The Arachnologist

By Benjamin Gucciardi

Featured art: Mary Vaux Walcott (1860-1940)

When he told me his teeth felt too heavy
to study history, I excused him.
I knew he was headed for the aqueduct,

or the boarded-up houses choked
by trumpet vine where he found them.
Martel collected spiders with the discipline of a surgeon.

He kept them in empty soda bottles
under his bed. On his way into sixth period,
he touched my fist with his fist,

announced the genus of his catch,
Latrodectus, and his total, that’s nine this week!
Through this tally of arachnids captured

in sugary plastic, we learned to trust each other
the way men on tankers far out at sea
confide reluctantly in gray rippling water.

When his best friend broke the news,
they found Martel last night, her voice quavering,
stray bullet off International,

I went to his house to adopt a spider.
I imagined the red hourglass
on the female’s abdomen emptying itself

slowly, her segmented body imprisoned
in the glow of the green-tinted bottle,
but no one was home. Now when I hear

the old women gathering cans at dawn,
half-swallowed by blue waste bins,
I think of Martel finding containers

to bring to the canyon, Martel
inspecting stones, placing his fingers
delicately around the thorax,

the eight legs angry at the morning
as he lifts the arrowhead orb weaver
toward the sun, offering

what he loved to the old, hungry light.


Benjamin Gucciardi‘s first book, West Portal, (University of Utah Press, 2021), was selected by Gabrielle Calvocoressi for the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry. He is also the author of the chapbooks Timeless Tips for Simple Sabotage (Quarterly West, 2021), winner of the 2020 Quarterly West Chapbook contest, and I Ask My Sister’s Ghost (DIAGRAM/New Michigan Press, 2020). His poems have appeared in AGNI, Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, Harvard Review and other journals.

Originally published in NOR 28

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