the spider

the woman was out at dawn, gathering firewood.

it was a little early, really; the windblown twigs and branches were still moist and smelling of night. but she could not sit inside the hut today. could not nurse a coffee by the fire, nor watch the sun come up from behind the sea, nor wait on the top step for yaga.

the wind’s song was playful, today. it tugged her and teased her. she found it annoying.

despite the spring chill, she hadn’t dressed. over her nightshirt she wore a large square apron. she held the lower corners in one hand to make a baggy cloth basket. this she would normally fill with scavenged wood, but today, no piece seemed right. too mossy, too flaky, too green, too big, too rotten. it was just no good at all.

in frustration, she screwed up her face and squeezed one tiny, angry tear from her eye.
the wind whipped it clean away, laughing.

the woman gave up. she dropped her empty apron and flopped to the ground. immediately the dew soaked her thin clothes so she gasped in shock at the cold. she flopped over completely so she was face down in the grass, eye level with the pearl-strung gossamer.

suddenly the entire world was
utterly different.

propped on her chin, the woman watched as a small black spider walked out across a strand of silk, so close it made her eyes hurt. the web barely shook under the spider’s weight. she counted its eight legs and found that this one had only seven, and the odd one was longer than the others, and it waved out in front like a navigation cane, vigilantly scanning its path.

the spider stopped, and turned towards the woman.
it waved its long, spindly cane-leg
almost brushing her nose. she felt a chill
and shifted backwards on the cold wet grass.

the spider spoke.

replied the woman (in her head).

your dream,
explained the spider (out loud).
what else was there?

the woman rolled onto her back
the sun was over the sea now
the sky was palest blue
it was a bright, cold morning in
late february
or early march.

she closed her eyes
and watched the patterns of light on the inside.

there was a womanon a brown horse.
she wore a bandit’s mask.
she laughed and stroked my hair.
she gave him his money
and then she was gone.

the woman remembered
the swivel of shod hooves on the dusty road
voices of strangers passing
blinding sunlight in the post office window
men’s hands, reaching
music at the market.

and running.

i followed the river backwards
into the hills
til i came to its source

she saw the well.
the big white house.
tall rooms, french windows and long, dusty curtains thrown open to the stream.
threadbare rugs on the cold slate floor.

we were kids. collected wool
for the spinsters
earned our keep
from barbed wire and thistles.
i was happy there.

she remembered
the dark eyes. the red bloomers. the black hair cropped rough short.
wild laughter
bent double
snot shining across face and
wet mouths gasping.
then shouting
doors slamming
the crunch of snow under bare feet.

that’s all there is
she said to the spider
as she climbed to her feet and turned for home.