Steady at their webs on the brilliant edge, Chicago
spiders range outside the windows
across the 94th floor, at every vantage
their dedicated tensile silks arrayed
upon the beams, a metal of their own.
Is this occupation accident, or do they know
leaders? One pioneer who gathered
the colony for an ingenious monopoly
on the city’s Icarian flies? Or squatters
on the palace as the window washers strike,
chanting below, banded for a $5 raise?
When the workers return to their bravery,
will they say, It’s you or me to the company,
or send them flying with a Happy trails, Hans?
Even one friendly minds the clutter
of eensy-weensies shrouded on the glass,
but the view’s irresistible, so we press on Tilt,
eight bays at time facing the towering facades.
Here is the corporation, & here, individuals
dangled in the overhang, a dotted line of eyes
the horizon signs left to right, from Lake Michigan
to the pinnacles, whose height affords this
hovering interest in such daring creatures,
who dying become lawsuits, beads woven in situ.
Image: “View from the Hancock Building” by Daniel Morrison, licensed under CC 2.0.
“Spiders on the Hancock” is based on a family trip to Chicago. While there was a window-washers’ strike on the street, we looked out of the windows of 360 Chicago, which were full of spiders, both living dead. With the window washers on strike, the bodies had accumulated, and were impossible to ignore as we enjoyed the spectacular view of the city.
Most of the details of the poem were observational; as someone who doesn’t know much about spiders, I was surprised that they were gathered in such great number at over 1000 feet in the air. As we looked out on the city and the skyscrapers, I wondered about the financial impulse that drives humans to go that high as well. I should mention that before going on Tilt (which “tilts” you 30 degrees over Michigan avenue), I was fairly acrophobic, but that afterwards, I was glad to have gone on it.
I put the poems stanzas into eights as a little nod to the spiders, and I tried to highlight my admiration for the arachnids (as well as the window washers) while also offering a critique of capitalism. The Hans reference is to the dramatic death of the Alan Rickman character in Die Hard. While I was looking out the window, I had more than a few thoughts about what a great actor he was.