In the fall of 1984, my youngest child started school, and I wrote a volume of poetry. ‘Twas a major life passage for me. Intent on the pursuit of serious writing, I bought a ream of paper and a box of 9 X 12 envelopes and outfitted space on the narrow balcony of our little house in the woods. With an old electric typewriter from a friend, I settled in at my desk, a dressing table sans mirror, for the disciplined writing life. I knew enough to write about what I knew, and one product of those four months before my re-entry into the labor market was Spinning with the Spiders, poems about being a full-time mother and homemaker.
The title poem (below), first-written, has remained my favorite and was also well-received in open reading at a Tennessee Mountain Writer’s Conference years ago, seeming to have broad appeal on the basis of the futility of our efforts. That futility is the obvious theme of “Holy House,” (for the rest of the poems, click here) and its popularity amazed me. By audience request, I performed it several times at that same conference. During a session with a teacher of poetry at another workshop, however, “Holy House” was panned entirely, and I was admonished that inanimate objects cannot take on animate qualities, such as a rug being tired. That teacher seemed to be in no mood for light verse.
Spinning with the Spiders is definitely light verse, a glint in my eye and my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. Yet there is substance, I insist. At the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, I studied with Jane Mead and offered “Pristine Christine” as my poem for group critique. Teacher and participants fairly well dismissed it as insubstantial at first, but then asked me to say it again—and again—and again. The resulting discussion was rich with insight for me, and affirmation, too, complete with suggestions for improvement.
Anyway, the poems were fun to write and are fun, still, for me to hear. I’ve committed them to memory and enjoy reciting them while driving or waiting or—doing housework, of course!
Spinning with the Spiders
Spiders spin splendid webs at my house
and I am the cleaning lady
who doesn’t much like cleaning
but does it anyway,
when she can, when she must,
when the dust and spider webs
seem hazardous to health
and floors are gritty to the touch of naked soles;
and if a friend dropped in, especially Pristine Christine,
embarrassment would get me;
and it’s amazing how many spiders
there are in the world
and how many of them live at my house
and how speedy those spiders are,
and they spin and I spin my wheels
because I don’t much like cleaning;
but, on one special, gray morning
I swept the cobwebs from my eyes
and from my house
and the next day
the smirking spiders
had re-spun every one.
Copyright © 2010 Cristy C. Fossum. Create in Me Enterprises, 1215 Beaufort St., Columbia, South Carolina 29201. May not be reproduced or transmitted in any form whatsoever without prior written permission from the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.