Bouncing the Porpis

by Charles Harper Webb

            We’re bouncing The Porpis, / Bouncing The Porpis,
             Bouncing The Porpis, / That is what he likes.

I made the song up for my son—porp (derived
from Shakespeare’s fretful porpentine) being
the fullness of human emotion—fear, rage, hunger,
need for love and diaper-changing—he conveyed
in cries, shrieks, coos, and general fuss
as I bounced, at 3 a.m., on waves of sleep.

            He swears that he remembers how I’d bounce him
            up and down as if on swells in Maui
            where, last year, we snorkeled side by side
            with puffer-fish, their small fins whirring
            as purple morays sewed through orange coral.

Claire—my yoga-partner in 2004—swore
she recalled bouncing a ball in Nagasaki
just before the day turned burning white.
“I’m dressed in burlap, bouncing in a cart full
of corpses,” I said as she regressed me in her bed.
“The driver yells, ‘Bring out your dead!’
‘I’m not dead yet,’ I say.”  “You’re making fun,”
Claire said, bouncing her finger in my face.
            Sometimes, after a dream-fall, I bounce
            awake, happy and safe, the way Great
            Aunt Lucy believes she’ll wake in heaven.
            Doctors say she needs a double bypass;
            but, bouncing on Parkinson’s bed, she says,
            “I want to spend Easter with Jesus.”

Miles out of Westport, swells bounced our boat
so high I would’ve filled my shorts
if rampaging king salmon had left me time.
“Reel in!” the captain roared at last,
and raced for port, chased by blue mountains
that bounced with rage to see us all survive.

            Bouncing makes people feel alive.
            It’s close to flying, which, in dreams,
            can mean pelvises bouncing in “the little
            death” that leads, sometimes, to a new life.

At Kiddieland, Dad would set me on a horse,
sprint ahead to wave as I bounced by,
then magically appear at the ride’s end
to bounce me on his shoulders, just
as he was doing, in warm Galveston waves,
when a Man of War wrapped him.
Bouncing crazily, he lugged me to shore,
then almost died.

                             Last night I dreamed I saw him
            bouncing the sun above his head
            like a beach-ball, singing a song
            that made it shine. “Up here,” he told me,
            beaming, “we bounce all the time.”


Charles Harper Webb‘s latest book, What Things Are Made Of, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2013. Recipient of grants from the Whiting and Guggenheim foundations, Webb teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at California State University, Long Beach.

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry

One response to “Bouncing the Porpis

  1. …now I have your little song stuck in my head!

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