A spider, web, and alderberry bush Arranged December in a quiet crËche; The spider's stitching straw was soft and fine As anything that ties us to the divine; An afternoon of hidden breaths condensed, Strung with dew as if of dew composed, A blazing cobweb out of cold mist-- Dew-prism looked on prism, all in all, And saw summer's wonder from before the Fall Until every thread of light was put out by the loss Of sun. Twilit dews sparkled into frost. Each gentle juncture hardened to a cross. Stiff additions of still more strength and grace To dropleted water, by increments erased Weave's living give and left a stony place To which the chapel spider was not accustomed. A rigid web in an alderberry niche, Still and silver as a collection dish. From her holy central belly it spiraled out,-- A frozen wheel or prayer-mat to invite Chilly fervors of the not-yet devout. You couldn't think such religion altruistic, And could only thank it if a mystic And believed all troubled birth a pause Between our cyclings back to Cause. The spider didn't think it mercy, that's certain. She rushed behind her tautened curtain To lay a landed fly into her winter stock And knit the praying fly a little silver lock That has only a mystic key. She sought to bead a new dew to see, Since day had gone blinded down to night, And one more dark into her web was caught. But even a spider with her sticky tricks Can find occasion to make a slip On such transparency gone slick; The icy wire and her dainty claw-tip Met without resistance, though her weight was there, And that gave a tumbled feeling of unfair And brought spider slipping past the fly Who looked at her with all of his eyes, Gave an inch leap, and was gone. The diamond web with ice was diamonded. The spider threw a line to save her pride And back toward the frozen center slid. She poised unpleased, ready for dark dispatch,-- A philosopher at a damaged treasure-latch, Meditating what Fate might have brought In the richness of the fly near-caught, And then what wealth of blood denied, The treasure chest a blank inside. Perhaps the spider, if she had tried, Might have persuaded the praying fly He'd be in for blessings if he died. (Too bad he'd already taken off on his Aerodynamic errand or business.) Wheels within wheels and layer upon layer. Death would rank him up a rung, Nearer You and I as human beings -- Or two rungs up. Yes. To convince the buyer, Persuades more than a hundred prayers, Thought this spider to herself, cool and sly. But there was no nimble buzzer skating by To heed the sales-pitch of the spider, Save those flies already saved inside her. With eight great eyes and eight great arms, And well-equipped to deal out harm, She resumed half-folded her coldly central position As ready for Fate as anyone Defeat had bruised and brought Hungrier for what she had not caught.