous front—
    The capture of the brainwashed mind.

  2. Bruce Niedt

    Very late with this one – been working on it since the weekend.

    Circus Peanuts

    They’re vile candies, three times the size
    that peanuts deserve to be, an unnatural,
    fluorescent orange, the same color as
    the large fungus that grew on the side of a tree
    in my yard. My wife’s uncle, the mushroom hunter,
    called it “Chicken of the Woods”, and harvested it
    from us, so I don’t know if it tasted like chicken.
    I do know that circus peanuts don’t taste
    like peanuts – just sugary, spongy, chewy
    marshmallow. I can’t imagine who would really
    like them – clowns maybe. They’re oversized
    and garish enough to appeal to a clown.
    One could stuff several pounds into a clown car
    for their next zany road trip. Or maybe we could
    feed them to a big purple marshmallow elephant,
    lumbering soft and wrinkly in the ring,
    while marzipan people watch from the bleachers
    made from graham crackers and chocolate bars.
    If the big top ever went up in flames,
    the whole place would smell like s’mores.

  3. Poet Ariel

    Dismantling the Circus

    I used to be a Ringmaster
    Emceeing a cast of characters,
    My jesters, animal trainers, acrobats.
    I was the best show in town, changing my hat
    On the whims of the rotating audience that sat.
    I had all the rabbits I could pull out of a hat,
    I was the human cannonball and the high flying act,
    I was the lion tamer and the lion too,
    The concessions and the clean-up crew,
    A clown car that in which I was every kind of fool,
    For the exotic, a queen of the Nile,
    I even stood in for the Fire-Eater a while …

    And on all of them, a costume and a painted smile

    And at the heart of it, I wanted to run away
    I wanted the surety of myself at the end of the day
    The revolving cast was hard to maintain
    Noisome, quarrelsome, hard to contain.
    And so I dismantled the big tent, derailed the train
    Laid them off, all the characters and all the beasts
    Gave them their pink slip, the greater & the least.
    Sent the elephants out of the room
    Handed all the divas a shovel or a broom
    Left the freak show hidden behind in a tomb
    I did not want a circus to own
    Just wanted to be myself, flesh & bone

    But what good is a ringmaster alone?

    Ariel
    Oct 23, 2013

  4. PressOn

    PASSING OF A VAUDEVILLIAN

    He wore, wrinkled flat,
    a too-tiny hat
    awry
    and oft hit the mat
    when whacked with a splat
    of pie.
    I can’t believe that
    the laughs he begat
    could die.

  5. Clae

    Rainy Day at the Circus

    Cumulonimbus,
    Intrigued by the colored tents,
    Rushes for a closer look,
    Cannot contain excitement.
    Under the great tent,
    Storms cannot stop the show.

  6. Jane Shlensky

    Full Circle

    The circus was a grounding force
    that made long summers happier—
    the dancing girls atop a horse,
    the juggling clowns were snappier;
    the ticket sales were brisk, of course.

    All farmers’ children gathered ‘round
    and dreamed of riding elephants,
    delighted by their trumpets’ sound,
    their trunks and eyes and baggy pants;
    the trembling earth jogged new remorse

    and rendered every child entranced.
    Each tiny laborer could see
    himself in wondrous circumstance
    in sequins now, worldly and free—
    his old life now seemed crappier.

    The freak show made them all agree:
    farming was grand—to some degree.

  7. LaMarqueza

    The Last Time I Fly

    The last time I climb
    the narrow ladder
    The last time I stand
    on the tiny platform
    The last time I shine
    in my costume
    The last time I hear
    the ooohhh’s and aaahhh’s
    The last time I tense
    my shoulders
    The last time I ready
    my grip
    The last time I launch
    into nothing
    The last time I connect
    with his strong arms
    The last time my weight hangs
    in his hands
    The last time our eyes meet
    above the world
    The last time we force
    ourselves to smile
    The last time I hear
    the sucking of a thousand breaths
    The last time I will land
    where I should

    This is the last time
    I will fly
    And the last time I will revel
    the triumph

    Laura Pena
    October 25, 2013

  8. JRSimmang

    ART IS LIFE REFLECTED

    “Have you ever noticed, dad,
    how the Big Top looks like
    an iris inverted?”

