Michael Montlack

No One Imagines Clowns Having Sex

Charles Nelson Reilly. Paul Lynde. Rip Taylor. 

The original Circuit Queens. Blowing

up the 70’s game show with one-liners

that could make even Phyllis Diller blush. 

Finally a place they could be Leading Men.

Usually the first to be cast second fiddle:

Evil magician, sea genie, a greedy cartoon rat. 

Or everyone’s bachelor uncle. The prankster.

Perpetually tan. Back from another cruise. 

(No one asked where.) Pockets bulging

with innuendo. Handle bar mustache

slightly askew. Donning his busiest blouse. 

Scarf twist, a frisky bow on a gift box.

How the triangles lit up the center square. 

Primetime fools. Attempting to fool no one. 

Their mother tongue: Irony. Also fluent in

nuance. Funneling outrage into outrageousness.

Tunneling, with catty claws, into livingrooms

where bored housewives doused vinegar

into another afternoon’s three-bean salad.

After so many cottage cheese platters—

who wouldn’t crave something saltier? 

These bad boys had no wives to leave. 

No kids to discipline. Just trivial wisdom

that could send couples on honeymoons,

pay for a new car, an extension on the house. 

Loads of cash in their loaded answers.

Their delivery—silly, snide or spicy—

somehow saying without ever saying

whatever we weren’t ready to hear said.

Where Are They Now: Peppermint Patty

After Marcie split for a Ph.D. candidate from Wellesley

(who was willing to at least entertain the idea of having kids)

Peppermint moved to Provincetown, swearing to this day 

it had nothing to do with the Japanese sculptress she met

at Schroeder’s Carnegie Hall post-performance cocktail party. 

Didn’t take long for the then-‘curious’ Hiroko to be charmed

by Patty’s casual directness (so unlike what she knew in Tokyo).

And took even less time, after they shacked up, to sense 

Marcie was a ghost in their bed. The second time Patty asked

to be called Sir, Hiroko packed all her welding equipment 

and returned to New York City, where her work was featured 

at a premiere gallery. Patty went to the opening, uninvited, 

claiming it was Schroeder’s idea. Yeah, he wanted to show

support—since you came to his thingy. Hiroko thanked Schroeder 

(his blank stare making it quite obvious he didn’t remember her) 

but she couldn’t summon the casual directness to say, Sorry, Pep,

these pieces weren’t inspired by you. And I have no new girlfriend

you can intimidate. So just leave. But her gallerist had no qualms 

about siccing security on Patty once it was clear she’d downed

one too many wine spritzers and her blonde companion 

didn’t have it in him to drag her out of there. Patty did spend 

a few weeks on a bender after that, sofa-surfing with Lucy, 

who had followed Schroeder to New York despite everyone

warning he was definitely not interested, maybe even gay. 

Look, I’m no Psychiatrist. Despite what people may think,

she told Patty. But pull yourself together, girl. And seriously

how do you manage in those sandals when you’re sloshed? 

This is Manhattan, for Pete’s sake! When Linus visited that week 

for the Halloween Parade, he insisted Patty return with him

to Portland, where he could use a hand on his pumpkin farm

now that Sally was through Waiting around in the chickenshit

for a Chickenshit Blockhead who’ll never pop the damn question. 

What a fool I’ve been! she yelled. I should’ve just gone back

to live with my parents. Like my brother—another Blockhead!

Patty asked how Chuck was doing—they hadn’t spoken 

since she accused him of trying to steal away Marcie—

then agreed to give Portland a shot. Well, at least ya got

the shoes for it, Lucy offered, glad to have her sofa back: 

A comment that took seed in Patty, who wasted no time

during her downtime on the farm, opening a side business

(with the help of investors/old pals Franklin and Pig Pen):

Peppermint’s Burkenstock Repair Shop, the sign promising,

Pepper will keep ‘em in Mint condition!  When the farm folded,

she made Linus a shareholder. And phoned Charlie to ask if

he’d join her team, greeting him with Apologies accepted, Chuck! 

Being a Gay Boy in the 80’s

Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers were lightweights 

contending with my secret boogieman on the evening news. 

Eventually you’ll drink the poison! he said. Or die of thirst.

My mother wondered what was eating me, why I had no appetite.  

Somewhere someone in a lab coat as white as my semen

attempted to name him. While I twisted a Rubik’s Cube, 

believing I could unscramble its rainbow. I’m in my 40’s 

and still haven’t learned how. I’m in my 40’s and still 

hear him whispering: Shouldn’t you be dead by now?

I found my appetite while somewhere someone in a lab coat

tried to find a cure. In my 20’s I tried abstinence. But knew 

eventually I would break: chug. Or die of thirst. Once

a friend found his partner hovering over the toilet, holding 

a condom ballooning with water and semen. No leaks. Only 

apologies sounding like Shouldn’t we be dead by now?

Reagan wouldn’t mention the war. The first line of men fell. 

Today documentaries terrify me more than horror films. 

Still twisting and twisting—I talk to the dead 

older brothers I never had.


Montlack Photograph Berkeley College.jpg

Author Bio

Michael Montlack is author of the poetry book Cool Limbo (NYQ Books) and editor of the Lambda Finalist essay anthology My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them (University of Wisconsin Press). Recently his work has appeared in North American Review, Hotel Amerika, Poet Lore, Los Angeles Review, and Painted Bride Quarterly. He lives in NYC.