Poem of the Week | December 19, 2016

This week, we are excited to present a new poem by Arden Levine. Levine’s poems are forthcoming in Barrow Street, The Carolina Quarterly, and RHINO, and recently appeared in AGNI, Sixth Finch,and Rattle.  In 2016, her poem “Offering” was selected by Ted Kooser to be featured in American Life in Poetry (a project of The Poetry Foundation). Arden reads for the literary journal Epiphany, holds an MPA from New York University, directs projects and programs for nonprofits and government agencies, and is a D.C.-born Brooklyn resident.
Author’s note:

I had been writing a great deal about my father’s death (not exactly an invigorating subject). During that same time, my friends and I were toppling toward the near edge of middle age and into conversations about wrong choices and deferred ambition, our enthusiasm sanded down to ennui. I wondered if I could find a way to laugh into the drear and dread. Then I caught myself crushing a spider (an act that would have distressed my younger self) and decided to practice at being humorously ornery. Hence, this poem.




This morning I killed a spider in my shower. I so dislike killing anything
but in this case, the single blow by paper-toweled thumb
seemed more humane than the otherwise inevitable death by drain drown.


A friend my age wonders aloud to me whether it is a greater accomplishment
to build a house or to write a book, and I wonder aloud back
at how long the book, how glorious the house.


A friend my age wonders aloud to me whether she should modify
her old tribal armband tattoo.


I am in the middle.


Should she add some feminine flourishes,
perhaps roses at the ends of each aggressive point?


Sometimes I am writing a book, and sometimes I am building a house.
Is one vain, the other glorious? It might be that both
are vainglorious.


I killed a spider in my shower this morning, even though it bothered me to do so,
because I knew its death would be in vain no matter if I squashed it
or let it spiral away (and there wasn’t a good middle in this case).