Tag Archives: Spiders

Courage at Twilight: Spider Face-Off

While Dad was reading late one night, a spider emerged from under the sofa, walked slowly toward him, stopped, and stood tall on its front legs, looking up at him, as if challenging, Here I am. What are you going to do about it?   Dad knew there was nothing he could do about it—he could never heave himself out of his recliner and catch the spider before it dodged away.  Victorious, the spider sauntered nonchalantly back to its hideout under the sofa.  A couple of weeks later, another spider scampered across the kitchen floor, near where Dad was standing at the sink scrubbing a pot.  This spider, too, looked up at him with a challenge, but Dad simply stomped on it.  Dad felt bad, preferring to let these fascinating creatures live—but not in the house.  When Dad was a teenager, his father Owen staked out a 40-acre mining claim in the Nevada desert, and occasionally took his two sons to camp in the desert and work the claim.  They imagined striking it rich with gold as they dug their holes in the hill.  Owen had welded steel plates to the old truck’s undercarriage, allowing him to bowl through sage brush undamaged.  After making camp one afternoon on a low flat sandy arroyo, with blue skies overhead, they began to hear a strange rumbling, and looked up to see a wall of muddy water rushing down the dry stream bed.  They lurched from their bed rolls and made it with the donkey to higher ground just in time to see their camp entirely washed away.  The torrent ended as quickly as it began, and the boys set off down the muddy channel to recover what gear they could find.  Here was the stove, and the aluminum plates.  And there was the pistol barrel sticking up from the mud and sand.  Dad came to a narrow gorge across which a stout plank had once been placed.  He was halfway across when an enormous tarantula climbed on the other end of the plank and started to walk toward him.  They both stopped and looked at each other for a moment.  “I think the tarantula was asking me, Are you going to let me cross, or what?  Dad back up and off the plank, and the tarantula recommenced its slow crossing.  He watched the tarantula amble off into the desert, and then crossed the gully in the other direction.  Since the two recent faceoffs in the house, Mom brought in pest control to spray for spiders—they simply do not belong in the house.  But that tarantula was king of the dessert.


(I encountered this migrating tarantula while mountain biking in Settlement Canyon, Tooele, Utah.)

Good-Bye Clementine


Clementine returned, thankfully.  And Boris moved out (or was eaten), thankfully.  Though Clementine’s company had been, in some sense, comforting to me, our dissimilar natures dictated that our relationship was not to last.  Sealing our fate was the fact that, after living with Clementine for three months, I had to move out in favor of paying tenants.  Moving from this drab little apartment felt traumatic to me because I had become accustomed to my situation and surroundings.  And I had found a silky, spindly-legged companion.  Clementine showed no emotion when I left, but hung unmoving, as always, in her corner.  I walked out, shut the door, and surrendered my key, leaving Clementine behind.


Good-bye, Clementine.
I have to leave:
paying tenants, naturally,
take precedence. No doubt:
they will disinfect your corners,
wipe away your suspending threads;
they will squash you without
thought, flush you out
with swirling sewage.

What? No. You cannot come
with me. This is where you belong,
while you belong anywhere.

(Incredibly, the above-pictured spider appeared in my bathroom, in a corner of the ceiling near the shower, in the midst of my posting these Clementine poems.)

Clementine: A Scare


When I came home from work one evening, Clementine was nowhere to be found.  But Boris hung in a corner of the shower insert.  He looked smug, and I immediately suspected him of foul play.  Fear and anger mixed as I both worried about Clementine and jumped to the conclusion that Boris was responsible for her disappearance.  As I said earlier, I didn’t like him from the start, and had no reason to trust him.  But something caused me to withhold the hand (and toilet tissue) of judgment and wait awhile to see if Clementine’s absence was temporary, and if I had misjudged.


What have you done
with Clementine?

Clementine Brings a Friend

Clementine 06

(Photo by Laura Baker)

One day I discovered that Clementine had brought a friend to my shower stall.  Slightly smaller but of the same species, he hung in a corner not farm from Clementine’s habitual hangout.  I called him Boris, partly because I didn’t like him.  The name Boris morphed on my tongue into “boorish.”  I felt unabashedly jealous of this usurper, this intruder upon what I had naively assumed was the exclusivity of my relationship with Clementine.  I wanted Boris gone, but needed to be polite for Clementine’s sake.  All this was tongue in cheek, of course, but made for fun imagining, and a poem, during a melancholy time.  Boris didn’t stay long.  Perhaps Clementine ate him.  That suited me.


So, Clementine—
you have brought a friend—
And you are . . .
(You’re rather small.)
Of course, you can
visit for awhile.
Is there anything I can get
you, Bo’-ris?
Curds and whey? Well,
I’ll certainly see what I can do.
Won’t you
make yourself comfortable,
(Um, Clementine . . . )

Clementine: Gone

Clementine 03

(Photo by Laura Baker)

My last poem Clementine: Return would have made more sense had I first posted the poem Clementine: Gone.  Oh, well: I goofed.  As I suggested in my last post, when Clementine disappeared, I felt an intensified loneliness.  My only companion was gone, who knew where.  I hoped she would return, even though I thought it unlikely.  Clementine’s departure felt permanent, and I could not trust in the possibility that she would return.  Now you may understand better the ebullient tone of the previous poem, welcoming her upon her return.


Spindly-legged spider—
I cannot see
where you have gone;
the corners are empty
in every room.

Clementine: Return

Clementine 02

(photograph by Laura Baker)

Clementine would disappear for days, and then reappear in the same or a different corner.  I could not see any web against the whiteness of the shower insert, but I knew a web must be there, for Clementine didn’t walk on the wall but seemed to walk in air close to the wall.  I wondered what she ate, for she was slow, spun no web to catch insects, and there were no insects (that I could see) for her to catch.  When she left I felt her absence, like after you say good-bye to a friend who has come to visit.  Her return always brought a strange sense of relief.


Welcome, Clementine!
I am glad
for your visit!
How I have hoped
you were well.
And here you are,
looking well!
Can you stay
You left without notice
(you know),
and equally came.
But I am glad
for your visit!
Please, stay
I am needing to go
to town this morning,
though. You’ll wait here
till I return?
Oh, good.
So glad
for your visit!

Hello Clementine

Clementine 01

(photograph by Laura Baker)

Some years ago, during a very dark time in my life, I lived alone in a small apartment.  In the bathroom the wallpaper border was peeling from the old paint, and mildew grew on the ceiling.  My clothes sat in neat piles on the floor inside a big duffle bag.  Parts of my life had crumbled despite my best efforts to hold everything together.  The weeks and months dragged on as I laid staring at the ceiling night after night, wondering how I had come to be here and where I was going.  I felt utterly alone.  But during the early weeks I discovered a quiet companion in a corner of the shower: a spider.  My Charlotte to her Wilber.  I called her Clementine.  I could have casually killed her to avoid her silky creepiness, for I don’t care for spiders.  Instead, in my loneliness, I greeted Clementine fondly each morning and evening, and missed her when she disappeared for a day or two.

This and the next five poems I post will chronicle my brief relationship with Clementine.


A spindly-legged spider
hovers upside-down
above me, in the corner—
I don’t know what she eats
in this tidy little shack;
it’s only the two of us—
she faces away, but
I know she is only pretending
to not watch me.
Part of me squeams
to squash her:
three squares of toilet tissue
would do. But,
she is quiet and harmless;
this is her shack, too.
And, it’s only the two of us.

(Unfortunately I never took a picture of the real Clementine.  My daughter, Laura, took this and subsequent spider photographs of garden spiders around our house.)