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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Clowns, Gowns, Blackbirds and Bees

[photo credit: Daughter]

I think this investigation began when I turned five years old. There were rewards in 1954. You'd go to a school carnival, throw a beanbag into the mouth of a cardboard clown and by golly you won something. You scampered around among legs in slacks and dirndls and saw beanbags in a big box back there --saw them returned for the next throw and learned things never end. Yes, I believe it began there.

Cloth, beans, cardboard. Clues come from within. When you decide to seek the truth, be sure truth is really what you want because it will not leave you alone, not ever. Half a century passed. I read a news item about 39 wedding gowns found abandoned early one morning on a lonely Kansas highway. Some things you never get over.

County sheriff prodding limp lace, making thoughtful notes at dawn --cold satin, chiffon, weeds disturbed, matted. Elsewhere, 39 brides cried, naked --tears lit by ebbing stars, falling like unbagged beans-- on their wedding day. And yet ELSEWHERE, a tempera-painted, crudely-cut cardboard clown blended back into the crowd, immortal, laughing maniacally, totally unnoticed, waiting his chance to strike again.

Dawn comes, we wake. Does sleep tell us what waking is? Days come and go. School carnivals end. Kansas sees summer again and the stoats turn brown. One pattern I have observed to be constant is life is not cycles, it is one damn thing after another. Sometimes long after. Whether this is a universal axiom extending beyond life, I do not know, but it shows promise.

Consider today. This morning I read an AP story about 1000 blackbirds found dead within a square mile in the town of Beebe, Arkansas. It's really raining here so I've been investigating those poor broken birds in Beebe. Arkansas governor, Mike Beebe (yes, Beebe like the town he was not born in, and preceded in office by Mike --another Mike!-- Huckabee) has requested federal aid in repairing New Years Eve tornado damage in his state. Since blackbirds are short-migrators, returning to thawing feeding grounds earlier than other birds, they seldom fly higher than 1000 ft., certainly prime altitude for encountering an undescended cyclone and getting beaten to death in the sky. Also, as may be surmised by their coloring, they avoid predators by generally flying at night.

So it was weather that got them. I had to come up with a different theory about the uncanny repetition of the word "bee" in Arkansas towns and governors. Beebe, Huckabee, even blackbirds' initials --if you get a note signed B.B., it's probably from a blackbird, especially if it makes no sense.

I don't know why so many Arkansas governors are named Mike, but that too might be the work of the cardboard clown. The clown's purpose is to get us all to believe events are cyclical, that what goes around comes around and means something within a geometrically closed system, which is the bunk. The universe is enormous and you get to decide! Just remember to be terribly nice to one another. Happy New Year!


  1. Redolent with so many memories that almost all of us share, at least those of us who grew up here in the U.S. Thanks, even if you didn't include BB guns....

  2. Oh yes, nothing could make an old tin (tin?) can go "ding!" like a BB gun. Fun was simpler. But I bet birds don't rue that instrument's decline from fashion.


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