Tent Worms

by Laura Lee Washburn

Bats droop from occasional branches,
large and brown-gray as mulched leaves.
An old woman's hair hangs scalped above;
she twisted down the drain
and came out a clog. Each web holds
a dead winged female and one hundred eggs.
In a story from The Book
of Stolen Images, the orphan boy
is nudged awake by the steady brown mare.
He rises in his white nightgown
and runs into the gloom startled
by the moon sliding behind white veils,
ice flaking down from the sky like lace.
What begins in pleasure, ends in fright.
No one ever misses him. The night
mare thunders and snorts, rears;
her eyes glow. He is trapped
in the bricked alley, the abattoir's
stink in the nearby trash. The brown
mare's nostrils flare. Her teeth,
her lips, the web of net — Oh God —
web shocks from her mouth and wraps
the terrified boy and he is gone.
Horse with the silk of spider in her throat,
her belly rises fat with boy for one moment only.
Desperate sacks hang from bare trees.
Winter's ever wind won't pull
them down. The fluttering moth
of spring grows in this cold that drives
its future self toward light. Inside,
tucked in our cozy beds, dreamy
and disturbed, we begin to wish
for the crush of sparkling ice, the glistening
storm of crack in night, broken branches
and the murdered eggs, or a story's end
where each peaceful boy is born again.

Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, an editorial board member of the Woodley Memorial Press, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Cavalier Literary Couture, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, Red Rock Review, and Valparaiso Review. Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has also lived and worked in Arizona and in Missouri. She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky.

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