Today's poem is by Charles Harper Webb

Puffer Fish

When I snatch a fly out of the deepening dusk
just as, on Glendale's outdoor stage, Ariel goes free
and Prospero trades Magic for Old Age,
are Shakespeare's lines what irrigate my eyes?

Does pinpointing the position and momentum
of one fly strafing the blue bouffant in front of me,
make me feel I've overcome Uncertainty?
The last year of her life, Mom was uncertain

where she was—or who. I never knew. "Mom
was an awful cook," I'd say, and think myself
courageously unsentimental. Then I left home,
and Mom, for whom the Far East meant New

Jersey, won a Thai-cooking Cordon Bleu.
As she aged and her hair blued, her cheeks turned
puffy, especially when "concern" tightened her lips.
So one night, when she'd spread the worry on

a trifle thick, I said, "It's weird—your face looks
like a puffer fish." This observation—side-splitting
at thirteen made her stop warning of insufficient "bulk"
and leave the room in tears. So now she's dead,

who hooked me on Shakespeare and—warm-heartedness
personified—cried at the end of every play.
Now I can't conjure away one slight or meanness
with a charmed word or by squeezing a magic

herb into her eye—can never yank that puffer-
moment from the sky, open my hand, see the smear,
then rub it on my jeans, and make it, like such stuff
as dreams are made on
, disappear.

Copyright © 2010 Charles Harper Webb All rights reserved
from River Styx
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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