On a cold, wet December day in 2008 I found a big, beautiful black widow in my kitchen. The red markings on the abdomen made identification frighteningly easy. My initial instinct was to kill it, but I’d recently been scolded by my 5-year-old godson for killing a spider. “You’re not nice to animals!” was what he’d yelled. I thought better of it and put the creature in a tupperware container, to be freed later. Normally I would release spiders into the garden behind by apartment, but that option was not open with such a poisonous specimen.
After two days of procrastination, and in the spider’s case, captivity, I realized the widow needed to eat, so I fed it a garden-variety spider common in Santa Cruz. As I watched the widow hunt, a place in my heart softened for the shiny creature. I bought a terrarium and decorated it with plants and flowers from the garden. I put the spider in and christened it Béla Bartók. Immediately I saw my error, as it was obviously a female, and renamed her Isabella Bartók.
Diary of a Black Widow, written in the spring and summer of 2010, seeks to chronicle Isabella’s private, inner life: her dreams, passions, fears - her despair. The poetry was written by Lauren Eggert-Crowe, specifically for this project. In this performance you hear Layna Chianakas, mezzo-soprano; Roy Malan, violin and Polly Malan, viola.
Sadly, in August of 2012, Isabella passed away while I was in Guatemala. All I found of her body was a solitary black leg. I can only assume that the crickets, meant to be prey, preyed on her after finding her old and weak. Heed this warning, fellow vampires.
Click here for a pdf of the score.