As I tribute to the giant spider my roommate & I just found on our front porch, here’s “Black Widow” an essay by Lee Zacharias.
I hadn’t thought they would be so small. In my imagination they were huge, and why not since my only previous encounter had come in a Nancy Drew book? I no longer remember which one, only that when the crook—a counterfeiter or a jewel thief, some sort of greedy schemer—locked the girl detective in a room full of black widow spiders and turned out the light, a shudder slipped down my spine. I could feel them crawling closer, deadly with venom and villainous intent. Never mind that I knew she’d survive, knew even then that there was no real mystery at the heart of the mysteries she solved. Evil in her world was all menace and no force, the evil-doers stupid, and the evil itself easily parsed. But if the villains were petty, the spiders were mythic, black-hearted, potent, larger than life, on a par with tarantulas, piranhas, cobras, boa constrictors, exotic creatures of unspeakable horror.
I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process of working on this MFA thesis. For one thing, I’ve discovered that I might be a closeted-pyromaniac (on the page at least). So, it’s fitting that this morning I came across “Self-Portrait as the Burning Plains of Eastern Oregon” by Oliver de la Paz.
Let me start with fire. A little blaze lit to clear back the scrub brush
brought by the winter storms. Let the air ting with each leaf pop
as the ash of prairie grasses rise skyward.
And let that fire grow with each gust
shot straight out of the Cascades far to the west.
The curlicues of smoke fill a sky, void of mountains,
while the corralled horses several hundred yards away
pace nervously back and forth.
I’m trying to remember how everything settles down
after a fire. How the outcroppings of rock stand out farther
in those charred, moonish surfaces. I’m trying to remember
the nonchalance of a boy used to such things.
I’ve also been reading…
“Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles (translated by Robert Fagles)
“American Sublime” by Elizabeth Alexander
“The Birthmark” by Ralph Ellison