Triptych, Bluestem Magazine, March 2012
Panel One: The Spider Paintings
Either way, we die, my love.
If I were a painter like Albrecht Durer, or even Andrew Wyeth,
my brush a gentle remove, unlike clumsy hearts and bodies,
I would center my composition upon your injured eye:
the milky blue iris cast up and to the left
in permanent contemplation of some distant paradigm.
I would linger long upon that insurrection of bound blond curls,
the lean, graceful lines, like a dancer’s,
of neck, chest, pelvis. Then I would work the other eye, capturing if I could
its mystery, its static concentration, its humor: white moths fluttering in green sunlight.
I would do a series of paintings: you
hunching over your monster comics,
examining the black widow lodged under my mailbox with babies on her back
or pushing a mower – back and forth across my lawn.
It’s the way I would love you if I could affect the necessary distance.
My public would call it my Spider Period:
no private showing but a parade
of the heart-stopping beauty I see.
Panel Two: In the Gallery
They are nearly the same height, both slim, graceful people, wandering together
barely touching among the mounted photographs, a gallery show of all invertebrates.
Some, like the spiders, are deliberately beautiful. Others – tangles of tapeworms, maggots
swimming in rice – even given the cool remove of the lens – designed to repel.
He tells her about the animals, and she him the color, the light, the symbol,
but their tilt toward one another of mouths and pelvises is the story.
The props of reason are the lines at the corners of her eyes
separating them by decades, the student ID he carries in a back pocket,
the bonds of expensive rings strangling her left hand.
At home, she remembers his face, the distinct eyes, as she stands naked
before the mirror. Shadows hide the flaws of her body
and for a moment she can believe she is still beautiful.
She leans toward the glass, looks into her own eyes and whispers,
“Leave that man alone.”
Panel Three: There Be Monsters
But perhaps the story ends another way.
“Only if one of us were a wildebeest could we be breaking more taboos,” she jokes –
a failed blind, for they must cross without artifice, hearts and bodies trembling,
from the known world into this strange landscape.
In his bed among the trees the universe tilts on its weird axis,
and when they drift into sleep gray moths alight in their mingled hair,
larvae trace the lines of their closed eyes
and spiders emerge. They creep in and out of the mouths of the lovers,
their black abdomens lit with showers of stars,
while worms explore beneath the skin, visible descriptions of back and forth slithering.