William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

Hollow Hobo

I had just finished vacuuming the kitchen floor and was about to turn off the machine when I saw an enormous spider walking my way. I pressed the off button. The spider was beautiful, brown and hairy like a small tarantula, but of a much less stocky build. And even if it was not beautiful to my dull standards, I had no desire to end its life, especially in such a crude and cruel way. Wielding such power, sucking it up with a vacuum cleaner would have been no different than dropping a bomb on a village. Besides, I could see at a glance that it was not poisonous. In the dry, hot San Joaquin Valley, where I grew up, we frequently came upon black widow spiders and had to kill them, so dangerous and lightning-quick they were. This kitchen creature, by comparison, looked downright harmless, even friendly. Knowing it would be happier outside, I helped it into a small plastic jar we keep handy for such occasions and released it on the front step. Hardly breaking its stride, it smiled at me over its shoulder, then walked off toward the big rhododendron. I think it was a hobo spider. Its leg-span was, I would guess, between an inch and a half and two inches. Over the other shoulder, it carried a stick, at the end of which was tied into a poetic bundle a bright-red handkerchief full of its spider-belongings: comic books, I assumed, a pocket knife, and a peanut butter sandwich. This reminded me of my childhood, when the idea of being a hobo was so romantically attractive and appealing that I once tied a similar collection into my own red handkerchief, and hid it under my bed, where it would be ready for the time I set out. My mother found it before I left home. I waited then until I was eighteen, and drove away in a car for which I had paid nine hundred dollars of my own hard-earned money. Some hobo. Huck Finn would have laughed while lighting his pipe. I laughed too, but the laughter was hollow. Now when I laugh, it is with the knowledge that the homeless of this world number in the millions. What kind of laughter is that? Not hollow, perhaps. But cleansing, and necessary.

September 26, 2020


[ 883 ]

Categories: New Poems & Pieces

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,