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Charles Harper Webb


One-Armed Man

Springer fans in a moment of quiet reflection.

I'm watching TV only because, with my right shoulder folded
in a blue “Cold Pack” which my left hand’s clamping shut,
I can't grip my trusty Being and Nothingness. I’m stuck
with Jerry, glasses steamy with concern as some guy

with a face like pemmican brags how he wants to BLEEP
his own sister—again. His laugh rattles like a three-headed
crow above some sulfur-swamp where everything inbreeds.
When God made all men equal, he missed Pemmican.

Yet even he can play catch with his pin-headed progeny.
My shoulder throbs if I so much as comb my hair.
I ice three times a day, and strafe my liver with anti-
inflammatories. No improvement. BLEEPing none—

speaking of which, Pemmican's speech is more BLEEPs
than words as he details his sister's body, and his plans for it.
"Why tell me? Tell her!" shouts Jerry as a mountainous
bleached blonde bounds on stage. "You sick BLEEP,

stay the BLEEP away from me!" she shrieks as Pemmican
creaks to his feet. He's nearly a midget, I now see—tiny
male mantis, frantic to mate before the female eats his head.
My shoulder feels dead as I unfold my Cold Pack.

Sis yanks up her top. "You'll never have these!" she howls,
spit showering. A strip of static maintains her modesty
as she humps, pumps, and grinds. "You're the sick one!
Shakin' your BLEEP like a BLEEPING BLEEP," Pemmican

shrieks as big, bald Steve—Jerry's enforcer—hauls him back.
Now a tall man with a bald pate and scraggly ponytail
stampedes on stage. He's Sis's husband, and he's lost an arm.
"You perverted piece of BLEEP!" he screams at Pemmican,

who's rattling his crow-cackle, spewing BLEEPS.
And then Husband—they must script this!—whips off
his shirt and bellows, "Want a piece of me?!"
His hairless skin’s yellow as chicken fat. Where his left

arm used to be—nothing. No stump. No shoulder. Only
a long groove where neck-skin folds into soft, yellow meat.
His one arm weaves past Steve like a sidewinder straining
to fang Pemmican. Cut to commercial: A bikini-girl coos,

"Earn BIG money and SO MUCH MORE in DATA
PROCESSING," while, after a brief intermission outside
my shoulder's icy auditorium, Pain sees the house-lights blink,
stomps back inside, and takes its seat.



Charles Harper Webb's latest book is Shadow Ball: New & Selected Poems, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. What Things Are Made Of, also from Pitt, is forthcoming in 2012. Recipient of grants from the Whiting and Guggenheim foundations, Webb directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at California State University, Long Beach.

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Speechless Spring 2011
Copyright © 2011 Published by
Tebot Bach