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Social Anxiety Disorder, a poem by Matthew Early

Social Anxiety Disorder
by Matthew Early

I never acknowledge it:
The tarantula that nests in people’s mouths.
Hopping from host to host,
its hair matted from heavy exhales,
pincers and legs jutting out to chins,
with weight crushing tongues
long given up on.
I am always too much a stranger, and victims—
coworkers, classmates or cousins too far removed—
aren’t ever eager to share.
I just cannot but I do know

how every sundown the spider clacks
the ivory of canines,
announcing ritual with a song
they think only they can hear.
It feeds venom to throats during descents
to sleep in stomachs,
overdosing innards and cocooning them for later.
I never call to check up.

Some mornings I see them pale and sickly
from trying all night
to drown it with Jack.
Their breathing is always strained
from the webbing covering their windpipes.
The spider marionettes
mouths to smile with silk,
but people will always run
from fangs and too many eyes.

I just cannot bring myself to comfort them,
because the spider has already stitched tight my lips.

Matthew Early is a poet originally from Columbus, Ohio, currently residing in Indianapolis. He holds a B.A. from Muskingum University and is currently pursuing his MFA in creative writing at Butler University. He is the recipient of the 2018 Beulah Brooks Brown Award in Poetry. His work has also been featured on The Academy of American Poets online website, His work has been published in Echo, and First Circle, and he has placed in several collegiate literary competitions.