Winter, 2005

Erika Horn

Three Poems

Spider Lady

When I was born, torn from the body of my mohter
for support I tried to grasp the shirtsleeves of the


My balled fist could clutch, but he yanked it away
before I could hold onto his skin.

As I grew, my eyes became level with the shirtsleeves

of men.

Their bulging muscles fascinated me--
I tried to rest my head there--
to my surprise there was no soft flesh there--
the muscles felt like steel--
they hurt my ears.
It was a compensation of sorts,
my mother never would let me get them pierced.

About then I began to exercise my invisible eye--
I spied little black spiders crawling up the sleeves

of the men.

It was strange:
all the men having these spiders--
my father of the iron fist and the glass teeth
that splintered in my skin--
my grandfather of the cracked bald eagle head--
the policeman, the postman, the grocer, the soldier,
I don't remember ever seeing a man then
without a spider on his sleeve-- and
the whiter his shirt, the blacker the spider seemed to be.
There may have been some men without them,
but they didn't catch my eye.

Anyway, when I was still level with the sleeves of men,
I told them that I wanted one too:
"One what?" they asked.
"A little black spider on my sleeve."
"A little what? " they said.
"You've all got one--I want one too."
"How you do imagine things. Now--
will you please tell us what you mean?"
"I, I don't know," I stammered.
"Then run along and be a good girl. Don't meddle
in our affairs, you hear!"
"Yessir!" I said.
They were bigger than me.

I tried to forget about it, but
my eye like an X-ray machine kept seeing spiders.
One night, being wide-awake, I followed my father and


to where they went at night.
They entered a giant-square-steel house where many
many men were gathered together
attired in wolves' heads, snow-white nightshirts,

steel boots--

the spiders had crawled from their sleeves to their

nipples now,

they were nursing them through their shirts.

They talked about splitting the circle sun in two and
boxing it in and drinking the red moon dry and eating god
and creating the world from scratch like you bake a cake.
Then they were going to kill a man called Death
and take the earth and change her to everlasting rock
like molding soft into hard--
they laughingly pointed between their legs when they

said that.

It was unintelligible to me,
but I carefully nurtured the secret,
remembering every detail of that night.

As I grew older it came clearer:
I found my father substitutes-- all had spiders.
One even had real teeth which left a trail of blood
when they bit me.
But now something changed--
I began to notice women with spiders too--
their faces frightened me.
And for every woman that had a spider I counted a man

who didn't.

I don't know whether there weren't enought to go around,
or whether it just happened to balance out that way.

Now, as I grow still older, the meaning is coming very

clear indeed:

I've seen the earth's shape change from round to square--
I've seen men fly to the sky to unhinge their god
because that is where the god lives--
I've seen men bleed the moon's belly--
I've seen rubber gloved men clutch tubes with babies

in them--

I've seen men square the circle by taking the sun-flame of
their solar plexus and feeding its life into the giant-steel


which they built to store the knowledge of the all knowing,
all powerful, god of no wife, whom they have eaten.
I've seen the world become a temple for the giant-steel


with square steel houses for people to live and work in
and steel cars that trail a veil of poison though the air--
and steel birds that shit hard pellets into the besotted


and onto the pock-marked lands.
I've seen all forms of soft life die-
and those that would survive grow hard shells--
and I have come to dread what I once desired:
I wake up now each morning in fear that there's
a spider crawling up my arm.
Luckily, so far, there's been no sign of one.
But as I grind slowly through the wheels
of this man-made death machine
I am disturbed by a vision:
I see the laughing spider lady
trail her black veils through the dawn.

Dream Of The Lady With The Burning Hair

The lady
with the burning hair
gallops towards me--
As she stops beside me
I see that something's missing--
Her right wrist
is a withered weed of ash--
This makes me sad--
For all throughout the forest
new green limbs are sprouting.

"Lady!" I say, "O lady,
let me take you to the city--
They have fire extinguishers there,
that'll put out your hair.
As for your hand--
well, they'll give you a shiny
new one!"
"You will lead me to the city
of the bald people?" she asks.
"The what people?"
"To them that carry their dead cells
only on the inside!
Look! look--
No one goes through life
without losing at least
one limb.
Those that breathe the world out
through their mouths know that."

Dead wood crackles under my feet.
I cannot speak.
But she just laughs & laughs & and sings:

My hair will burn and burn
til I am bald
and the seven moons
cut me in half

Then she gets up on her horse
Gallops wildly towards the sea

Leaving me


History Lecture, Year Unknown

Then there was the age of the Transplant:
All the parts of the dead body were taken like Christ
and ressurrected in living flesh--
Hearts were exchanged everywhere with complete impersonality--
And all roots knew alien soil or else were tumbleweeds--
And the people were dissatisfied--
They felt their limbs all on wrong--
And realized their leaders were out to do them in--
Until they could stand it no more--
Ran out into the streets, clenched their fists and shouted:
"You BASTARDS, get out here--
Make the hard rock crumble to bread,
turn the polluted water to wine--
Give us miracles or we'll KILL you!"

