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Brandon Robshaw: a poem

Spider Sestina

In the garden – a country to the spider –

crouching at the edge of her web, her brain

ticking silently, watching, her angled legs

poised, ready to advance, she waits with dark

intent, seeking whom she might devour:

a fly whose innards she'll suck out with joy.

If, that is, she is equipped to feel joy.

What can we know of the mind of the spider?

Breathing, breeding, spinning, waiting, devouring:

can it house another thought, her brain?

She sits, a stilled bundle of nerves and legs,

throughout the day, the twilight and the dark.

It could be that her mind is cold and dark

Experiencing neither pain nor joy;

a mechanism to co-ordinate the legs,

and focus the eight eyes of the spider,

control behaviour – a pre-programmed brain,

impelling her to spin and seize and devour

but feel no emotion about seizing or devouring:

robot reactions to movement, light and dark;

response to stimuli. Yet... mustn't the brain

feel satisfied, must it not enjoy,

deep down, living out its spiderhood –

the weaving of webs, the flexing of multiple legs?

Males have two penises, like miniature legs.

When he sees his frightening, large, devouring

mate approach, wanting to make more spiders,

do his cocks quicken, does a dark

thrilling terrified thanatotic joy

electrify his small arachnoid brain?

In fact arachnids have, for their size, large brains.

Brain may extend even into the legs.

Legs that tingle with erotic joy:

he cannot run, but waits to be devoured

after mating: to vanish into the dark

hungry crunching maw of the female spider.

Think of all the joy that floods his brain

before the she-spider eats him leg by leg

and he's devoured by love and darkness.

Brandon is the writer of our regular "English Usage" column.


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