Charles Harper Webb

Here you will find the Poem Silent Letters of poet Charles Harper Webb

Silent Letters

Treacherous as trap door spiders, 
they ambush children's innocence. 
"Why is there g h in light? It isn't fair!" 
Buddha declared the world illusory 
as the p sound in psyche. Sartre 
said the same of God from France, 
Olympus of silent letters, n'est -ce pas? 

Polite conceals an e in the same way 
"How are you?" hides "I don't care." 
Physics asserts the desk I lean on, 
the brush that fluffs my hair, 
are only dots that punctuate a nullity 
complete as the g sound in gnome, 
the c e in Worcestershire. 

Passions lurk under the saint's bed, 
mute as the end of love. 
They glide toward us, yellow eyes 
gleaming, hushed as the finality 
of hate, malice, snake. 
As easily predict the h in lichen, 
choral, Lichtenstein,

as laws against throttling rats, 
making U-turns on empty streets. 
Such nonsense must be memorized. 
"Imagine dropkicking a spud," 
Dad said. "If e breaks off 
your toe, it spoils your potato." 
Like compass needles 

pointing north, silent letters 
show the power of hidden things. 
Voiced by our ancestors, 
but heard no more, they nudge 
our thoughts toward death, 
infinity, our senses' inability 
to see the earth as round, 

circling the sun in a universe 
implacable as "Might Makes Right," 
ineffable as tomorrow's second r, 
incomprehensible as imbroglio's g, 
the e that finishes inscrutable, 
imponderable, immense, 
the terrifying k in "I don't know."