The Spider Amendment
the first draft and second drafts of a poem
There’s no audio today because I’ve got a dental problem that’s making it too painful to record. So here, silently, is a poem that I posted on my Instagram last week:
Scientists have learned that spiders might dream. If this is true then what do spiders dream of? Do they re-spin in their sleep the web they spun that same day? Is their narrative only about replay? Or do their dreams reveal their aspirations? Do spiders long to be better spiders? Do they dream of a self that is more vicious and wiser? Their dreams are probably so alien that we wouldn’t understand what they mean. But I’m still a storyteller who wants to decipher the dreams of spiders. I need to know their stories. Tell me, spider, tell me. What gives you joy? What angers you most? What ghosts do you grieve? What do you fear? Do you have trouble sleeping because you can’t forget all the things you rue and regret?
I think that poem is a pretty good draft but based on reader response and some pondering of my own, I decided that I needed to inject more energy into a rewrite. So here is the second draft. Let me know what you think.
Scientists have learned that spiders might dream. If this is true then what do spiders dream of? Do they have stress dreams that claw at the mind where they re-spin and re-spin and re-spin and re-spin the web they spun that same day? Do they obsess over one flaw? Is their narrative only about replay? Or do their dreams reveal their aspirations? Do spiders long to be better spiders? Of course, they do. They want to be more vicious and wiser. They want to murder more efficiently. “But spiders don’t murder,” says that person in the corner. “Spiders don’t possess the intent.” Hahahahaha. Spiders drink the blood of their prey while it’s still alive! A trapped moth isn’t going to quibble about intent. But, wait, if spiders dream then they must suffer nightmares, too. What would be their worst nightmare? Being eaten by another spider? Do they wake with a scream just before the magazine smashes them flat? Do they wake gasping for breath because they nightmared about being washed down the bathtub drain? Most likely, a spider’s dreams and nightmares would be too alien for us to decipher. I’d guess a human would go mad if they spent even a moment inside a spider’s mind. What if spiders only dream about hunger? No, no, no. What if spiders only dream about starving? I conjure a spider whose recurrent nightmare is about a juicy moth who somehow tore apart its death bundle and escaped the web. How many eyes do spiders have? How many times did that bereft spider see that goddamn moth fly away? O, the rage, rage of the spider who’s lost its meal or worse, the placid discipline— the eight-shoulder shrug—of the spider who rebuilds its broken web and hunts again And again and again. Yes, scientists have learned that spiders might dream. If that’s true then what do they dream of? I hope they dream of climbing to the top of the tallest skyscraper in their city. I hope they dream of weaving a parachute and leaping off the ledge. I want to float with them and ask them questions. Dear spider, what is joy? Dear spider, who is your deity? Dear spider, do you dream about us humans as much as we dream about you?
I definitely prefer the first simpler version. It allows me to enter the poem more freely, gives me space to do my own imagining. I love the part about being a storyteller, and that last line about rue and regret. And joy. The joy of spinning such fragile beauty from one's body, as we writers do with our webs of words. The long patient wait to see who or what may be captured in our web. The long thirsty drink when we do. What do we rue? What do we regret? How many masterpieces go unmarvelled?
I too saw the “spiders tell their dreams at two A.M.” article and was weblessly floored.
These two drafts/poems are each amazingly astonishing.
I found that the first was ‘easier’ for me to read in a ‘flow’.
The second, I will admit to getting more caught up in the web of words vs ease of body surfing right on through to the other side.
Like them both; prefer original version.
Love ‘evil’ adverbs.