Arthropoda Californiae

Fire Basket Suspended from Dock over a Fish Net in the Water by Shibata Zeshin (1807–1891). Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Three weeks after my husband’s cremation
I cancelled the contract
with the exterminator.

Now, I share a home with arthropods.

They teach me to inhabit
hollow spaces. Their movements expand
each room. An ant scurries
around the fortress of cinnamon
on the kitchen counter; the silverfish glitters
on the tub rim like the last link
of a well-worn necklace; centipedes swipe
the bedroom floor like bristly fingers
in search of a hand.

A crossed orb weaver
spans her lace-work
six feet wide between the thuja
bushes. In the old juniper
an invisible tree spider labors
to lift a dead Brahminy Blindsnake
on a single thread.

I am careful not to disturb
the black widows
that sometimes hide
in heaps of laundry.
I respect their need
for a quiet life.

In my dream, they invite me
to join the sisterhood.

Adorned in chitin, I climb
into their net of nets.

Lithesome legs flung
from boneless bodies, we spin
in silence, gorge males
in all their beauty, shine
like jewels held by the reflection
of our own light.

Annette Schlichter lives and writes in Laguna Beach, California, and Berlin, Germany. She is the author of the online micro chapbook Like Love published by Ghost City Press.
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