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  • Fat Gray Squirrels, and: House Centipede
  • Charles Harper Webb (bio)

fat gray squirrels

flee from me like furry sine waves—                 bushy inchworms—eyebrows                                skating over speedbumps                                                    on the forest floor. They leap

                                                    onto the backs of trees, and—brown                                bark flying—ride them up to green-                 haired limbs where they curse mewith sounds like monkeys gibbering,

macaws screeching, cats hair-balling.                  Whump! Whump! Whump!                                their emphysemic coughing prays.                                                    And when I tire of them, and leave

                                                    Choonk, choonk, choonk, choonk!                                Hohnh, hohnh, hohnh, hohnh!—                 they thank their Squirrel God for driving meaway. [End Page 129]

house centipede

My first one looked, as gray dawn crawled                             across my eyes, like a choruslineof spiders on the ceiling, set to fall                and fang me in my bed. No wonderI submerged the monster in a Black Flag slough.

Anything so multi-legged and bristly                             had to have a horror-name: Death's HeadHell-Dangler, say, or Septic Shadow-Creeper.                Who'd have guessed house centipede,as if each house comes, cozy, with its own?

Alien as the gulper eel (all mouth                             and dangling tapeworm gut), housecentipedes could have crash-landed                on Earth, speaking in isotopes of oxygen.What relief, H.C., to crack open

California Bugs, and find you                             are a shy recluse, harmless to humans,though deadly to spiders: your favored prey.                Small savior who, traversing the TVlike a one-bug parade, made my son

annunciate, "Daddy! Him!"—death                             to the black widow and brown recluse.Long live your rowing legs, your speed                when startled, whirring quick as a breezeacross the carpet when, up for a midnight sip,

I flick the light. (Don't crawl too close                             to my bed, please.) May your huntingprosper, frilled protector. May you fatten                on my enemies. May we share this house in peace. [End Page 130]

Charles Harper Webb

Charles Harper Webb is the author of, most recently, Sidebend World (2018), A Million MFAs Are Not Enough (2016), and What Things Are Made Of (2013). He is the recipient of grants from the Whiting and Guggenheim foundations, and teaches creative writing at California State University, Long Beach.



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