Sandra Meade

Elegy for a Clown

SANDPOINT –“The Idaho State Police are investigating an apparent suicide that occurred in the Bonner County jail Tuesday, September 27. Jeremy, 20, was found by detention staff.

Even at seven you were a natural Harpo,
too loose clothes, big shoes
nothing ever really fit you,
a fool too simple for reading
but already a master of gesture.

“Teacher, Teacher, I did a trick today.
They teased me at the bus and I did a trick.
and they laughed. Watch.”

A sweeping gesture of generosity,
the open hands
and expectant smile,
head tipped sideways
one shoe up,
the grand bow.

An innocent stooge,
pockets stuffed with cafeteria food.

They found you duct-taped to a bed
your thin wrists wound motionless
to the rail. For endless days
your biggest trick, the smile, taped shut.

I tried to send face paint and books
but there was a wall
of institutional silence.
Now, at 20, your final trick:
head oddly cocked on a rope,
hands hanging loose,
a silent mime in the end.

How the angels
must have gathered
with their big red noses,
the saltimbanques, the payasos-
big shoes and soft bellies,
choirs of buffoons.
How their large hands must have lifted you,
rocked you with hilarious laughter.
Silly you, coming in with a cord at your belly
and leaving with one at your neck.

Little clown, I salute you.
My own face colored by your news,
I lift the bubble wand and blow,
perfect globes
reflecting light
float in your direction.


“Elegy for a Clown” is reprinted from Stringtown.

Sandra Meade’s poetry has been published in Stringtown and Raven Chronicles, and she recently received a Pushcart nomination for her poem “Elegy for a Clown.”  In 2012 she wrote and illustrated a children’s book, “Caty Beth Chooses.” Originally from Montana, Sandra Meade received her B.A. in Education from the University of Montana where she studied under Richard Hugo.  She currently resides in a handbuilt stone house in the piney woods near Newport, Washington with her husband Mike, where she was a public elementary school teacher for over two decades. She is founder and director of Scotia House, a Pacific Northwest Spiritual Retreat, open to all faiths and traditions. She is a member of Spiritual Director’s International and received her certification in spiritual direction from Gonzaga University in 2003.  Her hobbies include gardening, hiking, fly-fishing, cross-country skiing, and playing the bodhran.


Charlotte Gould Warren



When was it—
in between the bridge’s planks—

the river winked at me from below?
Not that blue

I’d seen from the porch,
but a sharpening of knives,

the way, stealth-footed,
dawn opens the doors.


Whistling, stropping your razor,
you were the father.

Mother slept late.
Star-flowered jasmine

spilled over the tile roof,
bougainvillea, trumpet vine.

Soon the light
would come.


Kishan served us
early breakfast—toast and tea

and half a grapefruit picked
from a tree in our garden.

Oh, it was sweet!
Just the two of us

on the porch at the wicker table
set with knives and sugar.


Still in bathrobes, sandals flapping,
we walked across the Jumna, the bridge

not yet crowded, the river far below us,
Allahabad, City of God,

creaking awake on its wooden wheels:
bullock carts, hoof clops, dark leather blinders,

the slow bells of oxen.
I skip-hopped beside you.

Soon the sun would rise,
crinkling the river to a maze of gold,

hiding deeper currents
where snapping turtles scavenged the dead.


Mother planted blousey sweet peas, marigolds,
larkspur bruised and iridescent,

colors she cut and carried indoors.
I wanted her to hold me.


Mahatma, intransitive verbs,
Mark Twain—

the students adored you.
Their saris and homespun

tied at the waist, you pitched them
basketballs, ran with the javelin,

its shaft shuddering
upright in earth.

I climbed the leathery limbs of the banyan
or watched from the game field, munching chunna.


Afternoons, I found you
at home at your desk, scribbling notes

on student papers, coaxing
sermons onto the page.

You lit a hand-rolled cigarette, pet crow
on your shoulder, mongoose

asleep in your tucked-in shirt.
Under the ceiling fan’s

paddle of flies and sun motes,
I climbed into your lap.


When was it, you found me, still asleep,
slipped into my pajamas, insistent,

the way the deer’s short barks,
hunted, came breathless?

Always, the day began again,
as if nothing had happened—

insects probing
the ghostly netting,

the hard wooden bed frame
I climbed over to the floor.

The way the sun bore down.


“There Were Deer Barking in the Hills” is reprinted from Ghandi’s Lap (The Word Works).


Charlotte Warren’s poetry collection, Gandhi’s Lap, won the Washington Prize and publication by Word Works in Washington, D.C.  Her second poetry manuscript was a finalist in both the Phillip Levine and Ashland national contests. Warren’s poems have appeared on Seattle buses as well as in journals such as Orion, Calyx, The Hawai’i Review, The Louisville Review, and Kansas Quarterly. Warren’s recently published memoir, Jumna:  Sacred River, chronicles her childhood in India during its fight for independence from Great Britain in 1947, and her coming of age in the United States as it entered the turbulent sixties. She received her MFA in Writing from Vermont College, and taught part time at Peninsula College in Washington State.  She and her husband have called the Olympic Peninsula home for over forty years, have two grown sons and two grandchildren.