    “Then what are the rings?”

    “They are the glasses
    falling.
    The iris has stopped here
    to gather her friends,
    but stays stooped at the ground,
    blind to the music.”

    “Blind to the music?”

    “It plays and they dance.
    They see the music in the air,
    grappling with the notes
    and kissing the chords,
    gliding with crescendos,
    and falling,
    falling,
    falling
    with the deepening divide.”

    “You’re too smart for your own good.”

    “I’m ready to leave.
    Can we take an elephant?”

    I lifted him to the elephant’s back,
    smelling the smell of the iris.

    -JR Simmang

    1. Julieann

      I just got it! They say tell an Englishman a joke on Friday and he will get it in church on Sunday. That is what I did here. I read “Circus” a number of times, but just got the meaning. Well done. An enlightening description. Absolutely wonderful!!

  9. ewdupler

    Circus Insanity

    There are so many animals,
    I’ve beasts within my mind.

    Elephants are stomping loudly
    and lacking all restraint.
    A raging lion rounds the ring;
    The tiger, barely tame.

    But monkeys driving tiny cars
    can make me laugh aloud.
    And bears in tutus, dancing tall,
    like teasing out a smile.

    Though life is like the circus show,
    with so much going on,
    remember, I am in control,
    the master of the ring.

  10. Nancy Posey

    Lear’s Fool

    Lear’s wise fool disappears
    without adieu or ado
    before Act Four,
    bearing the weight of his liege lord
    the king bereft of his crown
    by his own unwise accord.

    Subject of thousands
    of sophomoric essays—
    Was he merely a figment
    of the king’s unsteady
    imagination, another facet
    of the old man’s self?
    Was he in truth a she,
    Cordelia in disguise,
    not gone, in truth, to France
    on her unhappy, incomplete
    honeymoon as queen?

    Perhaps he wandered off
    toward Dover, discontented
    by the lack of laughs
    afforded a man, a clown
    by trade. Ironic jests
    deplete the spirit, do not
    feed it. Did he foretell
    his own fate—like Yorick,
    his brother on other pages,
    chapless, crestfallen.

    In my happier dreams,
    he saw the great success
    of disguise practiced by others
    and donned a lord’s cape
    and shoes, under the less-
    than-watchful eyes—what eyes
    remained—of his betters.
    I stand corrected; those
    who thought themselves
    his betters.

  11. seingraham

    CIRCUS MINIMUS

    Do you remember when we first
    went to the circus together
    and right there in the Big Top
    there was all this craziness going on,
    three rings of action:
    Dogs balancing
    atop beautiful white horses,
    Beautiful women balancing atop
    strong men, spinning plates
    upon sticks,
    And what was the third…?
    I can never seem to remember
    the third, can you?

    But the circus wasn’t the only
    action that day, do you recall that?
    It was the first time I felt my baby
    move…you were the one I shared
    that miracle with first…
    And now, your own babies are
    starting university…how can that be?

  12. bclay

    Rings of Fire

    You came
    to see bondaged
    instincts and muffled
    tamed roars of evolution.

    Gasping at pinnacle
    predation reduced to acts,
    leaping through fiery hot rings
    under pavlov’s salivate conditioning.

    But you know, without your mighty
    whip, you are just another wildebeast,
    an easy neck to snap, as quick as a whip,
    and my teeth will be the cages you all despise.

    1. JRSimmang

      Tritto! This left me breathless, thinking of how insane a “lion tamer” must be to pretend he or she is in control of the beast of all beasts. How very wise, too, your metaphor for the caged person, controlled by the bully.

  13. snuzcook

    PERFORMANCE

    I perform for you,
    High above the ground
    Are you wishing for a net for me?
    Posing on a slender bar
    Arcing from side to side;
    I slip down to hang feet to sky
    And spin a whorl of sequins and spandex.
    I perform for you
    And make your heart leap.
    In a moment we almost inhabit the same space,
    Then we both come down to earth
    And all that is left is popcorn underfoot.

  14. Linda Hatton

    (Don’t) Take Me to the Circus

    Please do not clown
    around with my heart, force
    me to balance bowling pins
    (and your insecurities)
    on my head or chin, toss
    me peanuts to make up
    for your lack
    of attention (when
    I was nuts about you), walk
    your tightrope without being
    there to catch me when I fell
    (for you). Spend some time walking
    in my over-sized
    shoes. You will see
    I became my own ring-
    master when you left me.

