Wonderful Poem at the Merton Institute

Check out the  http://mertoninstitute.org for the source of this, but in the meantime, I think it is not illegal to reprint it here, a marvelous poem, chosen by our friend and hero, Billy Collins, for the 2008 Merton Prize for the Poetry of the Sacred. As I wrote in a letter to a friend about it: I have this secret fondness for formal poems that hide their form beneath enjambments and nonchalance and (perhaps this may sound weird) humility, as I sense this poem does…I really liked it, found it sort of Frost-like, without its insisting on the likeness. Could not find out anything more about the poet, nor any more of his works, except the single sentence that he has indeed published before…Wonder where and what.

The Orb Web
by David Culwell of Columbus, Ohio

One night I stood inside
And, through the fan-shaped window in
The front door, watched a spider spin
A web to snare, in its tried

Way, some of the mesmerized
Moths fluttering in the porch light’s glow
Like bits of paper people throw
At parties or pint-sized

Satellites. The wheel
Of a web hung beneath the right
Corner of the frame, not quite
But nearly setting a seal

Against my going out
Or someone’s coming in. Indeed
A friend was coming soon to read
My hard-spun lines about

Beauty’s fading bloom.
I need to get the broom, I thought.
But I just stood there gazing, caught
By the eight-legged loom:

An inch or so, with gray-
Brown hairs and legs with bands of brown
and yellow, it hung upside down
Laying a sticky ray.

Like a second hand
It circled, moving inward; soon
the web, which seemed a gauzy moon,
Was done, with every strand

Laid necessarily.
The web itself was like designs
On Persian rugs; I read its lines
As living poetry.

A moth flew into it
At three. It fought, wings flickering,
To free itself, but couldn’t spring
Away from the gripping knit.

The spider scuttled there
And nimbly spun the moth in silk
While another of its ilk
Flew into the snare.

The spider hardly knew,
Of course, that something like a gust
Would sweep away its work like dust
And leave no strand in view.

I looked at my watch: the time
Was near. I didn’t lift my gaze,
But walked away, trying to raise
The mettle for the crime.

One thought on “Wonderful Poem at the Merton Institute”

  1. Thanks for giving me the chance to read this thought provoking poem…yes, Frost like, taking us into the moment to observe too with intense focus and unlikely connection…

    It immediately reminded me and sent me to reread(via websearch) D H Lawrence’s ‘Snake’ poem 1923, of which I am very fond. I would guess for similar reasons to those you expressed, Pam.

    So thank you, twice over, Have been unexpectedly transported while having my morning cuppa,on a dreary grey November morning,


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