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Poetry and Medicine |

The Spider

Thomas Dorsett, MD, MPH
JAMA. 2013;309(19):1969. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.214091.
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Published online


The harvestman's diminutive brain
contained in a quarter-inch body
easily moves eight Irishman
eyelashes rapidly upleaf or down,
or as now, perfectly still,
spread like the spokes of a leprechaun's fan—
The neurons inside a squirrel
do not add up to 100 billion
and probably equal the few million stars
in a dwarf galaxy, yet are,
shall we say, spectacularly adequate—
While waiting for ants in a shoe
the six eyes of a recluse spider
do not cause synapses behind
to constitute a jealous mind;
he bites a two-eyed creature's foot
in defense and not from spite
because the black widow has eight.
Our brains feel so precarious
they somehow envy flies'—
Have you ever met a ladybug who cares
whether her extended wings
are caught by a draft or a web?
If so, you have a child's mind.
No tarantula fears being buried
alive with a pepsis wasp's larva
–Yet, like him, I have gone
perfectly beyond despair;
my cancerous, his paralyzed body
at peace, despite being eaten alive.


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