Thoughts about poetic form.
In my last two essays I talked about what form — rhyme and meter — can do for a poem. This poem shows what form — in the shape of a web — can do for a hungry spider.
The Orb Weaver
In the pre-dream of creation — dingo
savanna, crab surf, serpent arroyo —
I was assigned thicket and air.
Whitetail taught to flee dissent,
coyote to collapse on her prey,
right whale to mouth his meadow’s krill,
my trick, to make one thing repeatedly.
Out of this orifice unheard-of muscles
press a cable mile, eight hands pay out
in junctions that I simply know.
I steeplejack an undulant array’s,
a billowing acre’s rungs and radials.
From the host of brother structures in genetic gel,
my radical dance deduces one recalling
by moon the tenor of rails, by noon’s blue hole
the 20/20 of a clean kill.
As language was given to man that he may have
dominion yet again, my web
like metaphor its hold makes good on air.
compass rose of indirection,
proof of an occult geometer,
dread nought, round hosanna,
shout of spacial glee.
After the Maker’s heart
I put the merest gloze on air.
Having sutured nothing — nothing
nearly nothing still — I frame
a reference for the flying folk.
Lighthousekeeperlike, I tend
this hazard feet above the forest floor.
Each few days, the lattice rent
and apparent with dew, I eat it and renew
(word made flesh, made fresh) its invisibility.
My hands take hold of certain strands,
I settle to see what comes my way:
arielles and tinkerbelles,
a butterfly under double flags of truce,
manic mosquitoes, a hoplite bee,
a Mack truck Luna hit the silk.
What happens next, whether to tiny tocsins
or large beats of alarum to come on the run,
whether to spring, fang, decant
is left, I believe, entirely to me.
I see a watchworks, socketed and sprung,
and I say “jeweled movement, motionless.”
Immune to vertigo, I say “excused from gravity.”
I see my causeways littered with body bags
and I say “Form is hunger, hunger form.”
From The Hundred Fathom Curve: New and Collected Poems
(John Barr, Red Hen Press, 2018)