“Burka” by Charles Harper Webb

Charles Harper Webb


The day after a door crushes his thumb,
the stain that flutters out of his cuticle
looks, at first, like a black squid
floating up through a pink sea. Then,
poised above the nail’s half-moon,
it seems a black burka with a white
slot through which dark pupils stare.

“Her face is scarred,” he thinks.
“She wears the burka to spare me.”
Then he thinks the eyes are Mom’s—
not crazed, as in the nursing home.
Forgiving. Warm. Or they belong
to some woman he misunderstood,
rejected, deceived, who loves him

still. Each day, the fluttering mark
climbs higher on his nail’s flesh-
colored wall. Bit by bit, it tops
his fingertip, is clipped, and falls,
re-joining—like everything he loved
has done or soon will do—
the dark.

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems


Charles Harper Webb: “When I was sixteen, playing in rock bands and preparing to become a physicist, if someone had said, ‘You’ll end up a poet,’ I’d have assumed they’d end up swinging a rubber hoe on the funny farm. Now I find I’ve written poems for more than half of my life. So why (besides the groupies and big bucks) do I persist? For one thing, I hope to give to others some of the pleasure that good poems have given me. But I also want to wring more out of the time that I have left—to live, whenever I can, with my awareness, intelligence, and imagination fully engaged. Poetry does that for me.” (web)

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