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Manoa 14.1 (2002) 45-51

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Three Poems

Barbara Tran

Spider: Life after 1975

after Galway Kinnell


with portions
of mosquitoes and flies, eaters
of our blood and shit,
the spider grabs its prey
with its tarsi. With its fangs,
tears into it, ingests our refuse
into its third body. Round
with its kill, safe
in its carapace, the spider clings
to its gauzy web
slung in the corner.


She resembles me
in these seven ways:
  • she settles where the wind blows her

  • she retreats to the corner when troubled

  • she doesn't see well

  • she uses her legs to get places

  • she curls into a ball when she's had enough

  • she's a relative of the tick, scorpion, and mite

  • she ingests her old home before inhabiting the new [End Page 45]


of the dark, the basement,
where we hide
all we treasure,
the things for which
we have no use
but need
beyond reason
boxes of scrawled letters
meant for loved ones
but never sent, the saliva
of our longing sealed
inside them, lover
of all the places
we have trouble touching,
corners and crannies
we reach for, places
we're unable
to sweep clean
of life's residue, the dirt
and dust and discarded hair
that mark
the hard march
from day
to day, the things
we have let
she would cover over
all our weak attempts
at living, bind up
our pathetic attachments
to the tangible, our fear
of the unspoken,
spin a web from her gut
to wrap us up
and keep us
from the objects
of our longing
if that
would stop
our manic collection
and hiding [End Page 46]
of sentimentalities under the bed.
The common
star is of no interest.
She treasures instead
the domestic, the corner
we call our own, the ceiling
above our beds, to which we cry out
in the dark, the one we beg
for mercy, for aid, for abeyance.


In one motion,
a nanny, with the bottom
of her boot,
snatched a spider
and its web
from the corner
where they hung, smashed
them there, once,
twice in the pause
before the third
crushing blow,
the spider's fluids
smacked free
from the bottom
of the boot, and the spider
fell to the ground, scrabbled
under the boards
behind the toilet, left
a glistening outline
of its own carcass
on the wall
that was its home.


In the moonlit corner, I sway,
drop the gauzy shirt
from my shoulders, slip
out of my skirt,
and pull [End Page 47]
him into me, my legs
clinging, my mouth
searching—a clawed, hungry, half-blind
clasping the man
under me.


In the village
I called my own,
I have cowered, been plucked
from my home, pitched
into the unknown.
I have been chased
by men I thought
my brothers, abandoned
by my father. I have scrabbled
for cover, fled
in horror. And on the open sea,
come upon myself
a shimmering, salty wake.


And tonight
I find it is late
spring 1975
again: my stomach
bloated, my body
in a ball,
the flies
to swarm. [End Page 48]


He steals
with the ingenuity and hunger
of an average
man. He arrived
in this country
on a paper boat.
He could taste
on his tongue
like a sweet, stolen
kiss. Up at Raybrook,
he hopes
his sister will visit, bring gifts
of the sort
he never gave. The clang
of the cell doors
sometimes sounds
like a tin cup, sometimes
like water, closing
over his head,
sealing his ears, sometimes
a bedroom door
from the wrong side. Occasionally,
the sound
tastes of metal. On her birthday,
he showed up,
took her to the zoo, his arm
around her shoulders.
They watched the seals
feeding. The red leaves [End Page 49]
oflonging. Planes
zoom overhead, it seems,
hourly. Give Danny
twenty bucks. He's a good
kid, just a little
troubled. Relentless,
the bedsprings squeak. Qué
hora es?The greedy jane
could not be satisfied. What he did
was illegal
because he always


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