“The Ritual,” “Setae” and “Elegy for Ernest”

Poetry by Taylor Mallay

“The Ritual,” “Setae” and “Elegy for Ernest”

The Ritual

Classic rock crackles around a half-lit room,

scent of sweat exhaled by thick cotton

work shirts, denim salted with cigarette breath.

The bar’s low lights shiver on the skin

of his black leather coat. I linger

on the small god tapping at his chest.

He smiles, as if he’s seen a door cracked

open just enough to slide through.

“Are you a believer?” But I’m not

here to speak; only to sip my drink slowly,

listen to the ice give way in the glass.

I shake my head, knowing any answer

will be caught by the teeth of that grin.

He knows, too – so he leans easily into me

to whisper, “That’s alright, honey.

I clocked you lost the moment you walked in.”

Setae

Bright shock of cool

ceramic on bare feet

brush nerves each night

I shudder from dream

to need; bladder tapping

the thin walls of my neural theater:

“Um, excuse me –”

my bed’s metallic squeak,

graceless footfalls folding

into the dark’s thick warmth.

White seat, sound of a

small stream, open window

but no breeze. In my tilted view,

under a corner drawer’s edge,

a common house spider

furiously kicks and falls back,

kicks and falls back,

toward and away from

this evening’s meal –

brown, spindly legs

turning, wrapping

threads of white web

around a body writhing.

Entranced, I scratch the skin

of my ankle – tiny, stiff hairs mark

a second day’s growth.

The spider stills,

tiny hairs on its legs

bristle.

Elegy for Ernest

A brown dotted body

with eight lean legs

hid behind a corner

of my old tea tin pencil holder,

like a toddler waiting

to be welcomed in

by a working mother.

No bigger than

the smallest pink eraser,

I watched his quick movements

as he flickered across

my morning station:

testing the edge

of a coffee-kissed hardcover,

stoic at a BIC cap’s peak,

seized by the sight of a bright

blue lamp, and finally,

basking in the heat offered

beneath its floral shade –

each point of exploration

connected by a thread

so lithe it leaned up

(even spiders need safety lines,

it seems). For a few days,

this cheap metal desk

was Antarctica to an

arachnid Shackleton,

who then returned

to the circle of light,

curled his little legs inward,

and fell asleep in the snow.

About the Author

Taylor Mallay

Taylor Mallay is a student who enjoys hiking and old movies.