  15. JWLaviguer

    The Eternal Circus

    Fluffy clouds drift by
    changing shape
    as they enter the arena
    cotton candy at sunrise

    Lions with manes of fire
    roar their discontent
    as grey elephants
    rumble through the night

    We watch in wonder
    as the ring master welcomes us
    to the greatest show
    in the universe.

    JW Laviguer

  16. Nancy Posey

    Still traumatized from a gorilla roaming through the grandstands at the State Fair, I couldn’t put it into words. I decided, by the way, to take the liberty of switching to the Fair (since the circus never came to our town). I hope these will count as Haiku since fair season implies autumn:
    The birthday girl’s eyes
    and face grow red from weeping–
    clowns always scare her

    The circus arrives
    The children become nauseous
    on the Tilt-a-Whirl.

    Deep-fried Oreos
    funnel-cakes deep-fried in lard.
    Eau de County Fair

    No one ever wins
    the Teddy Bear. Superglue
    holds the bowling pins.

  17. Connie Peters

    Cotton Candy Sticks

    Forty-five years ago
    our fourth grade fieldtrip—
    Barnum and Bailey Circus

    What do I remember?

    A lion tamer,
    a performing elephant,
    a clown or two.

    But mostly
    my friend and I
    finding and winding our way

    through the Pittsburgh Coliseum
    to buy souvenirs and
    cotton candy.

  18. JRSimmang

    GEOMETRY OF FLIGHT

    In the bleachers,
    son and father share
    parabolas.

    “I see three,”
    and the circles
    smiled for him.

    “And looking down
    from the top is simply
    sacred. Wave, son.”

    -JR Simmang

  19. elishevasmom

    The Circus is in Town

    Well not actually in town—per se.
    It’s the untamed wildness in
    my head when I’m
    having a bad day.
    Everyone has them, bad days that is,
    but with me?

    This thought is holding forth
    that its errand must be the
    top priority today.

    Over there, that train of thought is blowing off
    steam, yelling “All Aboard! If
    you don’t hop right on it will
    leave the station without you.”

    Perseverating in this corner,
    is an idea that holds no real
    import for the day, but is just so
    fascinating…

    Clamoring over here,
    demanding undivided attention are
    memories of a very dark
    time in my past. Dark, painful,
    raw emotions…
    that should just SHUT UP
    already!

    And if all of that circus
    in my head is not
    enough, the Em Ce
    just went on strike because
    nobody will listen to him!

    That does it.
    I’m just going to
    roll over and go
    back to sleep.

    Ellen Knight
    10.24.13
    write a “circus” poem for PA

  20. pmwanken

    I’M RUNNING AWAY TO THE CIRCUS

    Life is hard,
    I’m
    running away;

    I’ve packed my
    bags,
    I will not stay.

    I’ve longed to
    run
    since I was five,

    but I’m still
    a
    kid and can’t drive.

    I’m made fun
    of –
    graceful, I’m not.

    Ringmaster –
    please,
    give me a shot?

    Fear of heights,
    no
    trapeze for me.

    With these feet,
    a
    clown’s all I’ll be.

    2013-10-23
    P. Wanken

    The prompt at Poetic Bloomings this week was to write a “clown” poem…which resulted in the final piku stanza here. Today’s prompt here at Poetic Asides allowed me to fill in the story. Thanks, Robert.

  21. Julieann

    I apologize before hand if this offends anyone. It is not my intention. I have been in a cynical mood of late, and unfortunately, it came through loud and clear.

