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Alexandra and the Spiders

ISSUE:  Spring 1998

Because she wanted the girl next door as a friend,
Five-year-old Alexandra helped her mother
Make spiders out of crackers and peanut butter
With pretzel-stick legs and bulging raisin eyes.

And her father helped her carry a plate of them
To the strange porch and helped her ring the doorbell
And helped her spill them on the welcome mat
At the feet of the other mother and her daughter.

While her father helped Alexandra gather spiders
Stuck together wrong side up, sweet eyes
Sunk, their legs out of order, the kindly neighbor
Invited Alexandra to step inside.

But she, feeling helpless, clumsy, and hopeless
Like her father, shook her head No, shying away
Though the other mother smiled and offered her hand
And bit a spider in half with her front teeth.

Her father took her home where, in the kitchen,
Alexandra broke into tears, explaining between
Sobs she couldn’t untie her tongue to say
Or do what she most wanted to: her brain

Had been shaking back and forth, she said, and she shook
Her body back and forth like a prisoner
Tied in a cage. She squirmed, all legs and eyes,
Then sank to her knees and hid her face in her hands.

Her mother and father with their arms around her
Tried to make her feel what she ought to feel,
But she felt only herself caught by herself
For the first time, held fast in the wrong place.


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