The Tarantula

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I.

When I talk about my fascination with tarantulas,
people usually say,
“Don’t get one. What if it got out?”

Conversations begin innocently enough,
but no one thinks it’s funny when
I tell them I was 3 yrs old, living in a trailer park
in Downriver Detroit, visiting a wheelchair bound Vietnam vet
who kept a tarantula acquarium in his double-wide.

I read that people are more afraid of spiders than they are of death.
An average of three per year creep down our throats as we sleep.
What if it got out? Crawled on me as I slept,
lodged its coarse hairs into my neck, bit one of my cats?

I’m not really going to buy
a Chilean Rose, but I found a dry aquarium
in the alley behind my apartment building
along side Thursday’s trash.

An open box of glass ideal for my pet
if I ever carried him from
the things I only talk about
into that other world,
the one where the living require something of me.  

II.

I’m loosing it,
falling between the spaces of the Mackinaw Bridge
like a casualty she’ll hear about on the news,
ruining my body
out of panic or boredom or neurosis or addiction,
neither wife nor mother, no one to be,
a future job for an engraver of stone,
having called forth
the tarantulas of Downriver
to gape at their silent captivity.

III.

The man I’m in love with will knock on my door within the hour.

He’s heard me tell people
that I think about owning my own pet tarantula.
He laughs and says, not the tarantula thing again.

But I wonder if he, or anyone I talk with about tarantulas,
have ever really looked at one, creeping across
the miniature valleys of its arid cage;
its large, hairy legs gripping gracefully,
its bulging body almost invites touch.

I met a Rastafarian one night who kept one in his blunt smoke flat.

“She’s deep,” he told his dreadlocked comrade.

On a web of silk, white as hair,
his tarantula perched its claws.
No one else ogled its hairy appendages.
They spoke the non-silence of alone togetherness.

I could have peered at the spider until dawn,
wondering if my mother was four trailers down,
searching for me.

2003

 

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