Now the leaders, frightened, huddled together in well guarded,
square shaped, hard hat houses: 'What'll we do?!' they asked
perplexed, 'Surely now rains of blood will fall on our heads,
'Look out there!' O that our delicate ears have to hear
the ranbunctious din of that raggle taggle scum.'

'Now, now gentlemen! The Lord liketh not despair, ' wheezed
an old fat man they called Rev'rend Pope. 'Fear not! The Lord is our
Shepherd-- he will take care of these sheep for us.'

'But-how-what-where?' they mumbled in panic down their beards.

'Very simply!' old Fatso continued, 'We will declare a New
Heaven and a New Earth. Give them a bit of spectacle, of ritual.'

'But how will we bring about this New Heaven and New Earth?'
they asked.

"Why we will just perform an Earth Transplant. Our surgeons
are the best in the universe. Surely they will know how to
transplant the body of our ancient mother.'

A complete body transplant?' they asked aghast. "But it's
never been done before!'

'Well, ' asked the top International Scientist, "Who are we to
stand in the Way of Progress?'

'That's right,' declared the President of some state or other,
'Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Besides, the woman in
question is old. We'll be merely doing her a favor by
rejuvenating her.'

'Not only that; she's been much too violent lately. The
rumblings of her earthquake belly have cost us dear.'

'Yes, to think of all the lives...'

'Ahhh, those can be replaced; it's gold that's scarce these
days.' interrupted the Head of the Most Powerful State.

'That brings me to my objection, ' interjected the top International
Economist. 'How on earth are we to pay for all of this?'

'How are we to pay for all of this? How are we to pay for all this?
Hahaha-- how are we to pay for all this--o lala--' forgetting
their fear they rollicked in mirth in their chairs. 'O my dear
man, you're insane. Why the people will pay of course. When
we take their money we let them think it's for the welfare of the
poor. Then they'll gripe and groan and kick the poorest wretches
in the shins; however, they forget about us. Meanwhile we'll
bleed the poor just a little more and order our statisticians to
publicly report a sizable increase in the welfare of the starving
millions.The little trick's always worked. Absolutely nothing
to worry about. I can see you're new at The Game.

Shamefaced, the economist gave way.

'Well, I don't know,' mumbled an old statesman, 'Isn't it best
to leave well enough alone?'

He was outshouted. So it was decided:

They ordered all the scientists of the day who had studied the
earth inside out (geologists, biologists, physicists,
chemists, etc.)--they ordered all these men (and a handful
of women) to be gathered together in a huge glass and steel
dome that had been built in the sky (formerly called Skylab,
now to be renamed New Heaven Lab). They ordered them to
float there in their dome in the invisible realm of air and
execute their task. And being ambitious, obedient people they did
just that: They took the blood of humans, animals, and trees
and made New Earth's oceans and rivers. They took the hearts
of the newborn and made New Earth's hills and mountains.
They caught the breath of the children and made New Earth's
winds. They took the bones of the old and made New Earth's
trees. They took the skin of the dark peoples and made New
Earth's soil. They took the fire from the bellies of the young
and made New Earth's insides. They took the desire for sex
from the people and made New Earth's regenerating powers.
They caught the tears of the women and made New Earth's
rains. And last of all they took the peoples' eyes and made
New Earth's sun and moon.

And when they were done a great Exodus was to begin:
Everyone was to be moved en masse to the New Earth in skyships
that looked like giant bullets.

But before they were to go a Holy Day was declared:
All the children were let off school--
No one was to work that day--
They all clapped their hands as if a shiny miracle thing were
After all, they were to go to a New Earth never seen before--
All shiny new body parts; clean as a new born car--
Now they need never fear the rumblings of Old Earth's quake
Nor get caught in the whirl of her cyclical terrors--
Nor freeze in her Arctic regions; or broil in her cauldron
Their New Earth was to be comfortable, thank you!
A million buttons to push for the fulfillment of everyone's
Ah, they were to embark on the greatest adventure ever...

'A miracle at last!' shouted the old thin man
whose life had been spent tracing stations of the cross--
He crossed his fingers in glee--
And the people ran like tumbleweeds to watch
(There were some among them who wept, it's true,
for all the birth and death that had gone on inside
their old mother for so long)
(There were even some who prophesied doom; but they
were duly ignored)
The Majority watched eagerly as the politicians and scientists
sealed Earth's body off like a casket--
And they baptized her Spaceship--
Saying: Now she will roam the universe forever--
We need never see her again--

Now, although the written record is perfectly clear up to here--
at this point the history gets confused. There is a manuscript--
(of which we have only scraps) that claims that just before the
people were to get into their spaceships extraordinary things
started happening:

Birds shrieked in foreign tongues and ate their own feathers--
Twelve abominable snowmen set fire to themselves--
Thermometers melted in shivers--
Fish coughed up gems a million years old--
The moon burst at noon--like a glass bauble
rained a million rock-faced splinters on the people--
The frantic chanting of the women and shrieking of the flowers
Called forth prehistoric creatures--

And from somewhere--no one knows where--
A strange voice allegedly croaked:
'From now on you are all bald--
You will carry your dead cells
Always inside you--forever--
Which for you will be never--

There the account ends and we know nothing more--
Except that no one to this day has ever figured out
what happened to so quickly eradicate this race of creatures
from the Universe