    The Greatest Show on Earth

    Ladies and gentlemen
    Boys and girls of all ages
    Today it is my pleasure to present
    The Greatest Show on Earth

    Starring in ring one is Congress
    Filibustering, arguing, and offensively behaving
    Towards constituents and other
    Congressional members

    Ring two houses local politicians
    Supposedly working for the local good,
    Yet ensnared in sexual scandals,
    Kickbacks and money laundering

    The last ring surrounds the media
    Those who report, supposedly unbiased,
    The truth of what is happening and
    Expects us to accept it blindly

    High above are the tightrope walkers
    Those few, brave souls trying to uphold
    Morals, justice, and the once
    Beautiful American way

    Amidst it all are the clowns
    Faces painted to hide who they are
    And their true motives until
    They explode in our faces

    And running the whole show –
    The Master of Ceremonies – the President
    Telling all the politicians to listen to
    Him and not the people who elected them

    So come one, come all
    Welcome to America’s Greatest Show on Earth
    Where we’re wooed, wowed, and just
    Plain made a fool of

  22. Cameron Steele

    Circus Dreams

    I forgot my old name,
    traded pearls for funny collars,
    got hooked on the hollers
    of men with their girls,
    girls with their dreams,
    and the idea that a world
    could be contained in a ring,
    shoved into a canon,
    and shot like a star into the summer night.

    1. bclay

      enchanting and ethereal,

      from
      “I forgot my old name”,
      to
      “shot like a star into the summer night”

      like a true night’s conglomeration of
      half remembered intermittent dreams,

  23. Sara McNulty

    Too Many Rings

    Three rings, all active
    elephants,
    tiger tricks,
    trapeze artists ride on ropes
    Ringmaster’s loud voice

    announces each act,
    as I try
    to follow.
    I eat popcorn with head down,
    avoid chilling clowns.

  24. LadyCatrina

    SILVER STARS

    What happened to us
    Out there?
    Showered in glitter
    greasepaint heavy in the air
    White flashes of teeth and skin golden under the lights
    We lived.
    Forever young, forever beautiful
    The spotlight was on us
    An audience was awaiting a performance
    But then we fell.
    Crashed through layers, layers of hopes and dreams and glass
    Until we lay shattered and broken on the pavement
    Our audience pushed us away
    And fate pushed us apart.
    What happened to us, out there?
    When things were still good and right and lit with silver stars?
    One star fell
    The rest followed quick, too quick
    Silver stars danced in the ring
    Spotlight on, audience awaiting
    Then they fell.
    Exploded into glitter and dusted the living with hope that the stars didn’t even know they had
    What happened out there?
    Were the lights too bright, the crowds too loud
    Too many voices whispering promises of dreams?
    Or had we already fallen
    And it took us this long to see it?

  25. Hannah

    Elephant Speaks
    ~
    The show
    full of the best…
    please, rest your gaze on this beast,
    great and gray-performing her tricks;
    panicked eyes tell the truth.
    ~
    Copyright © Hannah Gosselin 2013

  26. taylor graham

    FAR FROM THE MADDING CLOWNS

    Such keen anticipation for this trip,
    a wilderness adventure without cell-phone,
    appointments, bills. But here’s an unexpected slip.
    On the breathless summit she stands quite alone –
    till whistle-blast, badge, man with a tight lip
    says she’s in trespass; her country’s lost its grip
    on the high-wire act, the government’s shut down.
    Who’s in trouble? Surely no politi-clown.

  27. PressOn

    THE KID

    My grandson’s name is Maximus.
    He quotes much verse and facts to us,
    and when he runs around the yard,
    we call him Circus Maximus.

    He’s sharper than a broken shard
    and, always, Grandpa’s little pard,
    but when he’s Circus Maximus
    his charms the whole darn boulevard.

  28. PowerUnit

    My first reaction
    To the right winged trolls
    Is to call it a circus
    Arguments with no point
    Continual, barbaric hammering
    Hate packaged as fact

    The left are no brighter
    With their do away with all
    Fossil fuel warnings
    Written on bumper stickers no less
    They are too stupid to see
    Fallacies or paradoxes

    I apologize to the elephants
    Dancing bears and trotting horses
    Honest ring leaders
    And the true clowns of the night
    For getting the focus crisp
    For keeping their perspective right

  29. Dan

    Circus Synthetic

    Electric lights that flash a crystal blue
    Buzzing vibrations rippling through your skin
    And a storm of white colour
    definite through boundless black

    The motorised widow spider
    creeping up the wires of her web
    Piercing blind eyes
    that hide
    the pain of her captivity

    The pulsing of heavy beats
    as the rope walker’s leap
    from mile high chains

    Plunging
    until safety nets catch their graceful falls

    The robot clowns
    laughing twisted verses
    into the lifeless faces
    of children
    absorbed into the fake reality
    of the circus

