Charles Harper Webb

Dad, My Nipples Hurt
by Charles Harper Webb

Now the drawbridge lifts, boyhood left
diddling Legos on the other side. Now

Hun-like hormones start their thundering
ride. Studying puberty at school,

he thought he was immune, voice still
shrill as a girl’s. Now—soon!—sweaty

armpit-and-crotch-trolls will turn their cranks
and squeeze out hair. Soon seeds of life

will spurt at night. The signal-fires
girls burn on hills he laughed at last year

will enflame his brain. Soon every car
will hiss, “Drive me,” as foremen-cells yell,

“Stretch! Swell! Grow!” and pitch’s
paratroops plunge from his voice-box,

down. Stalled at the Chest / Breast crossroads,
mammary glands cry, “Which way?”

Soon my son will say, in a full baritone,
“Pass the pasta, please,” meaning, “Pass

your beaten-downness into my huge, hairy


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 19, Issue 1.

Charles Harper Webb’s latest book, Brain Camp, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2015. A Million MFAs Are Not Enough, a book of essays on contemporary American poetry, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in 2016. Recipient of grants from the Whiting and Guggenheim foundations, Webb teaches Creative Writing at California State University, Long Beach.

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