October

Jacob Eigen

When he was a spider
exuding thread between rocks,
he considered his earlier life as a man
and recalled with objective curiosity the belief

that pleasure, true pleasure, constituted
achievement. “Yes,” he told the fly as he bound it —
“I remember lying in bed in Queens
and watching snow accumulate on the windowsill,

when I didn’t know what I was
or what to kill to be happy.
I’d bike down Northern Boulevard
to the Thai place, thinking of the nights I’d spent

on a woman’s couch. The way we’d talk
about nothing — the foreign exchange student
in her middle school, or the watch
I’d look at in the department store

while my mother tried things on.”
“That was your problem,” said the fly
which looked fearless and elegant now,
no longer even beating its wings.

“You and your whole species.
You tasted the stuff you called
love, and then other draughts
seemed thin and bitter. Better

to do without.” And its eyes glinted
as it extended its palpus
to suck in the toxins that would dissolve it
into bones and fluids overnight.

Jacob Eigen is a poet and fiction writer. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Salmagundi, The Iowa Review, and The New Republic.
Originally published:
September 1, 2020

Featured

Books

Life in the Algorithm

It has reshaped culture—but how? Two new books reckon with our digital predicament.
Anna Shechtman

The Night Watch

I first sought sanctuary during the Troubles. I'm still looking for it.
Darran Anderson

Why I Write

The legendary cultural critic on finding a life’s work
Greil Marcus

Subscribe

New perspectives, enduring writing. Join a conversation 200 years in the making. Subscribe to our print journal and receive four beautiful issues per year.
Subscribe