Collecting at home was never like this. Here,
wrapped among branches of old and massive oaks
in southern Texas, these tangled walk-in webs,
iridescent in the autumn sun, spun silk the scent
of dangling death—flies, mosquitoes, midges,
hold molted treasures of 64 different species
of spiders belonging to 12 genera. At this point,
there is no protocol for the enthusiast mostly
gathering ghostly, eight-legged exoskeletons
from the diversity dwelling within this swelling
of communal strands; my preference is to use my hands.
I love the contact and the fact that all these arachnids
in one place presents a mystery. I know none of the molt
owners intimately, like I do those who shed their past
lives in my house or yard or even in my presence.

The Pholcids, for instance, those small-bodied, long,
leggy cellar spiders who hang in cobwebbed corners,
when juveniles, require sensitivity to their needs
after each instar stage expires, hormones
triggering hours or days of wriggling free
their very beings from structures they’ve outgrown,
bad organic fits cast off as foreign. Yet still,
the drying, clear creatures remain gently touching
those smaller, lifeless versions of themselves,
foot or palp or fang connected to the familiar,
like children holding security blankets
for days. I always wait to acquire their sheds.
It’s not really a hobby, but for the love of spiders
that I desire to collect remnants of those little lives
with whom I share the web of space I call my home.

About the Author:
Yvette A. Schnoeker-Shorb’s poetry has appeared in A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Spectrum, Pedestal Magazine, Wilderness House Literary Review, Evening Street Review, Midwest Quarterly, Jelly Bucket, Red River Review,, Concho River Review, and many other journals. She holds an interdisciplinary MA from Prescott College and is co-founder of Native West Press--a 501(c)(3) nonprofit natural history press.