When I moved to Yorkshire last year, I took my books with me. Like
you do. Unfortunately, the house wasn’t ready to take all the books until I’d
put up some shelves, so I stacked all the books, in ASDA carrier bags in the
garden shed. I never did get around to putting up those shelves, and I’m no
longer in Yorkshire – but for a few months my library was stored in a shed in
bags. I’d look out of the window into the garden and in the gloomy evenings I’d
feel the potential “weight of knowledge” stored behind the clapboard,
dammed up in that damned shed.
Occasionally, I’d get a hankering for a particular book, perhaps
three and I’d go to the shed, and start the onerous task of searching, one bag
at a time, for the book I wanted. It was then that I encountered that spider.
Biggest one I’d ever seen. And it really didn’t seem bothered by me, other than
to seemingly say, “Turn off the light and bugger off eh? I’ve got some
important snickering to do.”
THE BOOK SPIDER
The shed strained under the weight of books,
Opening revealed its cool dusty dark,
Green plastic bags filled with my library,
Too much for the house before shelves are made.
Each ASDA carrier a paper brick,
A wall built against the shed’s clapboard hull,
Like a water tower stories were stored
For when my page drought broke to DIY.
And like a water tower, the mood grave:
The grim potential thick weight of something
Stored where it shouldn’t be: mid-air water
And unreadable words, both floods held back.
I’d come for two books in particular,
Three thousand guesses against my method,
Bend, shift, bend, shift another, shrink the floor
With the rustling mosaic; confined dance.
A blind finger fumble then dance some more.
I dismantled a whole library in
solitary, then banged it up again.
That’s when the spider came; scuttle, flicker,
An unconcerned eight legged suspension-bridge
Between bags. A balloon basket cut loose,
A smudge in hard pressed doodle legs
That would be sharp enough to cut through paper.
Web whispers, tumbleweed’s rotting train-set.
Slung inside her electric etch-a-sketch,
Hairy librarian stalking my fingers.
Wanting me to be quiet, wanting me to roll
The dark back over and leave her alone
To catch words like flies and beetles in webs.
Dotted crumbs from the librarian’s lunch,
A spider big as Hemmingway’s head; ancient.
Twist in the torque pull of the alien
A bugger the size of Yorkshire, steadfast
Not concerned by any of the eight of me.
Screwed down cold space. Earth’s blank of silence
I didn’t dare breathe the sudden vacuum.
Making contact with the chill certainty
Of extra-terrestrial existence,
I extended my finger to see who
Was more unsettled by the encounter.
The spider held against my finger,
Didn’t budge, it was the fulcrum
Over which the blunt reality of
Being human pivoted, it held me
In balance, looking at me, knowing me,
Reaching in me, climbing the alien
Right inside me, sliding the legs of its
Otherness neatly into my brain folds.
It knew that even when it walked away,
Slowly; bored, that its space Doppelganger
Would remain locked in the darks above my
cerebellum, Its web there strong as stretched
Diamond wire tempered in reactors.
It knew it could hinge open my head
And snicker out whenever it wanted.