American Life in Poetry: Column 813

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Often, for me, it’s a single image that really makes a poem, and in this poem by Jeff Worley, from his chapbook Lucky Talk, published by Broadstone Books, it’s “a man conducting an orchestra/ of bees.” How often I’ve looked exactly like that, having blundered into a spider web! Worley is the current poet laureate of Kentucky.

Walking Through A Spider Web

I believed only air
stretched between the dogwood

and the barberry: another
thoughtless human assumption

sidetracking the best story
this furrow spider knew to spin.

And, trying to get the sticky
filament off my face, I must look,

to the neighbors, like someone
being attacked by his own nervous

system, a man conducting an orchestra
of bees. Or maybe it’s only the dance

of human history I’m reenacting:
caught in his own careless wreckage,

a man trying to extricate himself,
afraid to open his eyes.
 

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2018 by Jeff Worley "Walking Through a Spider Web," from Lucky Talk, (Broadstone Books, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Jeff Worley and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.