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Four Allegories of the Line Noah Eli Gordon They cry O Spider spread thy web! Enlarge thy bones & fill’d With marrow. sinews & flesh Exalt thyself attain a voice —william blake, “the four zoas” 1 In the first allegory I am a small child. I mark my height on the wall in green pen, challenging my smallness. Slowly, the marks rise. A spider deposits itself underneath a thick leaf in the backyard. I tell no one my discovery, as I told no one about the tooth I’d lost before placing it beneath a pillow, where it remained well into the following afternoon. My discovery is not the spider, but the compulsion to experience the fear that it elicits. What frightens me is the certainty of its color, jet-black made all the more so against the soft green of the large leaf. For weeks, I check daily on the spider. It hasn’t moved from its tiny canopy. In solidarity, I change the color of my marks, which continue to rise, well after the morning of the spider’s disappearance. Once granted, one can only observe the agency of the line. 2 Like you, I am reading, but unlike you, I am faced with an awful dilemma. If I move from my current position—flat on my stomach, chest propped up by two pillows, arms bent at the elbows, book in hand—if I move at all, succumb to the overwhelming impulse to cringe and recoil in disgust, I risk a fate even worse. That I know this is the only thing granting me stillness. Like you, I am reading. A spider the size of an acorn sits on the inner cuff of my shirtsleeve, Gordon | 101 staring outward, nearly touching my wrist. A few seconds pass. I’m frozen. A few more, a full minute, two, three. I’m transfixed. There are laws to consider, laws of gravity, geometry, physics, but I am reading Fools Crow, a novel permeated by a communal understanding and respect between humans and the animals moving through their lives. Somehow, with a single, instantaneous motion, I contort my body in such a way that the spider flips from my sleeve onto the bedroom floor. Immediately, I crush it beneath the book. The line is autonomous but doesn’t believe in autonomy. 3 In an hour, I have a job interview at Acme Surplus, a discount store in the basement of Thornes Marketplace. I want to look decent, pick out a shirt barely worn from the back of the closet, straighten myself, and step on the porch for a smoke before making the trek downtown. Something stings me, a few ashes I think. No, this is worse, continuous. Like someone’s stubbing hundreds of cigarettes on my wrist. I unbutton the shirt, pull it off, twisting the sleeves inside out. There’s a small grey clump, pulsating like a miniature heart. For a moment, I’m baffled, then I see twin mandibles extending outward from the mess. The spider has barricaded itself in silk and is striking frantically at whatever monstrosity invaded its home. In comparing those who turn from God to a spider building its house, the Koran calls the spider’s the frailest of all houses. As punishment for her ambition, Arachne, who dared consider her skill with weaving as something other than a gift from the gods, was turned into a spider. I get the job, work there fresh out of college at near minimum wage for a year. Mostly, I hide in the backroom, reading. The line fears its love of tradition and loves its fear of innovation. 4 I was on my way out the front door when morning light caught the first anchoring volleys of a spiderweb, making it glisten and clearly visible. Normally, I’d have just pushed the threads aside and continued on, but seeing the little thing hard at work was too intriguing, its systematic creation too stunning. I stood in the doorway for an hour. I loved how it weaved back and forth, leaving behind tiny boxes, which, on its next pass, were subdivided even further. A previously unarticulated understanding of form was beginning to emerge. At the time, I lived with several housemates, and left them a note asking that they not use the 102 | Gordon front door that day. After leaving out the back, I returned home several hours later, and, having forgotten entirely the spider and my note, burst through the front door...


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