Weaving the Web
by Page Lambert
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"
~ Mary Oliver ~
You see the cracked earth, the hills of empty dreams, my broken life, the wounded husband. You think the story I'm about to tell is mine. That I own it. But I don't. It belongs to K.D. Lang crooning "Black Coffee" on the heels of Brenda Lee, to the courtesans lying on the backs of silken pillows, their tears like purple beaded tassels. It belongs to all the women, dear friend, who have ever wanted what we want. It's a story about the ache, the well that never fills, the dam so full that its breach is like the breaking of birthing fluids.
It's about all the secrets we never wanted to keep. About all the secrets our grandmothers thought they must keep. About the first orgasm they never had, the one that came crawling up their throats until they choked it down, afraid its passion would lead them into the frozen belly of the storm.
We've seen the storm swirling inside each other, dear friend, seen its dark, icy center chilling all that was wild, all that was female. Like red blood gone black, like the inside of Pelé, like the bruised color of our husbands' hearts. Bloody and messy, like our guilt over leaving, our guilt over staying. Like the wounded cries of our ancestors rising from our own trembling throats, slippery as the shifting sand beneath our unsure feet.
If we had been our grandmothers, we would not have left husbands so wounded on the battlefield, would have settled for muted love, would not have left the morning's chores untended, stripped the drapes from our windows, laid down our naked bodies and basked in the sunlight, faced the transparencies of our own lives, would not have stepped barefoot onto that beam of light and ventured out into the wild woods where danger curls like autumn leaves.
Like the blackest coffee craves the sweet cream, that's how much I crave myself. Spider weaves a thousand webs so that I might snag the succulent, pulsing truth of myself. Coyote makes me laugh. Truth draws me like a moth to the flame, lets me hang in the sticky silk of my own fear, cracks my tame world wide open, lets rawness pour in. I long to be the goddess who slakes her thirst with the lust of her own desire, to be the mythic heroine of my own ancient, ancestral folktale. I lie down, close my eyes, drift into a world where I can pretend that I am more than flesh working its way toward dust.
"But you are much more," Spider tells me, laughing. Simple-minded Coyote looks on, head cocked, tongue hanging. "But don't get big-headed about it." She lifts one of her eight barbed legs, purses her lips, then lifts her left pedipalp to her mouth. Coyote recognizes the tongue-in-cheek gesture but his dim wit doesn't catch her wryness.
"For to be more only means to be more than the mud where the turtle sleeps, which isn't so great, after all - no greater than the rock tossed away by the sun, or the piss of the oldest elephant, or the stagnant air beneath the lazy wing of the barn owl. There's no need to get lofty."
Coyote laughs as if he understands her riddles. She silences him with a beady glare. Cobwebs fall from her brown velvet belly. "Silly woman," she says, pointing four claws at me, balancing on her remaining legs. "You have never had enough fire in your belly."
I sit up. My feet are cold.
"No matter how much wood your husband chops, no matter how many logs you stuff into the stove, it is never enough, eh?"
She is right. I am always cold.
"You try to ignite your passion with dead oak, when what you need is to take the axe from your husband's hand and cleave the wedge of silence between you."
I stand up. I don't like what she is implying. Coyote nips at the fleas swimming in his belly hairs. Spider points at me. "Sit down," she says.
"You will never be more fire than you are water. Not until the stars suck you back into their jowls and spit you out again. Only then will you come back with fire in your belly."
I start to cry. I want to be held. I want to commit some outrageous act and not feel guilty. Spider shakes her head. "With you humans, it's all about sex. Sex and guilt."
Coyote laughs. He thinks of a slow gentle rain. A female rain. "Slow in coming," he quips, laughing at his own joke. At the same time, he tries to scratch a flea that has jumped inside his ear. With one hind foot behind his head, he loses his balance and tips over backwards.
Spider tries to hide her laughter. She lifts all eight legs to cover her mouth and suddenly finds herself belly-down in the dirt, but regains her composure so quickly that Coyote doesn't notice.
"It is true," she says, unraveling her riddle with more riddles. "You women are made of the mud in which the turtle sleeps, but why do you think she chose it for her bed? You are the rock the sun tossed away, but think how far you've traveled? You are the piss of the oldest elephant, but you shelter your daughter's daughter in the shade of your mother's bones. You turn up your nose at the stagnant air beneath the barn owl's wing, not realizing it is your breath which gives him flight."
I hear church bells ringing. I know nothing of church bells. I only imagine them in my dreams. But the church bells keep ringing and soon my head is clamoring with noise. Spider reaches a leg toward me and with one claw-like finger, touches my forehead. The ringing ceases.
"I am weary," she says, "and Coyote here needs a good roll in the dust. And you," she points," you need another incarnation in which to untangle the mystery of the life you think you have broken."
She yawns and turns away, then disappears into a beam of sunlight, trailing a thin silken strand behind her, and in the silence of the tale's end I hear the echo of my grandmother's voice Rise up from the cracked earth, live the life I never dared. And then Coyote stretches out his front paws and arches his back, lifting his haunches and giving his tail a half-crank. He straightens his spine and rises, steps toward the light, finds the strand of silk and winds it around his tongue like cotton candy. "The world is sweet," he says, "but you must let the planet spin if you want to taste its honey."
And then he, too, is gone and we are left with our secrets, left to waken to the hills empty of dreams, the wounded husbands, the belly of the storm where our wild and precious lives wait.
Copyright Page Lambert 2008
Causes Page Lambert Supports
Children and Nature Network
American Indian College Fund
The Quivira Coalition
Center for Whole Communities
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