You’re dead today I learned before the meeting at noon
where I watched a white spider travel from the room to the hall
spitting and stringing a new home the janitor
will tear down when he returns from lunch
for it’s a clean church that does much good
and will always slaughter the spiders and they will still come.
My seat—it was a pew—was soft and provided
me a place to watch the spider work away.
I swear he never stopped to take a sip
from the shiny, clean fountain waiting below,
was never tempted to turn from learning to sew
and try to escape a relentless, soundless fear.
His head will never be seized by the despair
that could make a slight girl fall into my old arms
as we stood in the middle of a similar big room.
I had learned not long before that day
there was no talking any of us from wanting to dive
off the highest point, much higher than the spider worked,
and you slowly stopped crying and thanked me, smiling nervously.
Over the few months left you would poke my ample belly
and tell me I should lose that gut
because you wanted me to stick around
for the next time you needed an old guy to hold you up.
I’d like you to know I stayed, gone child, though some days
I too want to turn and walk into the dark
toward that tower but I know it’s an illusion,
there is no point so high we forget we are alive.
John Riley has published poetry in Mojave River Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Connotation Press, Dead Mule, Better Than Starbucks and many other journals and anthologies. He works in educational publishing part-time and is a full-time nanny to his beautiful granddaughter Byl.