by Laura Lee Washburn
I. 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. II. 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. III. 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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