The One Not Eaten

by Martin Elster

I live in a space so small,
the apartment could well fit inside the bread basket
of the spider that built its elaborate web where one wall

joins another. I wanted to ask it,
“So, why this particular spot near my tub?”
I didn’t, because it is plain as a natural need.

Those times I’m inclined to scrub,
I will not harass her. I watch her feed
on wolf spiders, pill bugs, moths, centipedes. She came

before catkins had blossomed. Inert
as a stain on the ether, she puts to shame
the fiercest lion or raptor or rattler. Alert

to the tiniest tremble of thread,
she sprints to escape or to pounce on her prey.
The other day, as I lay in warm liquid, she fed

on a spider that happened to stray
too close to her fangs. She struck at a speed
that would make the swiftest missile appear as slow

as an airborne salsify seed
on a wind that forgot it’s obliged to blow.
The huge spider she’s eating would chase down and spring on its quarry,

but now its eight legs are tucked under,
as its form hangs in air like a fragment of story
that will leave its small, venomous captor a little rotunder.

My toes on occasion get near her
while I soak in the soothing soapsuds. Yet
she senses I will not smash her and do not fear her.

I regard her as my pet.
Appearing quite sated, she’s plainly mated;
a pearl-sized moon hangs directly above her back.

This fuzzball is what she’s waited
a lifetime for. Specks will break from the sac,
each eight-eyed, carnivorous, death-dealing spiderling

free to roam. When the air is chiller,
at the proper hour the following spring,
a new survivor will perch where a man won’t kill her.