Today's poem is by John Hoppenthaler

College Town
          Mr. Bones, you a clown

Dinner tonight is chili dogs with onion, pepperoni rolls,
pitchers of beer at Gene's. Berryman's doppelgänger
slouches at his typical place, far corner of the bar;
once in a while he drowses off into the terra incognito
of his beard. For a joke, Brenda reads bumps on my head.
She's been theorizing phrenology for a paper,
& we've been drinking glasses of Rolling Rock
to avoid the ugly stacks of freshman essays we need to grade.
A knot here, a B; a lump there, C. I could shrug & let it go again.
My first week at Clown College I broke out in hives from greasepaint,
ass backwards discovered claustrophobia in a polka dot VW Bug
crammed with armpits & feet, & those big red noses
chafe & sawdust reeks of elephant piss. That was no place for Bozo.
John's dozed off. Sometimes he ticks like dogs
dreaming what they dream. When he starts awake,
he might be Mr. Bones, or Huffy Henry, or maybe
only John, who needs the john, & creaks right by us on his way.
Who knows what formations give his unkempt scalp geography?
"You must have rocks in your head," Brenda giggles,
& I'd been ready to purr. "In a previous life," I mutter,
"I was stoned to death unjustly. I'm fractured; can't you tell?"
Then John stirs, & Hank, the grinning skeleture of his cat nap.
They light a Camel, & cough, & wheeze, & their single chest
rattles like something hard & loose & probably broken.
Brenda's fingers have disappeared, & the Big Top, too.
Chili dogs woof & bark, grrr in my stomach.
I never learned to walk on stilts. I must have rocks in my head.
John's digging through pockets for a little change, & now
he's having another, just a stone's throw from here.

Copyright © 2007 John Hoppenthaler All rights reserved
from Anticipate the Coming Reservoir
Carnegie Mellon University Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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