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Original artwork by Caspian Samuel

What Do Spiders Dream About?

Shannon Frost Greenstein

“We report evidence for an REM sleep–like state in a terrestrial invertebrate: periodic bouts of retinal movements coupled with limb twitching behaviors during nocturnal resting in a jumping spider. Eye movement patterns are hypothesized…to link to the visual experience of dreaming.*


Science has now informed us

that spiders are capable of dreaming.

Science has spent its grant money

watching baby spiderlings sleep.


to sleep/a respite from the unrelenting compulsion to hunt/to build/to nourish/to multiply/a blissful miasma of nothingness/a tabula rasa upon which the imagination will sketch/to dream/a gift/a luxury no longer reserved for vertebrates/apparently/and Aristotle said animals have souls.


Let’s just take a minute

to fully examine this discovery.

Let’s pause all the scientific celebration

to really discuss all the terror.


jumping spiders/E. arcuata Salticidae/the most heinous of the arachnids/because of all the jumping/hanging upside down on the slightest/and strongest/of silken threads/sleeping the sleep of the predator/brain slipping into that universal mystery known as REM sleep/and actually fucking dreaming about whatever it is spiders dream about.


Join me, arachnophobes,

in condemning these scientists in perpetuity.

Because I was so much happier

before I knew this.


what do spiders dream about/succulent flies/the perfect web/early-morning summer breezes drifting over an exoskeleton dotted with dew/sex/a kaleidoscope of snowflakes as seen through spider eyes/and eyes/and eyes/the overwhelming love of holding one’s newborn/spider revolution


And now I can’t help

but wonder late at night

if spiders ever have lucid dreams

and what the hell that might look like.


because what does a spider desire/when it is given the power/to be anything it wants to be/to fly/to fuck/to see the world/what does a spider do/in the depths of unconsciousness/escaping its evolutionary boundaries/and the laws of nature/to do absolutely anything at all?


* Robler, Daniela C. “Regularly Occurring Bouts of Retinal Movements Suggest an REM Sleep-like State in Jumping Spiders.” Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, vol. 119, no. 33, August 2022.