Charles Harper Webb: "Best Policy"




The shrinks were right; it was his mother's fault—

she who, coffining her 150 IQ,

chirped in the church choir, believing

every love-thy-neighbor lie. It was her fault


he told Miss Pipkin what he really thought

of "To a Waterfowl"—his mother's fault

that he showed Fev, his teddy bear,

to teammates on the Pee Wee Pirates,


and when Susie Chu swore the yellow

Chinese mustard was candy, gulped

a spoonful of the flaming glop. Mom's fault too

that, when the drunk rear-ended him,


he didn't hire a second lawyer to pry

insurance money from the first— 

that, when Judy asked if she looked fat

in her blue dress, he said, "You're not a skinny


girl," and thought "I like that about you,"

made it good. Small wonder he quit

voting—snarled at each new scandal, "What

do you expect?"—robbed the register at work—


cheated on his wife as he assumed she did

on him. When his kids, who'd sworn to care

for him, shipped him off to Serenity Home,

he barely blinked. He spends his days there


cursing his nurses; his nights, praying

God will send an angel with a golden key

to open heaven, where his mother waits

to tell him, with a big smile, "There. You see?"



Charles Harper Webb's latest book, Shadow Ball: New & Selected Poems, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2009. What Things Are Made Of, also from the University of Pittsburgh Press, is forthcoming.  Recipient of grants from the Whiting and Guggenheim foundations, Webb directs Creative Writing at California State University, Long Beach.