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Arachne's Loom


For Susan Davis, weaver


You said the loom was old, perhaps antique,

found in a cobwebbed room by the old Greek

who owns the corner shop on Pallas Street.


Soon it stood on your basement studio floor,

silent, anachronous ambassador

from the vine-draped hills of Lydia's distant shore.


Ignorant of the sordid pedigree—

a young girl's arrogance, a goddess's fury,

the rebel choosing not to bend her knee—


your fingers stroked the wood, the shuttle's point,

dusting the time away from every joint.

As if in a dream you saw your hands anoint


the reed that parts the threads.  A modern loom

was banished to a corner of the room

while you set fine warp threads on the ancient beam.


The shuttle flew as though an unseen hand

propelled the arrow through the weft; a band

of olive trees emerged, a sacred stand


that was Athena's seal.  You watched, enthralled:

your fingers moved with certain swiftness, called

to the household dance, then, just as quickly, quelled.


I shudder at your tale of inspiration

and plead, in friendship's name, that you obey one

paramount rule that may mean your salvation.


In case a visitor appears some morning,

a white-haired crone who peers at you performing

your venerable rite, accept her warning:


"Let every finished cloth be interspersed

with tiny flaws (a knot or stich reversed),

and when you win your prizes, thank me first."


Carolyn Raphael



From The Most Beautiful Room in the World : Poems by Carolyn Raphael,

David Robert Books, © 2010.  Originally printed in The Formalist.  Reprinted

by permission of the author.


by Grapholina

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