14 September 2014

Shadows of your hands in firelight

            By John Hollander


Arachne spies by the door on wise Penelope
To learn what will be her own undoing. By lamplight
She sees the busy shuttle going back on itself
With a more favulous skill than when, that afternoon,
It had been proudly building the fabric of a shroud.
Taking apart the cover of darkness fabricates
Light, and Time itself goes forward by unravelling:
So the queen's dismembering hand weaves te images
Of faith and remembrance on the bared warp of her loom.
Arachne ignores the lessons of nay-saying that
Lurking in what she sees there in the midnight's uwrking.
Her eyes are only for the energies of result,
Of what is spun out of oneself in devout silence.

Such emblems of old craftiness that are clear enough
Still to read, point to the one step forward, two-and-a-
Half steps back that everyone eventually gets
Used to. Now you sit on that red prayer-rug, undoing
A dark scarf, skeining the wool in puzzlement, as if
The process should not be still continuing, nature
Having forgotten when to stop, knowing it too well.
But we need not despair of negations: bits of yarn
Snipped far too short for knitting were tied, knot after knot,
Onto the warp and weft of some anatolian
Frame, shunning all human figures for the intricate
Shapes, “purely decorative,” geometric, that lie
Refigured now with shadows of your hands in firelight.

From Powers of Thirteen, in John Hollander, Selected Poetry (1993).

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