Shin Yu Pai

Watching My Father Crush a Black Widow
on My Last Day in California


when the laborer
fell through on finishing
the job, my father

left the trunk
to dry on the front
lawn, eighty pounds

of amputated wood
to hack away at
slowly – when I

see him walk
outside, machete
in one hand &

log in the other
I follow, sensing
there will be violence –

maybe a dismembered
finger, or wood
chip to the eye –

he orders me to
heap sticks &
leaves in the yard

waste receptacle
where I discover
the black widow

upside down,
a red hourglass

her abdomen,
the insect we were
all conditioned

to fear, as children,
a mature specimen
in webbed suspension

is hard to ignore
but I do, piling
wood around her

habitat; my father
tells me to kill it
with a stick &

when I keep stacking
saying silent mantras
to will the widow away,

he breaks a bough &
stabs until he’s pinned her
to the plastic wall

I watched how
she never fought
back & then I

covered her body
beneath a mountain
of dead branches;

around us, life
grows wild – algae
blooms in the swimming pool

weeds sprout
through concrete,
mold colonizes a roof

dried lilies in the sunburnt
koi pond, gophers tearing
up the lawn that

my father cuts back
with the rusted mower
blades dulled by

sticks & wood
he intends to bury
beneath the ground

once all life has
drained away
beyond any

possibility of
regeneration –
I think of

the stump that
is my older brother,
the mother that

escaped w/ her life,
the girl that grew up
dreading spiders

learning that
either we kill
or be killed