"Eurydice: 1887"

"Eurydice: 1887"

"Eurydice: 1887"

Arts has moved! You can find new stories here.
A weekly poem, read by the author.
April 28 2009 6:52 AM

"Eurydice: 1887"

the flax spinners of Laren, spinning in the old tradition, as painted by Max Liebermann

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Avery Slater read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes..

In the flax barn: noise, like a wheezing dray horse.
Whisked counterclockwise to bleared spokes reeling,
filaments dwindle from down's phosphorescence

to hardness, resilience. Retted flax powders air's
currents as elbows jut rhythm with bowed necks
and shoulders, cast haloes in sunned chaff like Saint Elmo's
fire spooks night-prow and bowsprit with orchid-bright wreaths.


During their day, things shift and grow stranger:
floorboards shudder, turn liquid, and raw-smelling
hackled fleece strands, through the pinch of their fingers,

transmute to the long, true hairs of a lady.
The tessera-nib of the axle rotates
to a nine-year-old's fist where she bends near the wheel-rim,
murmuring, swaying with soft concentration,

like Orpheus threading his words through the lyre;
his autumn-far gaze … Six feet behind her,
an older girl stands like a stele—while fleece's vague

mass in her hands rubs to strands in her fingertips,
feeding the light-bearing line that her back-turned
counterpart spools over head, over wheel to
densely bound fist-worths their spindles accrete.

This pair: multiplied down the barn's dark length
—industry mirrors itself to its fullest that
art may negotiate profit. Though, always:

some excess, some waste, air plagued with corollas—
the eyes, then the lungs, slowly, filled.


Avery Slater is a Ph.D. student in English literature at Cornell University. Her poetry has appeared in many journals in the United States and United Kingdom.