“The Spider Speaks” by Shara McCallum

Shara McCallum’s poem “The Spider Speaks” guides the reader through a spider realizing and accepting its own impermanence in this world. In the first two lines, “No choice to spin, / the life given,” the spider is admitting that there is really only one option that a creature such as itself has in life—to spin their webs. The spider tells the reader that its mother told it that one day it “would wake…to a sun no longer yellow, / to an expanse of blue, / no proper word / to name it.” Here the mother of our speaker-spider is doing what a lot of human parents do; she is trying to explain the concept of dying, or ‘passing away.’ She explains it as a sort of ineffable and endless blue sky, with no sun to indicate any passage of time. The speaker-spider accepts this and equally accepts that it will be spinning the “patterned threads / of [its] life, each day / another web and the next,” illustrating that its life is just one continual weaving of a web, just as its death will be one continual blue sky.

Speaker-spider speculates about what it could do to make its webs hold more significance, perhaps it could “carve [its] message in stone,” but it knows that it can only put into the world what its body allows it to, and not even those webs are permanent—they are just threads. The speaker-spider leaves its audience with the admittance that “when the last silvery strand leaves [its] belly, [it] will see what colour the sun has become,” showing that the speaker-spider has now accepted that neither it nor its webs and the messages within are permanent in this life, and that speaker-spider is now ready for the day when its web runs out and it wakes to the expansive blue sky and whatever the sun looks like when it is there. Speaker-spider not only contemplates the fragility of its life and its work, but it also evokes a feeling in the reader that prompts them to contemplate the fragility of their own lives and their own actions within this world, and make them think about what their own after-life belief system tells them is in store—is it an expanse of blue, or something else—and it makes the reader wonder if they are ready for that.


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