The Human Genre Project

Logan Square East, Philadelphia PA

A noiseless, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated...

— Walt Whitman, “A Noiseless Patient Spider”

Mother sleeps, wilting in her Gerry chair,
the corners of her mouth cradling oatmeal

I’d fed her earlier. A lifetime ago
she told me she’d been a tomboy.

This stranger, once that girl, once
my father's bride, wakes, whimpers,

grimaces. Her hands grip the wheelchair,
eyes squint shut, head bows. She prays

to a god I still don't know. I search
her lined face for signs of pain, touch

places on her body believing she’ll wince
if I hit upon a hurt. She’s still. I’m sad

not to know what she feels, thinks, would
say, if only the phantom spinner hadn’t

seized her, squeezing out the last trace
of speech weeks ago. Now,

only a vacant stare & a patient
noiseless spider eyeing its next victim.

Ruth Sabath Rosenthal