A spider has woven a web in the space between the open kitchen window and the screen that we have yet to take down for winter. Fall in upstate New York. The evenings are frosty.
It is a good place for a web, I think. Insects attracted to the warm light streaming from above the kitchen table, the smells of the oven, the low hum of voices and laughter. The October breeze blows cool, bends the sticky string to and fro.
“She needs a name,” I say on our fifth evening with the spider.
I am thinking of a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye.
In the poem, a spider takes up residence on the front porch of her family home. They name her Rose and live alongside her and her web which she has constructed between the “Don Juan’s rosebush and the Queen Crown’s vine.”
One evening, a storm blows hard, and the next day, Rose has vanished. “Did she wash away? Did she find a safer home?” the poet wonders. Even in Rose’s absence, it is clear the spider has left an impression.
Nye’s final stanza reads:
She keeps spinning her elegant web
After the light made it shine.
Inspired, I pull the poem up online and attempt to read it aloud, hoping everyone enjoys it as much as me, but it takes me too long to find the poem, and soon my family spins away, wrapped up in discussions of after dinner treats and dish duty and who can make the biggest bubble with the soap.
So what I do then is this: I decide to read the poem aloud to the spider. Our spider. I begin with the title and author and then in my best reading voice I read the first lines:
A very large spider
Wove her fancy web.
I read slowly and clearly, looking up toward the open window, and soon the kitchen grows quiet, and I know I’ve got them, trapped, helpless in the throes of the poem. The words and rhythms ensnare us, encircle us, connect us. The words of the poem are soft leaving my mouth, spread smoothly through the kitchen, fill even the tiniest spaces.
Regretfully, I come to the end, the final words drifting out into the air, clinging to the strings between us. We are all stuck, silent and still.
The three year old, Ellie, moves first, breaks the hold.
“Hi Lilly,” she says. Ellie has gathered under the windowsill, looking up.
I smile, thinking Lilly is the perfect name for this spider, who is one of us now. I pull my daughter close, four sets of eyes watching more sets of eyes.
“She’s all alone, Daddy,” my youngest says.
I am silent for a moment. It is true. The web is clean, free of debris.
“Lilly has us,” I say.
Beyond the web, the moon tries unsuccessfully to push through one thick grey cloud. A storm threatens. Tomorrow, she will be gone.
Lilly, so long.
We are all so grateful she was here. So thankful for her visit. For her stopping by.
So long, Lilly.
It is a lonely job
the job of the poet,
Out on the web
Spinning and spinning and spinning.
Waiting and waiting and waiting.
So terribly patient,
all of us