“The New Humility” by Charles Harper Webb

Charles Harper Webb


So the last will be first, and the first last.
—Matthew 20:16

At first, jockeys rein their horses in.
Then they make them stand still
at the gun. When everyone does that,

they back up—at a walk, first; then, a run.
Workers try to earn the least, drive
the worst car, and dive deepest into debt.

Fashionistas vie to wear the shabbiest
clothes: coarse fabric, bad fit, full of holes.
When those holes get so big the clothes fall

off, people compete for Worst Body—
fattest, flabbiest, skinniest, most
malformed. People wear sores as kings once

wore jewels, until the point is reached
where hideous is beautiful. Then the trend
must be reversed—the fewer blebs,

fat-rolls, scars, humped backs, the better.
Football teams have lost so many yards,
points-given-up seem like points gained.

Horses lose more gloriously by running—
faced forward, all-out—in the wrong direction.
People forget they ever ran a different way.

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016
Tribute to Angelenos


Charles Harper Webb: “I consider myself an L.A. poet for the very prosaic reason that I’ve lived in and around L.A. for more than half of my life. As a long-time professor of English and creative writing at Cal State Long Beach, I’ve helped to turn a number of fine poets loose on the world, and am pleased to take part myself in the local literary scene. As the editor of Stand Up Poetry: An Expanded Anthology, and two earlier Stand Up anthologies, I helped to define and call attention to an entertaining, reader-friendly style of poetry that grew up in L.A., and still flourishes here. I’ve lived in L.A. for so long that my poems are full of it (L.A.—not, I hope, that other ‘it’). But even more than L.A. imagery, many of my poems have, I think, an L.A. sensibility: casual, performable, leavened with humor. As critic Wilhelm Blogun quipped at a party, ‘As poets go, you’re a Schopenhauer in duck’s clothing.’ How L.A. can you get?”


Charles Harper Webb is the guest on Rattlecast #37. Click here to watch!

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