Yesterday afternoon, I watched through the kitchen window as a spider tried to move into a web that was already occupied. The rude visitor was slightly larger, but the two looked almost identical and might well have been from the same spring hatch. There was a steady breeze. Sunlight shone on the web, highlighting flecks of autumn debris. Both spiders paused in their encounter when they were disturbed by the sudden arrival of a yellow birch leaf that was too heavy for the web to hold. There was a multi-legged scuffle, followed by a simultaneous retreat. A minute later there was another encounter, a temporary loss of footing, and errant strands of silk. Then there was another retreat. A couple of hours later, I viewed the situation from outside. The original builder was at the center of the web. The intruder was about two feet away — or it might have been two miles — watching, or resting, or sleeping, or thinking, or simply warming itself on the rain gutter. This time of year there are webs all over the yard, from tree to tree, from bush to eave, from flower to flower, from memory to memory, from dream to dream. Every time I go out, I walk into them. Sometimes I comb spiders from my hair and beard into the bathroom sink and have to take them back outside. Sometimes I shake out memories. These I keep. Five years ago today, my mother died. There were webs then, too.
I Can Imagine
I can imagine waking up one morning
to find I have become older than my mother,
and I can imagine her not noticing.
I can imagine her admiring my cane
without wondering at the need.
I can imagine her looking out the window
at the street and waiting for my return,
even though I stand beside her, waiting for hers.
I can imagine her in a lush green meadow
eating bowls of cereal with butterflies in her hair.
I can imagine her memories waiting at the door,
hoping this day she will let them in.
I can imagine them dying of hunger and neglect
amid a pile of brittle leaves, and a curious cat
sniffing at their pungent remains.
I can imagine an ancient tree where there once
was none, and I can imagine words
of a forgotten language carved into its bark.
I can imagine reading them, and I can imagine
being the only person who knows what they mean.
I can imagine the familiar hand that held the knife
that echoed the spirit that inspired the breath that
warmed the lips that uttered the sound that spoke
the joy that moved the heart to direct the hand
to press harder, harder, harder. . . .
Songs and Letters, May 30, 2006
The Painting of You, Author’s Press Series, 2009