The widow clings upside down in her taut net.Outside, the gray sky mottles its displeasure,a flood of low clouds making the suna sullen teen, a three-day runaway.There's cold oatmeal in a bowl and an emptynapkin holder. You notice her web stretchesto the baseboard corner. You wave your stumps,scaring flies, an argument of small adjustment.What is your own life now but lopped limbs,weak growth, penitent greens limping and thin,all begging water. Her fat black abdomen shinesin the light, radiating elegant legs, arachnid tinesbridging body to prey. Later, she'll eather mate. Picture your ambition of fifteen yearsback. Now, in the middle of the night, your feetare a rainy patter. Photos, your family tree,this crippled life you maneuver. There's a stingin the air and a pang in your hip.Who taught you how to grow? At night, in bedyou flex the compass of your body, legsspread, as if there was sticky matter to clingto, a safety net you could stretch and knit.The web is her nest; the floor is her platter.You could crush her with a quick hammer,a gloved thump, a definitive swingtelling limits, a tiny but total destruction.Whose knife pruned the thick wings you wave?Why is each blue day a brave face?You spill yourself into the wind, squintingyour eyes, watching your gifts slip away in rivulets,sensing the rotted roots of your grimy youth.The widow seems to float in air. You usedto count on straps, buckles, buttons, clasps.Now, anything with sugar. What is her planbut a mingling of dominions? The threat of mistakenidentity, a clumsy communion. A gripof teeth, an injection of black magic, a tragic step.Old milk and cold fish, a dish of shreddedcheddar. What difference does it make: her legs,her web, a small red flag? Can she take drugsfor pain? Can she run from herself? Her waitis like yours, an instinctual patience.What house is not also a trap? [End Page 14]
Andrew C. Gottlieb lives and writes in Irvine, California, and is the Reviews Editor for the journal Terrain.org. His work has appeared in numerous journals including the American Literary Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, Ecotone, DIAGRAM, ISLE, Provincetown Arts, Poets & Writers, and the Sierra Nevada Review. His chapbook of poems, Halflives, was published in 2005 by New Michigan Press, and he was most recently writer-in-residence at the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon.