Mrs. Clause and Her Spider
from Anthropoets by Thomas McNulty
Motherless child, she was
orphaned at three weeks;
war widow at twenty,
keeping company with a spider
In the afternoon she naps.
She dreams swift blue rivers,
the rolling fertile farmland of Belgium
where the air itself tasted clean, but these
are images on a faded tapestry in a monastery
turned to rubble by the Luftwaffe.
She pulls at the tapestry fabric, organizing threads, trying to recall
the fresh scent of lakes –
On Sunday morning the false promise of bells
She takes a glass jar to the playground, sprinkles in sugar,
watches the ants march in, spins back
the lid, brushes away the soot and sand
of another Chicago landfill.
“It’s Mrs. Clause!” the urchins spellbound;
and regal in her red blouse
she walks the Queen of Marquette Park,
the jar undulating with furious life.
After supper, she sits near her desk,
opens the jar and plucks at the flinching mass.
One by one, day by day she drops an ant
onto the cobweb; then a strike too swift
to see as one movement, the spider feeds.
The traffic hums outside, disembodied voices
catch the wind and flee –
Now, with the sun nearly down, the sky like an unhealed wound,
the freezing wind comes off Lake Michigan,
whips and plummets with the speed of a knife to cut bone,
and this cold wind, unhappy, relentless, sounds
to her like children crying; a distant wail,
rising and falling.
Copyright © 2007 by Thomas McNulty
NOTE: this poem is one of three “Mrs. Clause” poems that appear in Anthropoets. I have written three additional “Mrs. Clause” poems for publication later. Mrs. Clause represents a lot of things and when I created her I wanted to explore how people handle grief and that grief sometimes manifests itself into a creative force. Each poem reveals a little more about Mrs. Clause and her tragic past. If you enjoyed this poem I hope you consider Anthropoets as alternative reading material. Thank you.