Three Poems

By: Brittany Helmick

Elegy with Anything that Wears its Offspring Like an Ornamental Shawl

Wolf spider, it wasn’t that

I didn’t expect you. It was that

I didn’t expect you then, in the dim

basement as I bent over the dryer

to retrieve the laundry, hot static

webbing it to my hands. I thought

perhaps you had fluttered down from

nowhere like some sort of lost moth.

But I could find no silk web blown

accidentally toward me. Just your dissatisfaction

about being ignored. How long were you

hiding in this light? You had to know

what was coming. I smashed you,

watched your legs curl into your body,

the wood on a pencil as it’s shaved

into itself, a ribbon being dragged

between blade and thumb.

When I pulled my hand away,

your babies scrambled off your back

like smart little crickets under the whites of my eyes.

I’ve heard for every spider a person sees

there’s at least a dozen more, unseen.

The odds of finding them a million

to one. Could I have made room

for us both? I know I shouldn’t have

killed you. But I can’t trust anything

that wears its offspring like an ornamental shawl.

You should understand more than anyone I was afraid

that if I stayed backed into this corner tight enough,

it would start to feel like a hug. If I had to keep track

of every spider I’ve ever killed, I’d wear their bodies

like a rosary. My fingers running over each one,

in prayer.

The Sky This Morning and the Mountain Below

Snow leans against

the mountain just beyond the valley.

My mother sits, watches

from her window.

It’s a slow surprise,

she says to no one, how godlike

the mountain looks morning

after morning. How it still                                                     

appears the same. Sometimes

at night, we forget the sun

is rising elsewhere, but now,

in the match-strike

between yellow, pink, and orange

she is ablaze again. What if

grief is a woman

wearing a snow-capped mountain

around her neck?  

What if what I thought

about my mother

is actually what I thought

about myself?

What if my mother is

a marmalade god, and I

made myself the mountain below.

White Kitten as a True Dichotomy

After Jericho Brown’s Duplex

The opposite of love is indifference.
The only gift my mother gave me was a white toy kitten.

             I was six when I unwrapped it in the kitchen,
             pressed its body against my ear, until its sounds softened

to a quiet cry. Over time, sounds softened to a quiet cry;
My first words were mom and goodbye.

             Dear kitten, what if I never said goodbye?
             What if I never left you to yellow in my closet?

Nothing can grow in darkness. Though we imagine
there’s a change from white to yellow to black.

             Mom used to keep our windows covered in black
             garbage bags. I never had the nerve to ask why.

If I have loved, it’s because I, too, have covered my eyes.
The opposite of love is indifference.

Brittany Helmick (she/her) grew up in the high desert of the Pacific Northwest. She was a finalist for the Sustainable Arts Foundation’s Promise Award in 2019. Her work has appeared in Manastash, Akron Life Magazine, The Journal of American Language, Project Muse, Empty Mirror, and Rubbertop Review. She is still fascinated by humidity and all its many tricks.