There was a man that was an impressionist painting who lived down the street from us. One day his belly was fat with flowers he’d eaten for a late breakfast. He’d grown hungry after watching Avatar hung over on his leather loveseat. And his head was filled with wonderment. Was he so anachronistic? Was he truly alone as he strolled down a lonely suburban street in the thick-skulled heat of mid June? His kind of blue eyes said yes, but his strut swayed no as he dissolved a bit with each step past our apartment.
It was yesterday afternoon, as soon as the storm died down, when the crepe myrtles were lifting their skirts for the ghost-eyes of old men peeking up through the cracks in the concrete sidewalk, the ones who always say, your mamma’s back, break your mamma’s back, all day. The man that was an impressionist painting never heard the old men because his lily pads, which Sarah and I decided were his ears, had fallen off just past our mail box. Besides, Sarah and I also decided he likely never had a mamma. Maybe he was just distracted by the weathered pieces of pink petals falling from the trees and his soggy trousers.
One of the old men under the sidewalk had loved his own mamma so much that he hated the lack of reaction from the man that was an impressionist painting. His swagger said he wasn’t scared. And the way he dripped purple paint in their eyes when sweating said something we couldn’t understand. In his anger, the old man slid a dagger through a crack to stab the man that was an impressionist painting in the belly. We watched his guts spill out among the flowers. We couldn’t tell where the small intestine ended and all the pink petals began. I got the impression that we’d seen something rather strange, and Sarah went in to get her camera.
They live next door.
They make believe.
They watch the clock for fun.
They laugh at our not-clown fights.
They laugh like harmonicas.
They laugh like nothing is wrong.
Those clowns smear makeup faces.
Their windows are gross.
They hit the bong.
They yell we yell about nothing.
They have parties every weekend.
Their parents are always out of town.
Those clowns make faces at us.
Their windows are faces at us.
They mime every time we make faces.
Their rooms are dimly lit.
Their brooms are made of blue bristles.
Their masks are beautiful.
Those clowns are in need of being ugly.
They know we are.
Their cars are small and judgmental.
They cry every time we want to cry.
Their make fun of you faces fiend for color.
Their lies are all very true.
Those clowns soak in the tub.
They beg for forgiveness.
They laugh like you.
Christopher Shipman's poems have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in Big Bridge, Caribbean Writer, Carolina Quarterly, Chiron Review, Cimarron Review, Exquisite Corpse, Louisiana Review, Redactions, Salt Hill, and Tule Review. His poem, “From All the Purple Deer” was featured on Verse Daily, and his review of Andrei Codrescu’s Jealous Witness appeared in American Book Review.