Monday, January 30, 2012

Weaving Spiders, Heather Altfield

grateful nod to Oscar Wilde


Have you ever heard the one about the selfish giant? 
Who had a lovely lovely castle
and a garden full of daffodils
and a pet owl and Louis XIV’s
stilettos kept in a thick glass box?  The townspeople

would come sometimes to play
and picnic in the old green groves
until some of his giant friends said,
Surely it cannot be the most beautiful country in the world
if all of the people can tramp on it!

So the garden was walled.  Come not here. 
said the inscription on the stones.  And the plants froze,
and the trees that had not been clearcut warbled
beneath the ice.  And it was so cold
that the call girls had to be helicoptered in,

and the larks bribed with suet to come out and sing.
And all the sissies had to stand outside the wall
warming their hands over oil drums
while security officers stood around
with stickups in their pockets as the giants called,

nibble nibble, like a mouse
who’s that nibbling at our house?

Kidding, said the giants.  Really, come and stand
in our oven a while.  You’ll make nice bread. 
And when the door opened a little,
the giants saw a beautiful spring day.  Cherries in blossom, etc. 
Girls in midriffs, etc.  Oh, how they lamented,

having been so greedy to lock the sunshine out! 
And so all the doors were opened and the cake was shared.
Parcels for everyone, belated stockings by the fire,
our names stitched on the cuffs
by tiny Chinese children. 


And then there was that other time
that the giants called in hundreds of armed guards
to stand cocked outside of the walls
with batons and pepper spray,
as inside, over crème brulee, they yelled,

Fe, fi, fo, fum!  I smell the blood of poor Americans!
Be theye alive or be theye dead, we’ll grind those bones
to make our ganache noisette!

and a girl on the streetcorner
wearing a little plastic sack on her head said,
but it’s only us, we are cold out here
behind the glass.  We can see you in there,
when we light our wooden matches,

eating roast goose and chestnuts by the fire.
We can see the silver knives and forks gleaming
on the table, and the shiny copper stove
and the pretty little maid serving tea and crumpets.
We see the cigars and the flasks of brandy at nightfall,

and we know about the spring jinks, and the bocci courts
behind the beeches. We know about the Dux beds
and the underground tunnels to sugarcane homes
on sandy beaches in the everglades. 
And the coffee ranches where the maids

turn into Peruvians with cracked hands. 
And the cattle ranches in the Amazon
where bocci has to be played indoors.
We hear your original Vivaldi recordings
on your well-preserved Victrolas

 and we can hear you laughing at us
beneath the cracked blue tarps. 
Kidding!  the giants said again, Come in, children,
for goodness sakes.  You’ll catch cold
And they opened the wall and tossed down

from the turret more thin things made by small hands,
and let everyone huddle in the moat
around a trashcan fire, marveling over neat scotches
at the cute little townspeople below,
bundled in cloaks made of tin.
About "Weaving Spiders," Heather Altfield writes

Fairytales give such insight into the common people and their relationship to their overlords.  The nod to Oscar Wilde here regards his children’s tale, “The Selfish Giant.” In the story, the selfish giant builds a wall around his garden to keep the children out and hoard all his fantastic giantly possessions to himself.  Weaving Spiders Come Not Here is the long-held motto of the Bohemian Club, an organization of some of the richest and most powerful overlords of our era.

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