®

Today's poem is by Charles Harper Webb

I Never Promised You a Worm Farm

When her psychology patients start her wishing
for a padded cell, my wife digs up her Earthworm Fantasy:
barrels of loam in our basement, crawling with worms;
the kitchen crowded with milk cartons incubating worms;
"Webb's Worm Farm" in vermiform letters on our door.

She'd sell to fishermen at first, then worm her way
into health food. (Organic worm-meal: pure protein.)
A Super Bowl blitz, with endorsements from the Bud chameleons
would break her into grocery stores, then restaurants—
worm Wellington, worm teriyaki, mu shu worms.

When we met, she was raising the larvae of black beetles.
Most of these "mealworms" went to feed her Southwest toads,
though a few matured, scaled their Tupperware bowl,
and burrowed into her bed, with me in it.
"I have a gift for growing worms," she likes to say. So,

when she reads in Sunday's paper how a biologist
has developed foot-long fluorescent orange, purple,
red, or green nightcrawlers that smell like garlic
or anything they eat, she starts clearing the basement.
That's when—feeling like the kind of spoilsport

who'd tell a young DaVinci to stop doodling and deliver
the damn pizzas—I say no; it's not practical,
not esthetic, not happening while I live here.
She smiles and says, "I was just kidding."
Was she? No matter how deeply we love,

how thoroughly we think we know someone,
who ever sees the basement of another mind?
Who knows what grows, fluorescent and wriggling,
smelling of garlic or roadkill or April roses,
way down there?



Copyright © 2003 Charles Harper Webb All rights reserved
from West Branch
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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