Poem for Spiders Not Named Charlotte

A burst spider's egg sac is beautiful, actually. (This week's newsletter is barely about cartoons and crying, sorry.)


John Maher

Jul 03 2021

3 mins read



Editor's note: Hi! I was on vacation last week at a cabin by a lake near the Delaware River. Boy, that was nice. I wish I could always be in a cabin by a lake and a river. Anyway, since my mind hasn't quite come back from vacation, there's no essay in this issue. Instead, here's a poem inspired by a couple of encounters I had while away that may or may not have reminded me of Charlotte's Web—which, after having rewatched it this week, I'm sorry to say is not a very good movie.

Great Work

I like the sound gossamer makes in a mouth

but don't want to wake finding any in mine

so I take her down from that corner she

made hers and bring her back lakeside

where fishing spiders belong. Her legs span

my hand but she will not bite. When young

I wondered what sort of spider Charlotte could be.

Every field guide told me barn spiders

are ringed brown and gold. This looks less lovely

than it sounds so on screen she is muted blue.

Silver and coffee are the mottled fishers, scuttling

small wolves. Tonight is a night of removal:

in a gunwale groove I find an egg sac burst

with spiderlings, little clustered seeds

wishing to be grapes. With a leaf I scoop them

ashore to wed web to reed. Each day past tonight

I will thumb their stalk and watch them scatter

at the hum of it only to bunch again and think

the next time will bring me the kind of word

I would like a very good one since I shall be writing

tonight for the last time but the word does not come

until I am far from shore and I don't get to see 

the little ones anymore.

All She Wrote

Recent pieces I've written and other projects.


Last week, Vulture published a piece I wrote about Infinity Train and why the companies that put out television programs really need to stop telling children's animation to avoid hard truths. It's not the first time I've written about this wonderful show (which you know already if you read this newsletter regularly), and with luck—by which I mean Warner Media wising up—it won't be the last.

Tips for the Tooned In

What I'm loving right now and other sundries.

I stood up and I said, yeah: this is a perfect song. And thematically on point, if I do say so myself.

The new Faye Webster record is my album of the summer and no, I don't care that we're only a week into that summer. It also introduced me to Mei Ehara, so I've got no regrets, Coyote. (Just kidding. I have plenty.)

While I was away, I read four books. (I also memorized some poems! Here's an easyish one in case you're of a mind to do so yourself.) One of those books is a collection of Chloe Garcia Roberts's translations of the poems of Tang dynasty poet Li Shangyin. It's marvelous and strange. You should read it too.

Cartoon GIF of the Week

Like a newspaper cartoon, but animated.


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