Clarinda Harriss

Black Widow

Too afraid to try the glass-jar capture
I squashed it against the baseboard.

When my mother arrived at the mortuary they asked
if I wanted to see her. They warned me she’d squashed
her face against the headboard. I was afraid.

Its elegant legs were crumpled
to a black tangle. A dirty rag.

Black as ever, rags of tangled hair
half hid her lovely face.

I told it I was sorry. Out loud.

She used to say “Sorry doesn’t help.”

Once I was bitten by a poison spider.
My foot grew a purple sock.

She never hit me but sometimes
she’d pinch my arm purple.

I still think spiders are the jewelry
of the animal world.

I cut my teeth on all 14 carats
of her gold bracelet.

It took me two days to get up nerve
to scoop up the corpse in toilet paper.

I held her head over the toilet
As she retched.
Her skull felt tiny in my hands.

It crunched. Sickened I threw it
in the toilet and watched
it disappear down the drain.

Her keepers at the hospital said
her body in a corner of her crib was so tiny
they thought she’d disappeared.

A thousand eggs hide in my house.

Rag and leg-bone, I’m her egg.


The Boy in the Bovril Ad

I’d like to beat him up
I’d like to kill him
My children said back
when they were children
about the boy in the Bovril ad
I bought in a vintage shop
and framed in a bright red frame
to pick up the apples in his cheeks
and hung in the kitchen

Was it his huge blond head
his so-pleased-with-himself smile
the chest/belly he thrust out
(hands on hips in the classic
What A Big Boy Am I pose)
his little jumper
his teenytiny t-strap sandals?

l hate him too
come to think of it
little smirking Brit

but he looks good hanging
in the kitchen plus some
fifty years later
I think back to my children’s
passionate disgust
and start laughing
all over again
then I remember that
the real reason
we hated the Bovril boy
was he reminded us
of a real kid on the block
who tattled on everybody
and I feel a little bit bad
and I start laughing again
and wonder

what the Bovril boy
(little bratty tattling bastard)
says about my mothering

© Clarinda Harriss

Clarinda Harriss is a professor emerita of English at Towson University, She continues to serve as corporate president and editor-in-chief of BrickHouse Books, Inc., MD’s oldest literary press; to work with prison writers; to give free workshops at various venues; to boast two children and 5 grown-up grandchildren.  Her most recent poetry collection is Innumerable Moons, with illustrations by Peter Bruun; its theme is her recent 6 years of being the loving caretaker of an Alzheimer’s sufferer.

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