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The New World Book of Webbs

I have exciting news for you and all Webbs. 
					Letter from Miles S. Webb

The brochure shows a boat passing the Statue of Liberty
while its cargo of immigrants stand gaping, 
and one small boy—dressed better than the rest—
watches from a director’s chair. He, 
obviously, is the Webb. Simple but aristocratic. 
Poor, but destined for greatness. Set apart

from the Smiths and Joneses, the Rothblatts
and Steins, the Schmidts and Hampys, the Mancusos
and Malvinos and Mendozas and Tatsuis
and Chus, by “the distinguished Webb name.” 
Excitement steams from Miles S. Webb’s letter to me. 
The very type leaps up and down. Just buy 

his book, and I will learn (I’m guessing)
about Thomas Webb, famous for his kippered 
herring jokes, and Jeb Webb of the talking armpits, 
and Genevieve Webb, convinced her left
and right feet were reversed. I’ll learn the inside story
of Solomon Webb, Dover’s greatest circus geek, 

and Lady Messalina Webb, transported to Australia
with her husband, Sir Caleb Webb, 
son of the merkin-maker Lemmy Webb of Kent. 
Best of all, inside the bonus Webb International Directory, 
one among 104,352 Webb households in the world, 
there I’ll be: the very Webb who woke this morning

at 5:53 when his new sprinklers ratcheted on
with the screech of strangled grebes—the Webb
who lolled in bed, loving the artificial rain, then cracked
his drapes and saw fat drops anoint his porch, 
and a hummingbird light on a hair-thin twig, 
then buzz away when the sprinklers hissed off. 

The lawn lay drinking, then—each blade
with its own history, each listed in the book of Heaven
(Grandma Webb from Yorkshire used to say), 
each destined to be cut later this morning by José,
one of 98,998 people to bear (his letter states)
the “brave and glory-dripping name Cortez.”  

—Charles Harper Webb

“The New World Book of Webbs” by Charles Harper Webb from Amplified Dog.

Red Hen Press, 2005.

By permission of the author and Red Hen Press.

Charles Harper Webb

Charles Harper Webb

Charles Harper Webb (1952- ) was born in Philadelphia and educated at Rice University and the University of Washington. He is the author of six poetry collections and editor of three poetry anthologies. Webb’s honors include a Whiting Writer’s Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Felix Pollack Prize, and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. He is a professor of English at California State University, Long Beach.