By Charles Harper Webb
Featured Art: Death in the Sickroom by Edvard Munch
against our bed. The ship-of-slats that ferried him
through his first years, traps us, tonight,
in its floating cage as my wife and I slip down
sleep’s muddy stream. That crib spent hard time
in the Don’t Wear closet with outmoded pants, shirts, shoes,
while we argued the merits of another child.
When my wife passed her fertile crescent,
and entered the dry scrub-lands, we kept the crib
for sentimental reasons, like a teddy bear in a flash flood.
Change fear’s long e to o, and you have four kids,
the crib’s white gloss four times more
scratched, scraped, chewed, the house swollen
with four times the cacophony, four times the chaos,
four chances for an Einstein, Mozart,
Shakespeare, Ruth, but also a Goebbels, a Night-Stalker,
a bag-man chattering to Martians as he shoves
his shopping cart along—four chances to buy
a small coffin to fill a little grave—four creditors
hammering at our door, garnishing our energy
and self-centeredness, which is why we waited
too long, and the Magic Kingdom closed.
But let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about the crib
re-built inside another home, a new father
fitting the pieces as I did the day my son was born,
my wife waiting with him for doctors to say, “The tide
has turned. The wind is right as it will ever be.
The ship waits. Take your new life home.”
Charles Harper Webb‘s latest collection of poems, Sidebend World, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2018. His novel Ursula Lake has been accepted for publication by Red Hen Press. Recipient of grants from the Whiting and Guggenheim foundations, Webb teaches Creative Writing at California State University, Long Beach.
Originally posted in NOR 6