“Sonnet Before Dying” by Cathy Lautenbach

Sonnet Before Dying

A clown making rounds in the critical care unit
stopped in quietly, not honking his horned nose
or tripping over ridiculously large feet, but with a
proper bedside manner, though I hadn’t asked
for him. The curtain had yet to be drawn, so he mimed
hello and presented me a card declaring he was here
to check my funny bone. Then, raising one latex-gloved
finger to indicate first, a joke, he asked with grave concern:

Where were the first French fries made?
When I ruined the punch, he pulled a scarf
from his sleeve, over twelve feet long, but I was still
annoyed. I thought he’d try me again, but he just
left—depressed. And now that I’ve done that, I gasp
wondering whose joke it was to send the clown.

After living in New Orleans, LA for twenty years, Cathy Lautenbach recently returned to Albany, New York to live and write. I earned an MFA in Poetry from the University of New Orleans in 2004.

This poem was an Honorable Mention in the 2022 HVWG Poetry Contest.