The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Tuesday

Silent Letters
By Charles Harper Webb

Treacherous as trap door spiders,
they ambush children's innocence.
'Why is there g h in light?  It isn't fair!'
Buddha declared the world illusory
as the p sound in psyche.  Sartre
said the same of God from France,
Olympus of silent letters, n'est -ce pas?

Polite conceals an e in the same way
'How are you?' hides 'I don't care.'
Physics asserts the desk I lean on,
the brush that fluffs my hair,
are only dots that punctuate a nullity
complete as the g sound in gnome,
the c e in Worcestershire.

Passions lurk under the saint's bed,
mute as the end of love.
They glide toward us, yellow eyes
gleaming, hushed as the finality
of hate, malice, snake.
As easily predict the h in lichen,
choral, Lichtenstein,

as laws against throttling rats,
making U-turns on empty streets.
Such nonsense must be memorized.
'Imagine dropkicking a spud,'
Dad said.  'If e breaks off
your toe, it spoils your potato.'
Like compass needles

pointing north, silent letters
show the power of hidden things. 
Voiced by our ancestors,
but heard no more, they nudge
our thoughts toward death,
infinity, our senses' inability
to see the earth as round,

circling the sun in a universe
implacable as 'Might Makes Right,'
ineffable as tomorrow's second r,
incomprehensible as imbroglio's g,
the e that finishes inscrutable,
imponderable, immense
the terrifying k in 'I don't know.'


The day before vacation always makes me need a vacation. Did many many laundries, had lunch with perkypaduan who parked her watermelon and beer in my fridge and reassured the cats that yes, she will return as soon as we are gone, folded laundries while watching half of Brokeback Mountain since kids were busy playing with friends, bought shampoo, caught up on correspondence that absolutely had to be attended to before leaving, tried to post final articles to TrekToday, discovered that the database was down again, mailed articles off to editor. Packed, did one more emergency laundry of boys' underwear, met with a videographer about son's Bar Mitzvah, got a new portable 40GB hard drive and copied stuff onto it, had dinner with parents, organized more stuff, told son that he could not take 11 stuffed penguins on trip, consoled 10 penguins not coming on trip, discovered that shorts from 1991 really truly no longer fit and should be given away, shaved thighs for first time this season in anticipation of wearing bathing suit for first time this season, cleaned out bathtub, cleaned out fridge, made plans to stalk mamadracula in Cincinnati and to see an old friend from Voyager fandom in Memphis, panicked over possible shortage of socks. La!

You will be seeing many varieties of these in this journal over the next two weeks, I'm afraid. These are African penguins (also known as Humboldt and Black-Footed, my son tells me) at the Maryland Zoo last weekend. The reason they don't have the swirlies around their faces is that these are all adolescents...

...and here is a picture with some of the adults. The teenagers really did not look like they wanted much to do with their parents!

And here are lots of penguins. The tags on the wings identify the penguins' names and genders.

Our cats know that we are going away. Hence, they are sitting on the suitcases and travel guides. But tomorrow I am betting they will be sitting on perkypaduan and not even thinking about us! We will be in Pittsburgh PA, Columbus OH, Cincinnati OH, Lexington KY, Louisville KY, Memphis TN, Nashville TN, Knoxville TN, Asheville NC, Jacksonville NC and Beaufort NC. Whee!

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