Poetic Rebuttal: Suzanne Paola and Charles Webb
Prayer to Seal Up the Wombdoor - Suzanne Paola
Because we need to remember
that memory will end, let the womb remain
untouched. Its walls
an image of the earth without us—
No form sharpening, no clutter
no fingers diverging from their webs.
Generation is an argument.
my finitude is infinity: I will shape from it
another & another.
& these will go on, like numbers
that through division can continue, if a little less
But infants press
against two oblivions: the one before,
the one after. And one being
can never outrun two deaths.
Let’s celebrate the emptiness, the other place.
Let’s create, like God, both void & image.
And carry our end
as we’ve carried ourselves, in imagination—in film & theater,
statues & mirrors, the long gaze
at our own face.
Look in. See the earth
greening again: closing around
the long bright scars
of cities. When plastic’s
rare, and honorable fossil. All glass
finally polished in the sea.
When the reign of the nude skin, the opposable thumb’s
over, when the argument runs
whether bones should crouch or stand in the Hall of Humans.
Will it be crows who inherit? With towns
in treetops, winds holy, beauty a pure dull black.
Or beetles, asking themselves
how we ever made love, we all gravity & heavy limbs.
Maybe by then the fumes of the toilet-tissue plant
will have risen past the atmosphere, & whales will be back, 25
thick as cattle, with a dim mythology of bloody ships.
Let’s insist on contingency, on seeing
our earth in our dream, false
& mutable: blacktopped, split
through the geometries of building & plowing, daylight
dragged into nighttime in small glass bowls.
Let my body stay as it is, saying
we have done our damage, all
in the name of imagination: let something else
through its mind, mar
the surfaces of things.
"Prayer to Seal Up the Wombdoor," by Suzanne Paola
(in Bardo. University of Wisconsin Press, 1998)
Prayer to Tear the Sperm-Dam Down — Charles Harper Webb
Because we know our lives will end,
Let the vagina host a huge party, and let the penis come.
Let it come nude, without a raincoat.
Let it come rich, and leave with coffers drained.
Throw the prostate’s floodgates open.
Let sperm crowd the womb full as a World Cup stadium.
Let them flip and wriggle like a mackerel shoal.
Let babies leap into being like atoms after the Big Bang.
Let’s celebrate fullness, roundness, gravidity.
Let’s worship generation—this one,
And the next, and next, forever.
Let’s adore the progression: protozoan to guppy
To salamander to slow loris to Shakespeare.
Forget Caligula. Forget Hitler. Mistakes
Were made. Let’s celebrate our own faces
Grinning back at us across ten thousand years.
Let’s get this straight: Earth doesn’t care if it’s overrun—
If it’s green or brown or black, rain forest, desert, or ice pack.
A paper mill is sweet as lavender to Earth,
Which has no sense of smell, and doesn’t care
If roads gouge it, or industries fume into its air.
Beetles don’t care. Or crows.
Or whales, despite their singing and big brains.
Sure, rabbits feel. Spicebush swallowtails
Feel their proboscides slide into flowers’
Honeypots, which may feel too,
But lack the brains to care. Even if beagles
Are as mournful as they look—
Even if great apes grieve, wage war, catch termites
With twigs, and say in sign language,
"Ca-ca on your head," they still don’t care.
Or if the do—well, join the club. 30
We humans care so much, some of us dub life
A vale of tears, and see heaven as oblivion.
Some pray, for Earth’s sake, not to be reborn.
Wake up! Earth will be charred by the exploding sun,
Blasted to dust, reduced to quarks, and still not care.
If some people enjoy their lives too much
To share, let them not share. If some despise themselves
Too much to reproduce, let them disappear.
If some perceive themselves as a disease, let them
Take the cure, and go extinct. It’s immaterial to Earth.
Let people realize this, or not. Earth doesn’t care.
I do, and celebrate my own fecundity.
I celebrate my wife’s ovaries, her fallopian tubes
Down which, like monthly paychecks,
Golden eggs roll. I celebrate the body’s changing.
(Might as well: it changes anyway.)
I celebrate gestation, water breaking,
The dash to the hospital, the staff descending,
Malpractice polices in hand. I celebrate
Dilation of the cervix, doctors in green scrubs,
And even (since I won’t get one) the episiotomy.
I’ll celebrate my bloody, dripping son, head deformed
By trusting against the world’s door.
Let it open wide for him. Let others make room for him.
Let his imagination shine like God’s.
Let his caring change the face of everything.
"Prayer to Tear the Sperm-Dam Down," By Charles Harper Webb, In Billy Collins,
ed., The Best American Poetry 2006, New York: Scribner Poetry, 2006