He's had the chest pains for weeks, but doctors don't make house calls to the North Pole, he's let his Blue Cross lapse, blood tests make him faint, hospital gown always flap open, waiting rooms upset his stomach, and it's only indigestion anyway, he thinks, until, feeding the reindeer, he feels as if a monster fist has grabbed his heart and won't stop squeezing. He can't breathe, and the beautiful white world he loves goes black, and he drops on his jelly belly in the snow and Mrs. Claus tears out of the toy factory wailing, and the elves wring their little hands, and Rudolph's nose blinks like a sad ambulance light, and in a tract house in Houston, Texas, I'm 8, telling my mom that stupid kids at school say Santa's a big fake, and she sits with me on our purple-flowered couch, and takes my hand, tears in her throat, the terrible news rising in her eyes.
—Charles Harper Webb
From Reading The Water, 2001
Northeastern University Press
Copyright 2001 by Charles 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.
Charles Harper Webb
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.