Poetry Supplement Summer 1999, Volume 17.0


Photo of Sean Webb.

Sean Webb

Sean Webb (M.F.A., University of Iowa) has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Nimrod, Seattle Review, and many other journals. Among the awards he has received are a Poetry Fellowship from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and an Individual Artist Grant for poetry from the Utah Arts Council. Currently, he lives in Salt Lake City with his wife, Sheila, and three daughters.


The Rummager and the Artifact

Oh his feet were long and thin.
And though everything seemed to weigh
on his shoulders a bit heavily, he managed
to carry himself with an odd dignity.
There was a kind of grace about him
even as he stooped through a doorway
or worked to fit his legs under a table.
He glided along walls and remarkably
could disappear in a crowded room.
His long stemmed hands went well past
his cuffs. Above his brown shoes
an inch or so of black sock showed.
After he died they packed his belongings
and dropped them in a Salvation Army box.
Hail the great unsalable Oxfords,
perched businesslike, toes at the ledge.
Had anyone bothered to pick them up
and look at the bottoms they'd have seen
concentric circles worn in the left sole,
lines scored in the right. Did they never
wonder nor suspect? The mad twirler passing
obsequiously amongst them? Oh pleasure,
swinging taxi dancers over parquet floors,
terpsing through smoky rooms with silver
sweating off the backs of aged mirrors.
There, up on the ball of his foot, spinning.
To not forget, and pay meager tribute,
I bought his shoes for the laces.
I threaded them into my burgundy wingtips
and wore them expressly into spring.



Webb Work World

I envy the tool and die makers,
their steelstacked shop of creation,
their navy robes with pockets full
of calipers, sketchpads, instruments
and earplugs. The sound
of their beastly progeny
must be drowned. How terrible
to create fine things only to listen
to the clamor of that creation.
Put the makers in a room, make them
balding and grey at the temples.
Make the troughs over their ears
homes for pencils. Make it natural.
Let them go to work, creating devices
that will work products to completion.
Leave the packing and shipping to us,
the unskilled and surly conduits
to a fresher scrubbed, better connected
society. Amazing apparatuses are
conjured in the foremost workshops.
Shiny hair results, brighter teeth result.
Entire cities of light result.
Once, a tiny part failed and ConEd
was unable to lift millions from the dark.
Oodles of blackout babies resulted.
So let the safety glasses be kind,
workbenches clean and orderly with lights
well apportioned. Most of us will never
understand their fine works, their calculating
to the thousandths, sometimes millionths
of an inch. The fine tune of their creations
helps us to live as shamelessly as we do.
Their work is the basis of creation.
The ability to tap female and die male threads
into metal puts our world together, and holds it. 



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