“The Difference Between String and Spring” by Z. Mueller

Z. Mueller


is less obvious between pine trees. You run
chin-first (like humans run) into a spider web.
The thing sneezes itself all over you. And on
the one hand, bless you and fuck that spider.
On the other, combing your face and neck
for invisible thread is the one moment today 
not spent obsessing over your father’s cancer,
how his absence will split you into pieces—
the pieces you were before the moment of birth—
his birth—before assuming this conditioned fear
of depth. Blame some inherent human reaction
for believing arachnids grotesque for spinning webs
that double as both home and funeral arrangement.
It’s like this fucked-up hatred of snakes people have
for being just body and mouth—unthinking, instinctual, 
and needy. And yet the serpent doesn’t seem so bad
in Genesis. He’s just there to give you options. You
see why Milton picked Satan as the Marlon Brando
of Paradise. And yet, the choices are confounded.
You’ve been having these nightmares of swimming
through endless pools of them—all shapes and sizes
and species—where they collectively swallow you
for assuming the dream is just practice for lying.
Maybe it’s because your dad got bit rescuing you
from a copperhead when you were little. Oh, no—
your mom says when you’re older—he deserved it.
He was poking at it with a stick. It was a baby.

from Rattle #44, Summer 2014


Z. Mueller: “A good poem breaks me. Then it mends me back together—more me and more otherwise. Milosz did that to me, writing about avocado. Most recently, poems by Wendy Xu, Sacha Fletcher. My MFA is from South Carolina. I teach creative writing at Franklin College in Indiana where I feel tiny and big, like those gummy animals that grow in the bathtub.” (web)

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