I start with a groan, swelling to a moan,
rising to a keen, ascending
to a shriek that tapers off in a thin wail.
I hug myself and, whimpering,
rock back and forth on my heels.
No one has ever known such sadness.
No one can grasp how I feel.
I smash an egg over each eye.
I smear my face with coal and pepper.
I wear a paper bag soaked through
with spoiled watermelon and pork grease.
I shred my happy past – my books,
pictures, and poems, published or not.
I’ll never fly fish again.
I’ll never make love again.
I’ll never sit outside and watch night
stretch its starry tent over the sky.
There will be no more metaphors.
I am more sorrowful than a sorrowing man.
Life has no more meaning to me
than a life without meaning.
My heart slows. My blood congeals
to brown, vein-clogging mush.
My stomach goes on strike; my colon
bars its door. People assume
I’m terminal. They imagine what
would make them feel the way I look,
and project their paltry problems onto me.
by waterwinging over its abyss!
My pain is too heavy to lift,
too vast to measure, too ineffable to name,
and incalculably too precious to share.
I dig my grave in a landfill, and topple in.
I rub dirt and dog droppings in my hair.
I’ve sunk so low its funny; so I start to giggle.
Then to chortle. Then to roar. Mothers
clutch their bleating kids, and rush away.
Gangbangers dash to the far side of the street.
I crawl out of my grave, strip, and shower
with a gunk-filled water hose.
I shake and shiver, grinning, in the filthy air.
Charles Harper Webb
(From – Tulip farms and leper colonies: poems)