Friday, July 23, 2010

the badnesses of this world

My preference is usually for "uplifting" poetry, that which (along with everything it does for cognition and imagination by sounding good to your ears and feeling good in your mouth) leaves me with a reverberating sense of wonder at the goodnesses of this world, kind of like the ones I posted back in January that suggested some animal spirituality.

I'm having trouble therefore understanding why the poem below keeps me coming back to it. I received it courtesy of The Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day service. The pain barely contained in it is enormous and frightening and wonderful.

Prayer for the Man Who Mugged My Father, 72
by Charles Harper Webb

May there be an afterlife.

May you meet him there, the same age as you.
May the meeting take place in a small, locked room.

May the bushes where you hid be there again, leaves tipped with razor-
blades and acid.
May the rifle butt you bashed him with be in his hands.
May the glass in his car window, which you smashed as he sat stopped
at a red light, spike the rifle butt, and the concrete on which you'll

May the needles the doctors used to close his eye, stab your pupils
every time you hit the wall and then the floor, which will be often.
May my father let you cower for a while, whimpering, "Please don't
shoot me. Please."
May he laugh, unload your gun, toss it away;
Then may he take you with bare hands.

May those hands, which taught his son to throw a curve and drive a nail
and hold a frog, feel like cannonballs against your jaw....

Take a deep breath and read the complete poem here. Poetry Friday is hosted today by Breanne at Language, Literacy, Love.


  1. I was worried that this was going to be an original poem for your father. I'm glad it's not, but it's almost worse, because as you said, "The pain barely contained in it is enormous and frightening and wonderful." This is a poem for EVERYONE'S father, for every act of random violence, for every revenge we might wish for but never execute.


  2. Hi, Heidi. I've also been thinking about poems themed around revenge and healing. Thanks for sharing this one. Have you seen Taha Ali's poem "Revenge?" On youtube, there's a wonderful video of him reading it at the Dodge Festival.

  3. Brought me to tears.

    I second Mary Lee's thoughts.


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