The Wife of the Mind
- by Charles Harper Webb 33Sharecroppers' child, she was more schooled
In slaughtering pigs and coaxing corn out of
The ground than in the laws of Math, the rules
Of Grammar. Seventeen, she fell in love
With the senior quarterback, and nearly
Married him, but—the wedding just a week
Away—drove her trousseau back to Penney's,
Then drove on past sagging fences, flooding creeks,
And country bars to huge Washington State,
Where, feeling like a hick, she studied French to compensate.
She graduated middle-of-her-class,
Managed a Senior Center while she flailed
Away at an M.A., from the morass
Of which a poet/rock-singer from Yale
Plucked her. He loved her practicality;
She adored his brilliance. Sex was great.
They married in a civil ceremony.
He played around, for which she berated
Herself, telling friends things were "hunky-dory."
Resentment grew... oh, you said "life"? That's another story.
The Death Of Santa Claus
- by Charles Harper Webb 30He's had the chest pains for weeks,
but doctors don't make house
calls to the North Pole,
he's let his Blue Cross lapse,
blood tests make him faint,
hospital gown always flap
open, waiting rooms upset
his stomach, and it's only
indigestion anyway, he thinks,
until, feeding the reindeer,
he feels as if a monster fist
has grabbed his heart and won't
stop squeezing. He can't
breathe, and the beautiful white
world he loves goes black,
and he drops on his jelly belly
in the snow and Mrs. Claus
tears out of the toy factory
wailing, and the elves wring
their little hands, and Rudolph's
nose blinks like a sad ambulance
light, and in a tract house
in Houston, Texas, I'm 8,
telling my mom that stupid
kids at school say Santa's a big
fake, and she sits with me
on our purple-flowered couch,
and takes my hand, tears
in her throat, the terrible
news rising in her eyes.
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