Amanda Barnett

Orb Weaver

In the quarantine of summer 2020, my children and I adopted an orb weaver spider outside our living room window. She had a beautiful, bubble-like brown and yellow body, painted with an almost-tribal pattern. Her legs were hairy, speckled brown and gold. The children and I fed her the flies that circled endlessly throughout our rooms in the dry heat. Her web was perfectly symmetrical.

This spider really loved a fresh kill, insects that were caught rather than placed in the web. I realized that she actually desired an insect who had become ensnared in the web alive and by chance. She wanted to feel the trapped little tug on her web. She began leaving our donations hanging on the sides of her silk. I verified that spiders eat very rarely. We were overdoing it.

Our family was trapped inside, alone, without contact. I stared at the web and worried when she left portions dangling and unfixed. When she was younger, she had re-sewn them. Why would she leave her home unkempt?

One day she hung back in the corner of her web. We couldn’t coax her out. How does one know if a spider is despondent? All of our flies were left to dry in the thread. She began spinning and spinning a gummy, sloppy little ball in the corner of a window. Eggs! I thought cheerily. Surely life could improve if we adopted orb spider babies.

I placed my fingers on the glass each day, angling for a view of the egg sack. Like a representation of our impotent summer, the ball hung in dirty uselessness. The orb weaver spider had moved away.

Amanda Barnett is a writer, visual artist, and mother based in San Francisco. She is also an adjunct writing professor at University of Maryland Global Campus. Her poems have been featured in Plants & Poetry, Scapegoat Review, and Wild Roof. She is a graduate of the MFA program at George Mason University.