Sentient Creatures
{A Bumbershoot Special Feature}

Laura McCullough

has two collections of poetry, What Men Want (forthcoming from XOXOX Press) and The Dancing Bear (Open Book Press 2006), as well as a chapbook of prose poems, Elephant Anger (Mudlark). 

She has won two New Jersey State Arts Council Fellowships, one in prose and one in poetry, and a partial scholarship from the Vermont Studio Center.  She has also been a Prairie Schooner Merit Scholar in Poetry and has served, on the staff at Bread Loaf.

Among her publishing credits are Prairie Schooner, Gulf CoastNimrodBoulevard, The American Poetry Review, and other journals.

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The Body of a Dead Spider

Each time I went into the bathroom,
I forgot about the spider and went,
as people often do, to the familiar
place. I’d get set, doing what I had

to do, and inevitably, I’d look down,
my gaze sliding off my shoes to the tile,
then to the molding, and there it was
again, its black limbs collapsed on itself,

so it appeared like a small, dried flower,
or a seed pod of a certain kind of flower,
like the inside of a star fruit, only not,
and the small nerves of my leg would

twitch for a second as my brain processed
what action to take in case it was alive,
which it wasn’t, but just in case it had
been. Oh, that brain, that deep instinct

to recoil, and then the recognition
of inertness and then of foolishness—
Jesus, I’d seen this dead spider how many
damned times by then? I didn’t look long,

nor did I vow to use a different stall,
but as I left the last time, a woman
came in, her arthritic hand a small
mallet she used to push the door open

since she couldn’t grasp the handle.
When I looked in her eye, on the verge
of saying hello, she said, Oh, Don’t look
like that, dear; it’s not as bad as you

. She moved past me without holding
the door, and when I stepped out into
the hall, the light coming from a window
splashed across my retinas, blinding

me, and for a fraction of a second, I
stood there unable to move or to see.