Arachnidæa: Line Drawings
Extravagance at dawn —
your finest threads are strung with pearls
and you, a brooch with a clasp.
Magnify the shiny spheres
to divine that each conceals
a miniature, an image
of struggling wings, of life undone.
Pass at the critical angle,
and they flash and snap in the sun.
These haunts are hung haphazardly
with votive offerings, each sucked dry;
paper maché sarcophagi,
cruel chrysalis for moth or butterfly.
Insecticide, the skill
in which you specialize.
Can we call it murder if nerves connect
not to brain but to canister, chain and gear,
if the dumb drive to survive directs
your every move? Or is it fear
that fuels your addiction to others’ pain,
a numbness spreading through the vein
as you rehearse, again, this ritual play ¾
bind and consume in your quick, kinetic way.
A stickler for particulars,
you’re helpless to repel
the pull of perpendicular
the lure of parallel.
Do lines and circles insulate?
Can order keep at bay
the random drafts that propagate
contagion, death, decay?
The cords are taut. You draw control
from patterns meant to thwart
unraveling, but the tension takes its toll
on the mental weft and warp.
A concert in the round!
Divertimenti scored for eight short hands
will be played by the maestro
for adoring fans.
The fine fretwork glistens.
The strings tune and go still.
Once in motion,
you dazzle in the parts for pizzicato,
leap with ease over fourths and fifths,
scuttle up scales to a dizzying height
then plummet, by octaves, to the sublime.
All are amused, for a time.
The circle is crossed by chords,
point to counterpoint,
illusions of balance, of words.
Listen to the last mournful strains
murmuring a requiem for the days.
The hours molt and fall away;
the year grows late.
Your web’s worn watch face ticks in whispers
and you pray that you will hibernate but briefly
and somehow wake.
As if by grace, the breaths of winter
fog the panes,
leave no trace
or even hate.
There are, in the end,
only the frayed strands of time,
the failing light
and you, splayed at the center,
condemned to wait.
Stephen Pollock received the Rolfe Humphries Poetry Prize in his senior year at Amherst College. His poem “Syringe” was shortlisted for the 2018 Live Canon International Poetry Prize and was performed as part of the awards ceremony at the Greenwich Theatre in London. Subsequently, his poem “song for us” appeared in the Poeming Pigeon, and his poem “Steel Refineries — Gary, 1954” was published in Ink to Paper.
Judge’s Comments – Lynn Otto
Thank you to all who submitted poems. Reading them while practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I felt connected to humanity in all corners of Oregon and beyond. I was surprised to see that the three poems that rose to the top of the stack for me all made use of patterns of rhyme and rhythm. “Arachnidæa: Line Drawings” (each section plays with rhyme and rhythm a different way), poem feels like a carefully made gift, not some fussy frou-frou thing, but the result of a real craftsperson’s sensitivity to language and high regard for the reader. The poem’s form suits its subject, a close observation. These poems’ images are strong and memorable; and each poem felt consistent in quality from beginning to end.