Once, when I gashed my finger, Grandmother
Led me to the closet down the hall.
There towels and bedsheets lay in fragrant folds
And an old, outgrown doll with bright-blink eyes
That scared me stiff with its hilarity
Drooled sawdust from its mouth onto a shelf.
Grandma pulled me close to her until
I understood the comfort of her touch.
She poked her free hand in the crevices
And spooled a spiderweb around her nails.
She wound the web again around my wound.
She daubed it tenderly until the clots of silk
Touched my blood and then my bleeding stopped
Almost at once.
There, among the smell of sheets,
In the cold, fresh, dark place that had scared me so,
Grandmother gave me her most secret smile.
Since that day,
Learning to love the doublness of things,
I think the spider silk is in my blood.
Eric Ormsby. Time’s Covenant—Selected Poems (Biblioasis, 2007). This poem originally appeared in For A Modest God, 1997.
Professor Ormsby is Chief Librarian at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London in addition to being among the foremost English poets and a fine literary critic (see his Facsimiles of Time—Essays on Poetry and Translation (Erin, Canada: The Porcupine’s Quill, 2001). Dipping into Time’s Covenant is always richly rewarding. It’s one of the ways I escape, being carried along by a master of the language. Consider it highly recommended.