Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Behind the mask the supreme egoist
flaunts himself upon the stage of comic art,
no crimes too great to shuffle off with wit
are absent from his merry masquerade.

Childish fingers grip the dripping wafers,
melted ice-cream running down upraised arms:
the mothers lift the smallest up to see
the ire that reigns within the human heart.

Crouched down within the red-striped canvas stage
the Professor jerks the loggerheads around
to the squawking sound of his swazzling reed,
while seagulls feed on scraps upon the ground.

What journeys the hunchback has undergone,
since his surprising birth from Zeus's thigh,
from Greece, through Rome and France to his new home,
washed up and confined on England's windy shores.

Mean, vicious and crafty, Pulcinello
struts, hunched over, with timid Cockerel step,
pretending to be stupid, but clutching
a club behind his back, ready to strike.

Nose nearly touching chin, he talks without
pausing, his rictus grin beguiles the crowd,
who cheer his escapades and sympathise
with his vicissitudes and suffering.

The ancient plot has been transformed by time
and place, where clown tries to befriend Toby
the dog, who bites Punch on the nose and old
Scaramouche beats Punch until Punch fights back.

And so it goes, with endless violence
our hero murders wife and child, doctor,
constable and even the hangman too
when they try to bring our hero to justice.

Every man and woman looks on, knowing
in their hearts that the cruel blows rained down
on Punch's crooked back will be answered
ten fold by the undefeated peasant clown.

What better education for the child,
as foil to mild doctrines of religion,
than the knock-about fun of Punch and Judy
that tells the awful truth of human life.

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