The Argiope

Alice Friman Click to read more...

afriman-98Alice Friman’s newest collection of poetry is Vinculum from LSU Press. Work appears in The Best American Poetry 2009, The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, and in the forthcoming 2012 Pushcart Prize Anthology.  Professor Emerita at the University of Indianapolis, Friman now lives in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she is Poet-in-Residence at Georgia College & State University. Her new podcast, Ask Alice, can be seen at Alice Friman@Georgia College.

Between the weeping cherry
and the porch, the argiope
floats head down at the center
of an enviable patience.

Her egg sac—little ochre
marble, little kindergarten sun—

pasted to the rail: another
Pandora’s hope at the bottom of the box
one more artist won’t live to see.

The cherry cannot hold her
even with that weeping
any more than it can hold its pinks,
or October its fool’s gold.

One September night
she will dismantle all her silks
and disappear.

*  *

In here, on the desk,
an old photograph—

cousins, five of us, frozen
in the slanted sun
of our last free summer.

How patient we are
squinting for decades
and grinning into the camera
because we were good
and were told

except for the one
in her new kindergarten dress
with the white collar, the one
caught in a worried look

as if she were already
staring out this window,
watching the unthinkable going on.

Discussion

4 Responses to The Argiope

  1. Melissa Dickson Melissa Dickson says:

    Lovely poem to read and to hear. I questioned the final phrase “going on.” I invite other poets to educate me. Why can’t this poem end with the word “unthinkable”? Looking forward to any responses.

  2. Sandra Larkin says:

    “Going on” is unthinkable for a child. She knows her life will be changing (“in her new kindergarten dress”) but she does not yet understand how. The other children in the photo are caught in the “now” of that moment, but the “one caught in a worried look” is aware that things she cannot imagine are ahead of her. “Going on” is what makes the last line powerful, and connects it to the first section of the poem, where the argiope will soon die and her eggs will go on into a future she cannot experience.

  3. Richard Atwood says:

    To stop at “unthinkable” would have confined the thought to the now; and what is really
    unthinkable to a very young child? Thinking, itself, is really not even thought of… in kindergarten; but only in the reflected gaze of a later looking back… one might read into
    the exquisitely caught expression, as if one were truly looking forward beyond the moment, into a “what” we can never truly foresee.
    Since “argiope” isn’t in my dictionary, and I’m not into spiders/insects, I didn’t give it much mind (nor do I care for poets using obscure language to express anything — ), I rather let it slide with the tide of simply a here-today-gone-tomorrow inevitability… which, of course, slips neatly into the end frame of thinking: we never know, or knew, what possibly is ahead for any of us. Even a captured frown/questioning look on a face in a photograph tells us little… but it sets the stage for all sorts of pondering over, after.

  4. The poem takes its time, its nervous too like someone getting ready to cross a flooded creek, one foot on a slippery rock, then the plank, then safe on the other side knowing you laid down your life for the show. Good job!

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