Buddy, can you spare me a dime bag of it?  

Every radio and minister and mom-&-pop 

combo in town wails, "It's getting better 

all the time," and all I see are graveyards 

unrolling for miles.  My boss gives me a raise, 

tongue flapping like a pink slip in the wind.  

My wife buys me a blue angora sweater. 

All my chest-hairs scream, anticipating it 

stripped off me like a Band-Aid in divorce-

court.  The judge leads cheers; spectators 

whack me with Ms magazines.  President K 

calls the recession "Kaput," as soldiers stack 

derelicts on wheelbarrows aimed toward 

black buildings painted with orange flames.  


"Contents may have settled during shipping," 

the box says.  Settled for what?  Why won't 

Southern Comfort gush from my golf cap, 

and azaleas shake out of my hands?  What 

I'd give to say, "The TV works; that's something!"  

I grope my head for some knob that will change 

my life. All therapy boils down to this:

"Look on the bright side." (Blindness.  Heat stroke.)  

"Think happy thoughts." (Peter Pan fills 

his diaper in a nursing home.) Even this tossed 

salad you serve, love—what do I see in its hollow 

crystal ball? Lettuce (Let us pray; we need to); 

Onions (waxy balls of tears); tomatoes (blood-

relatives of Deadly Nightshade); mushroom clouds.


from Reading the Water, published by Northeastern University Press, © 1997 by Charles Harper Webb.