Charles Harper Webb


I thought it was a myth, tied with motherfucker
for the World's Most Disgusting Thing.
Just because some poor kid couldn't throw a ball,
or run, or talk without a lisp, didn't make him
a fairy, fruitcake, queen, queer, pansy, homo,
flaming fag—didn't mean he would do that.

My opinion made some say I must be one, and let me
practice the right cross-left hook Dad taught me.
When Sammy Blevins, Taft High's choir teacher,
got the spirit and proclaimed he'd been "an evil
Sodomite till saved by Jesus' love" (Jesus Gonzales,
jokers sneered)—I admitted cocksuckers were real.

Still, I had doubts until Del Delancey hired me
to play guitar for the Delmations, and we caught rainbow
trout and wrote neo-doowop and roomed together
on the road, and I had girls stay over, but he never did,
and when the band broke up, he said, "I love you, Chuck,"
and cried, certain I'd hate him. "It's hell," he said—

the hot iron boiling in his gut, the dark well
where, like that unkillable giant in Grimm's Tales, he hid
his heart. Remembering times I'd called some slow
driver or loudmouth drunk a cocksucker, I said,
"It's no big deal, Del." But I edged away.
"They do it up the Hershey Highway like I like it,"

he wrote from Mexico—to punish me?—and he was gone,
folded and packed into the chest where I keep painful things
safe, out of sight. But then today I heard a joke
about a cork soaker, a Coke stocker, and a sock cutter.
When I told my wife, she said, "A good cocksucker's
what I pray to be."

                                  Please, God, take care of Del.
Lead him safely through the long valley of AIDS.
Give him health, a hacienda, and a man
who worships him and does everything he likes.
Tell him for me—dream, telepathy, vision, it's up to You—
Del, my friend, you cocksucker, I loved you too.

Charles Harper Webb, Shadow Ball: New and Selected Poems, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009.