Blair N Donohue

            The female velvet spider enjoys a lifespan of five years,
during which she creeps and weaves and idles and bites and
thinks about things you and I have yet to consider. We do not
know if the female velvet spider gets lonely, but we do know
that she passes her life in relative solitude, sitting alone in her
web in the ground in the desert, with not so much as a raincloud
for company.
            In June of her fifth and final year, she births a sack of
pulsing eggs which bursts into a swarm of very hungry
spiderlings. These are her children. Her thousand long-legged,
conspiring children. When the spiderlings call out for food, the
female velvet spider coughs up her own intestines. Offers her
heart, her left lung, her right lung, both kidneys, her liver. She
started the process of self-digestion the moment she conceived,
and by this point, her insides are mostly spidermush.
            We call this process matriphagy—the feasting of the
hatchling on the hatcher, and the female velvet spider never
once complains. There is so much that the mother does for her
child—births him, feeds him, forgives him, prays for him—
even as he deserts her, shrugs her away, asks her for money,
breaks her favorite vase, forgets her birthday, refuses to say I
love you at the end of their phone calls, and goes back on his
promise to visit her in the hospital because, strong and clever
and good as he thought he was, he cannot bear to see his frail
and drooling ghost of a mother.


Blair Donohue is a freshman anthropology major. She is also a licensed midwife and has helped with the delivery of over 150 babies.