Can’t wait for the season to be over? Neither can some of us.
Because we want to get a head start on showcasing your best seasonal content, we’re inviting new submissions as FEATURED SEASONAL CONTENT across all categories.
Explore O:JA&L’s Buttonhook Press offerings on Amazon.
Support publication of Erik Harper Klass’s new novella.
Subscribe to the O:JA&L YouTube channel.
Become an O:JA&L Member through Patreon.
Follow O:JA&L on Facebook.

Ken Poyner

Completing the Circle

Boy in Short Pants by Amadeo Modigliani


The boy is dressed in a day-suit. Short little knickers that cut below the knees when he stands, but which ride up above his knees when he sits. His white socks grow only to the ankles, leaving a stretch of his leg to view when he stands, more leg and the knee itself when he sits. His shoes are made of that fake patent leather that never needs polish, but which over time cracks and in one failing comes completely undone. They have a single strap across the top of each and would be as appropriate for a young girl as for a young boy. He has to reach up to hold his father’s hand. As they wait, he twists side to side and when his father is aware of the twisting, he tugs the boy’s hand. The boy stops until he senses his father’s attention has moved on, and then he begins his twisting again, small at first, but growing until the father must notice. I place five dollars on the boy. He is up next. I have nothing on the current match, but one boy in the ring is crying as the other boy bites into his upper arm. In pain, the first boy forgets to parry and retreat, kick and advance. It is difficult to keep focus at his age when in pain, but the boy I’ve bet on for the next match seems to know how to test limits, to dismiss the hard meanings of things, to push his luck.


The Committee for the Curved Line meets in our round house in the middle of each month. The agenda is not merely curved lines. We hold seminars on circles, parabolas, species of globes, orbs and spheres. Our aim is to educate. The general public is invited, though some elemental understanding of geometry is suggested. Place your hat or coat appropriately on the arc of pegs just inside the elliptical door, proceed up the spiral staircase to the round meeting room. Avoid glancing out of the windows. Next door, the Society for the Advance of Gravity tacks lengths of rope to their exterior window frames, letting them hang inelegantly straight down, simply to goad us. We know, on the grander scale, those laughing lengths of straight drops would curve, bending to the arc of a unitary universe, and forgive them their ignorance.


To be a successful clownherd, he needs to understand the why of clowns. The drive and sway, the mathematics, the mechanics of clowns. His plan is to slowly introduce himself secretly into the herd. He will put on his yellow multi-tier stove-pipe hat, his water-shooting daisy, the purple tie and outsized pavement slapping shoes, spend a day frolicking with them. He will then slip out as translucently as he wedged in, summing his experience at length with the experiences of others, comparing it with the master clown encyclopedia. With his collected data digested and his expectations refined, he will re-engage the collective, masked as a different, more precise clown. Each infiltration will stretch longer and cover more eddies of the herd until he understands the arc of clowndom, the curing of clowndom, the maturity of the profile. Take care, failed clownherds practicing before him have warned: learn all that you can but hold a sliver of stoic academic distance. Clownery can become native. If it grabs you, you cannot be the clownherd: you join the herd. You become the clown. And then everything makes the wrong sense.

About the writer:
Ken Poyner’s collections of flash fiction and speculative poetry are available from most web booksellers. He was an information warrior for thirty-three years, and now supports full time his wife’s powerlifting. Recent work has appeared in Analog, Café Irreal, Rune Bear, and Tiny Molecules.

Image: Boy in Short Pants by Amadeo Modigliani (1884-1920). Oil on canvas. 39.2 x 25.5 inches. Circa 1918. Public domain.

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprints Buttonhook Press and HOT BUTTON PRESS Contemporary Issues, supports writers and artists worldwide.

Follow O:JA&L on Facebook.

OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) recommends the services of Duotrope.