Vox Populi

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Stephen Dobyns: Spider Web

There are stories that unwind themselves as simply

as a ball of string. A man is on a plane between

New York and Denver. He sees his life

as moving along a straight line. Today here,

tomorrow there. The destination is not so

important as the progression itself. During lunch

he talks to the woman seated beside him.

She is from Baltimore, perhaps twenty years older.

It turns out she has had two children killed

by drunk drivers, two incidents fifteen

years apart. At first I wanted to die every day,

she says, now I only want to die now and then.

Again and again, she tries to make her life

move forward in a straight line but it keeps

curving back to those two deaths, curves back

like a fishhook stuck through her gut. I guess

I’m lucky, she says, I have other children left.

The man and woman discuss books, horses; they

talk about different cities; but each conversation

keeps returning to the fact of those deaths,

as if each conversation were a fall from a roof

and those two deaths were the ground itself—

a son and daughter, one five, one fourteen.

The plane lands, they separate. The man goes off

to his various meetings, but for several days

whenever he’s at dinner or sitting around

in the evening, he says to whomever he is with,

You know, I met the saddest woman on the plane.

but he can’t get it right, can’t decide whether

she is sad or brave or what, can’t describe

how the woman herself fought to keep the subject

straight, keep it from bending back to the fact

of the dead children, and then how she would

collapse and weep, then curse herself and

go at it again. After a week or so, the man

completes his work and returns home. Once more

he gathers up the threads of his life.

It’s spring. The man works in his garden,

repairs all that is broken around his house.

He thinks of how a spider makes its web;

how the web is torn by people with brooms,

insects, rapacious birds; how the spider

rebuilds and rebuilds, until the wind

takes the web and breaks it and flicks it

into heaven’s blue and innocent immensity.

Copyright 1987 Stephen Dobyns.

Originally published in Cemetery Nights. Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.

3 comments on “Stephen Dobyns: Spider Web

  1. Rafiq
    April 9, 2018


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tom Mueller
    April 8, 2018

    I love the way you weave a simply story into a deeper-meaning masterpiece! Awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Niirmala
    April 8, 2018

    Love this. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on April 8, 2018 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry, Social Justice and tagged , .

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