The Carnival

BY DR. AGONSON

(A man comes under a large tent where a circus freak resides with an elaborately colorful, stuffed parrot. Its wings should be spread as if captured right as it was about to leap off of the ground.)

The Freak:
Come here often, or is it your first time?

The Man:
(Looking around anxiously)

I know not of how I came here, good sir,
but oft to quote are the denizens here,
“See the Freak, see the Freak,” at my queries
that those queries transformed themselves thusly:
“Who’s the Freak?” but still they chant, “See the Freak.”
‘Til I say, “Where?” and direct me they here.

The Freak:
(To the parrot)
Comes to see the Freak, but not to marvel.
(To the Man)
Your questions will do little to serve you.
(To the parrot)
All asked questioned that now say, “See the Freak.”

The Man:
What is that parrot you are talking to?

The Freak:
(To the Parrot)
They ask of me but do not heed my words.
(To the Man)
The Parrot is dead, like all men will be.
Alive he parroted men, though dumb beast,
repeating the phrases he overheard.
Stuffed and lifeless, though in a lifelike pose,
parrots he now only wisdom. Behold.
(To the Parrot)
Tell me all that you know, speak parrot, speak.
(To the Man)
Alive he had half of wisdom, to speak,
and dead he possesses the other half.

The man:
Why do you keep for yourself this dead bird?

The Freak:
I hold out my arms and look, one be short.
See you now my face, it’s barely a man’s.
Nor belongs it happ’ly to beasts either,
for then, with them, I’d be counted no freak.
You, Man, start at this misshapen body,
prefer you not the sight of this parrot?
Don’t answer, you only have more questions.
You do prefer gazing at this red bird,
and yet, this bird is dead, while I’m alive.
So, like truth we, a pair, do show to you
what is pleasant holds little when counted,
and unpleasant truth is hard to stomach.

The Man:
Hold please, Freak, I perceive your cunning wit.
I came to ask questions, for, as you said,
I only have more questions to be asked.
Truthfully, they all have root in one fact,
and so, in airing of it, my hopes are
that you enlighten me on an issue
thereby slaying the hydra, wonderment.
But the fact cannot be stated simply,
and therefore must I now tell you a tale.

The Freak:
Then, to me quickly, tell what tales you must.

The Man:
It seems strange, for it’s a jigsaw puzzle,
resold, and with many missing pieces.
There are no edges with which to begin,
so I, out of memories’ battered box,
pull these disconnected parts of my tale
laying them out plainly, one at a time.
This dark piece, it seems a good beginning,
I was falling, like as it were a dream,
and, suddenly enveloped in blackness,
found myself secured in an old pine box.
The lid was nailed down, but, between two boards,
my eye, perchance, did spy my environ.
Crowds were sitting and clapping in bleachers,
but they did not seem joyous or happy,
angry and dreadful where their expressions.
There’s one piece, and its holes speak of others.
How came I there, and how did I then leave?
Though pieces fit in these empty spaces
they are as yet unfound. I keep searching.

The Freak:
From this I can enlighten what’s now dark,
(To the parrot)
but which of us shall it unveil to him?
There’s some sanctuary in ignorance,
but it’s a terrible box to stay in.

The man:
If you mean to shield me from my own death,
I have somewhat guessed my state to be so.
That, or I’m locked in a terrible dream.

The Freak:
Would there be much difference between the two?

The Man:
There is one from which a man does awake,
and, stretching his sore muscles, forgets all.

The Freak:
You are right once, but have now been wrong twice.
Be assured, you died, like all living here,
but you are not dead, not dead anymore.
Both alike awake, the sleeper and corpse.
Now sit, speak nothing more, holding your tongue
until I should finish unveiling all.
I will surround the capes and fill the bays
of your troublesome island jigsaw piece.
From time to time, after a man has died,
by what means he dies is of no concern,
a clandestine exchange occurs between
the buyers and sellers of cadavers.
You were such a body, auctioned and sold,
and this market serves one type of client.
They will call themselves miracle workers,
or fly a banner saying: “The Shaman!”
But their real title is known in whispers,
wizards of black magic, necromancers.

The Man:
Then I think I now have a piece to fit,
and thus add to what you have here laid down.

The Freak:
Speak on, if you must.

The Man:
________________________And so I will do.
It is just this, my clearest memory,
for much of my past hides in a fog bank,
of a man, as it were, showcasing me;
well, the meager crowd he was talking to
had this, a child in it, who, pointing,
frightfully repeated, necromancer.

The Freak:
(To the Parrot)
Little does that mean to one titled, Freak.
The pointing children, and mothers, and men,
in all times find me awful to behold.
He will find himself like you are, Parrot,
empty of life, but a lifelike visage.
(To the man)
There is more for your ears, if they’re ready.
I said you aren’t dead; neither do you live.

(The Freak leaves his tent and the man follows.)

There, that man on the stilts juggling plates,
he entertains and draws in thronging crowds.
Know then, his smile is painted in red.

The Man:
So what? A clown has a clown’s face on him.

The Freak:
Shut up, you fool. I have only begun.
He stands up there, high in the sky he is,
and outward you see his smiling lips.
But, for the show of that face what is he?
He truly now smiles at us below?
Far from it, far from it I say to you.
So, now outward matches not the inward,
unless it is by chance they correspond.
Think of that, man, think on it and know dread.

The Man:
And what dread should I know by this?

The Freak:
______________________________________Undeath’s.
Know this, you are then a body empty,
as empty as is a clown’s painted face.
Change you can no longer manufacture;
what you are will go on for centuries.
True, it will wear; come and see the freak show.

(They walk back into the Freak’s tent.)

You deathless men escape not Death’s fury.
Since he cannot have you, his minions will.
Look on her.

The Man:
______________By heaven, what is this corpse?
It moves, moans, looks at me without a face.
O Freak, what is this desiccated wreck?

The Freak:

Meet Decay. Your new mistress she will be.
Now meet your bosom pal.

The Man:
____________________________O Holy Mother!
This corpse reeks, and is fat, bloated with rot.
It moves, reaching for me! this corrupt flesh.
Look, it is even now consumed by worms.
I see their slithering bodies writhing;
under colorless pale skin they’re squirming

The Freak:
This is Corruption, who’ll always be near.
Despair any thought they will leave you be;
Despair all hope they might be reasoned with.
Know: None of their brethren can you avoid.
You have yet to meet their whole family.

The Man:
Dread, dread, I would I never knew nor saw
these pictures of torment and full disgrace.
Let me out of here, I want not to know.
Free me, free me, let me go, let me go.
This parrot, can you not make me like he?
True, it is inanimate, lifeless, cold,
but I’d be that than I’d be what you are:
Life malformed, ugly, strung without reason.
Say there’s escape, for that hope I’d give all.
Are you silent now, with your downcast eyes?
Where is your oft flung insult of shut up?
Is this the end, have you no more to say?

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