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It's okay if the world goes with Venetian;
Who cares what Italians don't see?-
Or with Man's Bluff (a temporary problem
Healed by shrieks and cheating)-or with date:
Three hours of squirming repaid by laughs for years.

But when an old woman, already deaf,
Wakes from a night of headaches, and the dark
Won't disappear-when doctors call like tedious
Birds, "If only..." up and down hospital halls-
When, long-distance, I hear her say, "Don't worry.

Honey, I'll be fine," is it a wonder
If my mind speeds down blind alleys?
If the adage "Love is blind" has never seemed
So true? If, in a flash of blinding light
I see Justice drop her scales, yank off

Her blindfold, stand revealed - a monster-god
With spidery arms and a mouth like a black hole-
While I leap, ant-sized, at her feet, blinded
By tears, raging blindly as, sense by sense, 
My mother is sucked away?

—Charles Harper Webb

from Reading the Water, 1997
Northeastern University Press

Copyright 1997 by Charles Harper Webb.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Northeastern University Press from Reading the Water. Copyright 1997 by Charles Harper Webb. For further permissions information, contact Northeastern University Press, 360 Huntington Avenue, 416 Columbus Place, Boston, MA 02115, phone 617-373-5480, fax 617-373-5483.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Charles Harper Webb is the author of over a dozen poetry collections, including Brain Camp (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015). He teaches at California State University, Long Beach.

Learn more about Charles Harper Webbat The Poetry Foundation.