    Technophobes suffer
    at the fate of the ringmaster’s enjoyment

    The dying generation
    must conform to the system
    if they are to survive

    Everything fake
    Everything synthetic

    Even the prisoners
    drowned neon blood
    are a construction
    of man’s obsession

  30. Misky

    A Bit Of Dung Will Do You

    Mother always said it’d scare away the deer.
    And the rabbits. And the squirrels. And mice.
    I reckoned it was like when Pastor Eldgridge
    tried to scare sin out of us, but mostly it
    scared us into a different church that accepted
    us as heathens and modestly painted hussies.

    So I assumed that like us, the deer and rabbits
    and squirrels and mice would just saunter
    into a different church for food, since any God-
    fearing moron would stay clear of lion dung.

    Every May when the travelling circus pitched
    tents outside town, and the new mothers
    thought it good precaution to hide their
    babies and jewellery from sight, well, we’d
    head to the animal tamer’s tent, and buy
    a load of lion and tiger dung. Oh my.

    We’d come home, and Dad would spread
    it around the garden, shovel it in deep,
    while Mother and I pinched our noses.
    In all those years I never stepped foot
    inside the big tent, just kept outside
    to the fringes where they kept the dung.

    I can’t say it kept the critters away either,
    although it did kill all the strawberries.

  31. De Jackson

    The View from the Bleachers

    This circus is falling down on its knees
    The big top is crumbling down.

    – Counting Crows, Raining in Baltimore

    She’s been walking this tight
    rope long enough, some in
    -visible line in the sand drawn
    chalk soft in tears and tells
    and peanut shells. The elephant
    is well fed and fat and sassy, un
    -said, but eloquently seen. She
    means to cannon-catapult herself
    far from these trampled stars, but
    somehow her feet, sticky sweet,
    remain right where they are.

    .

    1. Hannah

      So, am I reading right here…is this the elephant speaking?! Because if that is so then wow…have a look-see at mine!!

      Wow. And now reading again…she says so much…trampled stars…being confined in chains…stuck feet…

      “n tears and tells
      and peanut shells.”

      This makes me want to cry. Did I mention I ♥ elephants…

        1. Hannah

          SO neat…sometimes writing will have layers of meaning that the writer didn’t intend intentionally…the elephants that “loose it,” often will stampede…made me think of the “trampled stars.”

          Love this poem!

  32. Michelle Hed

    A Day with the Circus

    Three ring
    or one big top,
    it all goes round
    and never seems to stop.

    The three ring
    drives you crazy
    and takes you for a loop,
    until you droop.

    The big top
    serves up oohs and aahs
    and thrills to keep you going,
    there never is any snoring.

    But the big top ends
    as all good things should,
    something to savor
    memories for later.

    But my three ring
    has a life of its own,
    shutting down and starting up
    ‘when’ is often unknown.

    I might be angry,
    I might be tired
    but I’m seldom bored
    with my little hoard.

  33. PKP

    The Show of All Shows

    Ponderous pachyderms
    Lumbering large
    Sparkling flickers of
    Twirling in air whirls
    Laughter and gasps and
    Sighs and yes, teary cries
    All sit under the Big Top
    Until the show up and dies

  34. barbara_y

    The Circus has Flown

    The circus in a tent
    was what it should be.
    Wind flapped the thick walls
    gave sound to the peak.
    Canvas is like October.
    Those intense molecules
    hot in fact peanuts, popcorn, dung
    diffused and sequenced and left
    through slits and pores. and all
    the crowd was light. and all the fliers
    were tiny sequins so thin and brave
    and so much less real than television made them
    where their black and white faces
    wore huge human expression.

  35. Walt Wojtanik

    LOOK AT ME, I’M THE FUNNY MAN

    A tear grease painted here on my face
    in case the well’s run dry.
    The tears of a clown roll down
    my bulbous proboscis, sadness
    in hiding, providing the greatest spark
    on earth to offer my mirth for the joy
    of others. It is laughter they are after.
    But, it bothers me that I can’t lighten
    my own heart. I fall apart and land
    flat on my face. Traces of tears
    grease painted here, just in case!

    © copyright 2013, Walter J Wojtanik

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