Charles Harper Webb

Country: United States
Language(s): English

Tear-Stained Confetti

If my two-month-old son wants his bottle, he cries.
If his diaper needs changing, he cries.
If he’s too hot or cold, if light glares in his eyes,

if a horn blares outside and startles him, he cries.
If he flails his arms and bops his own head, he cries.
In a few months, he’ll tantrum too.  But I?

The alarm clock blasts me out of bed; cold bores
into my skin; my ankle, which I turned
on the treadmill, spikes pain up to my eyes;

I cut myself shaving, and recall I have to meet at 9:00
a student whose term paper was repossessed
with his far, and who considers this an act of God.

Awake five minutes, I could have cried a dozen times.
But adulthood means squelching more than tears.
I laugh when people say that artists tell the truth.

If Michaelangelo had told the truth each time,
he chiseled his own hand, or his patron griped,
that Pieta would be a pile of scree.

Baby Munch’s “The Scream” would be a heap
of kindling and paint-splashed canvas shreds
no different from baby Watteau’s bucolic dreams.

My own books would be tear-stained confetti
if I didn’t straitjacket the millions of madmen
which are my nerves, and scratch these words

In my hurried hand before I spring (stubbing
my toes on a toy truck) to the baby’s crib,
rearrange the blanket he’s kicked off his cold legs,

pack him up, give him his bottle (warmed),
and soothe him with that classic human pie: “Ssh,
Honey.  Everything’s all right.”