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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 8: June 2021
Prose Poem: 456 words [R]
By Claire Bateman

The Perforating Spider


To what degree we should fear her we can’t know, but we extol her labor which is eleventy-seven percent more exacting than that of her arthropod relatives since she has thirteen feet—if you look closely, you might glimpse the flickering of their stochastic puncture-patterns on the moving spider map of the universe known also as the interdimensional network of negative space.

Nor can we discern whether she achieved her position or it was primordially imposed on her—is she an angel, perhaps a lesser god?

We do know that these feet are named respectively 1 absence 2 anomaly 3 discontinuity 4 the specious present 5 ellipsis 6 antithesis 7 stealth 8 the fugue-state 9 the lost sea 10 the anti-tonic 11 the oblique gravitational force 12 polysemy 13 cipher. Note also her wing-buds, infolded, either prophecy or vestigial legacy of aerial predation.

Of course, she must be infinitesimal to cover so much territory all at once; thanks to her choreographic exploits, we don’t have to suffer a world devoid of gaps, fissures, micro-spaces in which to turn, then turn again.

Where would we be without the stutter in the testimony, the digital glitch, the snapped string in the middle measure as the dancers pause to reconsider their partner choice?

And consider the sun, our sole domestic hearth in the sidereal universe—without the perforating spider’s footwork there’d be no absence in its core for hydrogen atoms to flow into toward fusion, no coronal holes forming and reforming for solar particles to slip through.

Even more locally, consider hair—without her, each of our heads would be burdened by a single solid clump non-navigable by breeze or comb or reconnoitering fingers—no strands, no braids, no weaves, no waves, in just the same way as thought in the brain would seize, a frozen mass without interstices for passage and transformation.

Prior to her: that ur-time when music constituted one indigestible monster entity. Then in she stepped, and up sprang the rests, the intervals, so each note could recognize itself as itself, discrete.

Thus we count on her for hesitation, indecision, the lapse where intention slackens and the soul quakes because eventually, everything that can happen will happen, though not necessarily to you.

Were we to beg her for advice on how to bear the sensation of existence (so massive and bursting, so delicate and light), if she cared to reply (which she decidedly would not), she’d advise us in her arcane alphabet comprised of nothing but holes—like a kind of inverse Braille—to move even deeper into the configuring darkness, the constellary wound where it’s always indigo o’clock, history o’clock, collapse o’clock. If we didn’t live here, we’d undoubtedly long for it.

—From the author’s forthcoming collection, Wonders of the Invisible World

Publisher’s Note:

The poet read a slightly different version of this poem on 22 April 2021 for Poetry Goes Viral with Kimberly Simms, sponsored by Carolina Poets; Kimberly’s intro for Claire begins at 40:50 in the YouTube video of the reading.

Claire Bateman
Issue 8, June 2021

is the author of Wonders of the Invisible World (forthcoming from 42 Miles Press) and eight other poetry collections, including most recently, Scape (New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2016) and Locals: A Collection of Prose Poems (Serving House Books, 2012). She has been awarded fellowships from the NEA and the Tennessee Arts Commission, and has received the New Millennium Writing Award (twice) and two Pushcart Prizes. She has taught at the Greenville Fine Arts Center, Clemson University, and various conferences, including Bread Loaf and the Bloch Island Poetry Festival.

Author’s blog: Claire Bateman New Art and Writing

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