Mark Lee Webb

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At T.S. Smith and Sons Peach Orchard, Sussex County, Delaware

     
   

Dad handed me a bushel of Heroes.

Told me way back, before the place

 

went U-Pick, he and his brother used

to work in the trees around Labor Day.

 

We’d come out to the Smith’s place, haul our ladders,

pick baskets of Belles, Amelia Burtons, Pebble Clings

 

alongside migrants working the orchards up and down

the coast. Made friends once with this family of Negroes

 

last name of Johnson from Florida. That next year your

uncle hitchhiked his way down there, met up with them

 

just north of Winter Park where they got him a spot

on a crew picking Marsh Pink, Star Ruby, and Flame.

 

After grapefruit season was over he showed up

back here in Lewes, called me from the depot

 

on Spring. Been disappeared for two months

and he’s just standing there waiting, chain-smoking,

 

whistling in the rain. I asked him where he’s been

and he tells me spring training, Phillies games.

 

I bit into that thick-skinned Hero—

red on the side exposed to the sun,

 

semi-cling to the stone. Juice running

all down my face, through my fingers.

     
         
 

No Men Ever Came Out

     
   

of  H.W. Hocker’s during the war,

all their pressmen being women

like Bette next door.She made tin

handles for patent brushes built

to slide in and out narrow neck

mucilage bottles—

Sanford’s Mint Flavored Number 125

best used on labels, postage stamps, envelope flaps.

 

Bette worked the press, every punch

a Hocker handle until that day

she showed up sloppy and slow

and the press took two fingers and a thumb.

Finished her shift before she went and saw

Doc Beebe, hand wrapped in a beige

hair snood. Doc fixed her up best he could,

wasn’t nothing much left to work with.

She moved to shaving after that,

shearing rough edges from blanked parts.

     
         
 

When is Blue Crab Season

     
   

you ask me, again, just before you forget

why we didn’t paint the deadrise green.

 

The beginning of March, I answer, tides

look favorable, with diurnals around three.

You should try at two, an hour before the high,

when the current is still rushing in.

 

I tell you about a recipe clipped from the Gazette,

blue crab with a touch of mayonnaise rolled

in Old Bay Seasonings and panko bread crumbs,

just enough to hold the delicate cakes together

serve with a side of thinly sliced red onion and fennel.

 

But you fall asleep, waiting for a rainy day

when you can slip away, take holiday

from lacquering Victorians in Anemone

and Bay Breeze, stop scaling scaffolds to ice

gingerbread in Salmon and Sea Green.

Walk down to the pier—

step on-board right foot first, pull your pots,

leave me to look for your lost haddock’s jaw.

     
         
 

Slapdasher

     
   

I never wanted to wear his coveralls or walk scaffolding

in the morning, count specks of dry enamel at night.

 

Slapdasher he called me, sent inside on rainy days

to scrape peeling muntins and alligatored filigree

 

while he pulled crab pots. I'd run away, hide

in Saint Peter’s Cemetery next to Captain McCracken

 

buried with an anchor, or Miss Henrietta Stotesbury

who passed before her ship reached the breakwater.

 

Now he’s gone and I am shell rot blister and bleb,

forty years spent soaked in turpentine, painting cottages

 

on Canal and Victorians on McFee. Climbing two-story

ladders carrying buckets of Salmon and Bay Breeze.

 

My hands no longer work, clawed from stroke

and brush. I spend my days collecting fish wrack

 

bone and head, sit at the end of Lewes Pier selling skate bait

to watermen when eel run scarce. They throw me culls –

 

one-claw peelers and jimmys I trade for haircuts,

when a molar needs pulling my dentist gets some.

     
        return to poetry
 

Mark Lee Webb now makes his home in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the Editor and Publisher of A Narrow Fellow Journal of Poetry. His poems have been published in numerous journals, both in the United States and abroad. Mark presented his latest poetry chapbook, Whateverits, at the 2014 University of Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture. Finishing Line Press published it as a chapbook in 2014. ELJ Publications released his other chapbook, The Weight of Paper, earlier in 2014.