Late Measures in Blood
“I want to touch Macbeth,” my daughter said. I shushed her, but the bloody king of Scotland glanced down with guillotine eyes. We were groundlings at the Globe—worth five pounds each, worth wind and cold and three hours of sore feet. Macbeth strode off to keep tragedy brisk, entertainment cathartic. An afternoon worth one Weird Sister scratching her thigh and London darkening into sackcloth. Macbeth returned, growled out a few lines, then edged his shoe towards my daughter. Edged it closer. Worth a pair of pigeons settling on the thatched roof and unfurling a tapestry of ragged coos. As if on cue, my daughter touched Macbeth’s ankle, and Macbeth lifted his head to the watchful heavens. The world slowed. Time, and again time. Time for the sky to open up and fall all over us, time to be both wet and chosen, time for my daughter to rub her palms together—till fame coated both hands. And Macbeth, that kind bloody tyrant, born of no woman, dashed off to slaughter Macduff.
The Most Spider Part of Me
I woke to a palace of silk—a spider web stretched across my open closet. The cat face that spun it guarding my shirts: more true than magnetic north. Like having an unfolded map to the underworld as a bedside lamp.
Each morning I misted the web. The slightest breeze caused those tendrils to fling light around the room like a shield at the mouth of a cave.
Each time I tossed a moth into that labyrinth, I turned accomplice— and interpreter of spider idioms. Daintying out of hiding with her lethal speed: Thank you, but I prefer to work alone. Administering her bite: What did you expect, an interview? Entombing her victim in silk and setting it swinging: Prudence is as prudence does.
Let each of her legs stand for a lost garden, each cat face stripe hang fear on the air. Let her eyes search out my secrets but share them with no one.
Of course I apologized each time I broke her web reaching for socks. Like praying to a god who lives on a ledge above my life. But how, how do I say amen?
O mercurial! O copacetic! O chiaroscuro! Words I fell in love with later, but which always take me back to filaments and sun, legs like syllables, yearning that fills the body.
Not so much death in the room where I slept, but ritual and art, and a dark hum that was both and neither. Was I the fanged spider, spinnerets wetly glowing? Or the moth, paid down like a parachutist tangled in power lines?
Soon the foothills would give up and sign a lease with winter. Soon the moon would fatten with desire. Soon my parents would lay down their paperbacks and repeat the glorious error that brought me into the world.
Or was I the web itself—nerved grid, sacrificial hammock?
Years later, I would think of that latticework as wisdom. This is how love ends, how poems begin, here waits faith with its sharpened fangs, here lies my latest bible of doubt. Call that filigree the Esperanto we speak in dreams: teach me to spool out of my body, make holy this seance of thirsts.
Can you hear that siren song still purling from the wings?
Three days after Thanksgiving I found her on the floor—yellowed pearl, an elegy with curled legs. No will and testament written into the web, no sadness brigade. I rolled her gently between finger and thumb, like a memory pill one swallows to recall past lives, then buried her in snow.