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That Which Autumn Leaves

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That Which Autumn Leaves


The clowns were funny in the ring,

as they joked and tumbled and fell -

but in the camp, after the show,

they made our young lives hell.

Still in their masks of garish paint

and drunk on Vodka shots,

they cut and bruised and beat us,

hatching cruel, twisted plots.


I never saw the demons

lurking safe behind the masks

and who would have suspected them

as they went about their tasks?

We couldn’t tell our parents,

although so great was our need

to escape their vile clutches,

“Blaming clowns, indeed!”


So as they slept in caravans

painted in autumn shades,

some friends and I crept up on them,

our young hearts so afraid.

We lit a little fire

underneath the sleeping nest

and jammed tree branches in the doors.

Oh, what a jolly jest.


We banged nails in the window frames

and waited for the screams

when those inside rushed at the door.

I hear them in my dreams.

They cursed and swore unholy vengeance

in strange Romany tongues,

as flames and smoke lapped around them

and scorched into their lungs


The paint on every caravan

peeled and bubbled like hell

and we swore an oath between us

that we would never, ever, tell.

We stood at the far side of the field

as the garish wagons burned.

The shades of autumn lit the sky

as one by one we turned.


The shrieks in the night sounded like

frenzied jesters frying

in a three ring circus of the night.

The children stopped their crying.

The shades of autumn blurred

across an unforgiving sky.

We even raised the alarm ourselves

As we waited for them to die.


Our handiwork went undetected,

just more ash in the rubble.

None of us were suspected then

and no one got into trouble -

but now my friends have all passed on,

as age comes to us all,

every autumn I wait for them

to come around and call.


For every year since that fateful day,

as the night sky burns in season

of falling leaves and epitaphs,

they seem to have a reason

to return to that scorched cradle

and pitch their caravan

in the same spot in that killing field

where years ago we ran.


I fear them, not for our redemptive past

but, because  I see the eyes

of Paul, Peter, John and Mark

and hear their mournful cries

spilling from the cracked and crumbled greasepaint faces

of each and every ghost

that visits me upon that night

i dread and fear the most.


When autumn visits with the clowns

I come to realise,

that I stand in the twilight of my life

and winter, soon, will rise.

The flaming oranges will pass

and give way to the white,

smudged with the ashes of my guilt

and many years of lies.


The clowns will wait round corners

with their evil, coal-black stare

and I will smell them first,

the acrid scent of burning hair.

In livery of orange and gold

they will open the doors wide

on their caravan of collected souls -

and I will step inside.

killer clownscaravancircusredemptionguiltnarrative poemautumn

◄ Eyrie Avenue

Deadly Nightshade ►


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Sat 18th May 2013 16:35

Yes...nice,twisted little poem Ian...'they will open their doors wide,on their caravan of collected souls...and I will step inside'

Spooky indeed!

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Harry O'Neill

Sat 18th May 2013 16:32

I`m glad you spoke about stories Ian, That`s the way this strikes me - halfway between a poem and a story.

(Mind, you`ve got to give the kids in it lean and eerily white faces)

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Ian Whiteley

Tue 14th May 2013 12:41

Thanks Richard & Isobel
it was written as an homage to Poe, so I'm so so glad that Richard picked up on that :-)
I write short stories Isobel, usually Magic Realism, Horror or fantasy - and this was adapted from one of those.
I love the idea that the clowns claim back their murderers by taking them into the caravan and painting them up to become one of them. A twisted revenge - who do you feel sorry for - the kids or the clowns????

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Tue 14th May 2013 12:35

I'm with Richard on clowns - I've always seen them as potentially sad subjects - covering their sadness with the paint and farce - not really being heard or seen.

This poem makes for a macabre nightmare story though - the stuff you might see in a film. I suppose as soon as you don any disguise there is the potential for children not to see you as you are - human beings.

Interesting poem - where do you get your ideas from? Not from experience, let's hope ;)

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Tue 14th May 2013 12:09

Very good this, it for sure appeals to me, its funny, on a personal level I don't find clowns fearful at all I find them sad and wonderful but so many people think they are a thing of nightmares. This reads like something Poe might of it

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