Monday, September 5, 2011

Tuesday Poem: When Spiders Come in From the Cold, by Kathleen England

It's not that I hadn't seen you: darting
under Orion, spiraling up book spines;

dodging vacuum and duster; scrambling
across ivories, like a kitten; climbing

on the mantel for a peek into the mirror
to check the condition of your spinneret;

then reel down to explore the fireplace
and play hide-and-seek in the kindling.

I must say, I was amazed one morning
to discover that you had set up house-

keeping, weaving an elaborate network
around-and-around in-and-out, putting

all you had on sentinel rabbit ears
atop our television set. Charlotte

was never half as clever, nor as lovely
as you, your emerald and ebony striations

gleaming in light filtering through
an eastern picture window -- eight

twiggy legs, almost as long as Daddy's.
With your green and black striped Pippi

tights you could be the pride of spider
follies. Tres chic, critics would cry.

Alas, a homestead was too soon abandoned!
Not because we tangled. In fact, I became

accustomed to your tacky ways. Perhaps you
didn't like the reception, weird vibrations

from channel eleven. Was it the news
or Spider Man cartoons that upset you?

No doubt you didn't realize that talk shows
and sit-coms can draw flies. No sad fare-

wells though you have found new digs
and I'll miss you on the air. I've noticed

a webby settlement with quilty eggs sacks on
the back of my piano. Soon spiderlings will

hatch without rude noises to abuse their
tiny ears. (Or is it tympanic membranes?

I'm a poet, not an arachnologist, so please do
excuse me, dear.) Lines threaded through, stuck

to spruce sounding board spines -- no bad vibes
here. These strings have not been struck in years.


(Spiders "hear" with slit-organs and trichobothria; both are on the legs.)


Kathleen Juday England
was born in Oroville, Washington, June, 3, 1923 in an unfinished, non-plumbed, non-electrified shelter being built from a hay shed standing on five acres of alfalfa field purchased by her father who had just moved his family from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to bring religion to the Okanogan Valley.

Educated at Eastern Washington College of Education and the University of Washington in the 1940's, Kathleen held Bachelor's degrees in English and Education/Journalism, as well as a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing.

Although, sadly, no collections of her work exist in book-length form, her publishing history in magazines and newspapers spans decades.

Kathleen and her late husband Rollo England raised their three children in Seattle, and I've had the pleasure of knowing the England family for going on thirty years. Now, at the age of 88, she suffers from advanced Parkinson's disease.

I've long admired Kathleen's precise language coupled with her never-ceasing sense of play. And listening to her read her work was always to step back into the history of Eastern Washington State, each piece rendered with authenticity and a clear passion for the written word.

Her daughter -- my long-time friend Karen -- came to dinner last Friday, and brought along two of her mother's poems. We sat on my deck, sated with blackberry cobbler and blackberry ice cream, a bottle of Vinho Verde emptied. I read each piece aloud in the late summer night. My only complaint is that two poems weren't enough! Nonetheless, the evening was a gift, and I count myself lucky to have friends that come to dinner bearing poems.


  1. This poem is a lovely tender thing. The humanbeing woven into nature. It reminds me of Hayden Carruth's wonderful poem about a rat on Tuesday Poem a few months back:
    The tenderness of the poem turns for me on the word 'dear' which lights up both the narrator and the spider. How lucky you are indeed to have a friend arrive bearing poems. I think I might consider that as a thing to do when I go to dinner from now on...

  2. What a lovely poem and I hate spiders. I think I need to find a friend who bring poems to dinner, sounds lovely.

  3. What a delightful poem! I am particularly enthralled by virtue of the fact that, by another example of the web's synchronicity I also posted a poem on spiders yesterday. Wish I could say as good as this one!

  4. I really liked the poem -- and I can imagine that hearing it aloud would be a wondrous thing -- there is so much sound to it, to me.

  5. wonderful ...
    observation become art.

  6. A mutually satisfying friendship, for I am sure she is as happy to have someone to whom she can bring poems as you are happy to receive them. And what an open-minded, affectionate view of the would not be my take. There is always much to learn. xo