Asibikaashi #WednesdayVerses

Jan 1, 2020 | Poetry

Strong threads you weave;
A web of them,
At first, to swaddle and protect –
Softly subtle, safe cocoon,
Where only pleasant dreams reside.

Bright sunlight flickers,
warm, upon the glass, and I
Can’t move. Can’t breathe.
Your sticky net catches everything
Grows tighter as I struggle,
Wiggling free.
Where once I fed on you,
You feed on me.

Night terror, you,
Your breath tickling my cheek.
Does it still breathe? I hardly dare.
Half-dreaming, I reach out,
Slap you. Slap me.

So long ago, a truce – you
Retreated to the shadows,
Present, still.
Those graying wisps
Hang tattered, torn, defeated.
I learned to deal with nightmares
On my own.

But there! Just now,
Upon the dew-kissed window-pane,
I see you! Sunning yourself.
Smiling at the rounded belly
Beneath my hand, as we
In our own ways, our own time –
Begin to weave.


Happy New Year. And welcome to #WednesdayVerses. Vinay and Reema are offering a prompt each Wednesday to inspire you to write a poem. If it does, write it as a post on your blog, then come link up with them. If it doesn’t, then browse the links to read what others have written, and share the posts with your poetry-loving friends. The linky is open from Wednesday till the following Tuesday night! Please add your post to the link only if it is a post written for #WednesdayVerses. All are welcome and invited to participate.

The prompt for this week is the picture of a lovely dream-catcher, which finds its origins in Ojibwe legends.


Author’s note: I wanted to learn more about the real history of the Native American dreamcatcher – not just the commercialized motif so popular since the 1990s or so and more likely made in China, now, than by Native American hands. I hope that my own reading and interpretation of the story does it justice. What I saw, in reading the legends, was mothers and sisters and grandmothers standing in as proxies for the protective Spider Woman, Asibikaashi, whose web hangs over children’s cradles and beds and “catches” all the nightmares and only lets good thoughts and dreams come through the center. But children grow up; part of becoming an adult is struggling against the protection and safety of their elders’ “webs” and learning to take care of themselves, so that they can one day take care of others. As a mother, myself, I know that it’s only after we’ve broken free of the “constraints” of what we see as “overprotectiveness” that we’re ready to accept help from the old “spider women” whose webs once chafed and annoyed us.

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.

14 Comments

  1. Mitch Mitchell

    Sigh… okay, you chastized me into commenting on this, so here’s my comment. I didn’t understand 90% of it, but it flowed nicely. lol If you hadn’t written the last paragraph I’d have had no idea what it was about, but I thought maybe it was a baby because of the rounded belly. lol That’s the best I’ve got! 😀
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted…What Do You View As Failure?My Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Now you know that it wasn’t my intention to chastise you!

      I’ll give you some hints, then we can talk in DM – don’t want to add too many spoilers just yet. You’re absolutely right about the last verse!

      Here’s the story – the legend – of Asibikaashi (aka, “Spider Woman”): https://www.wernative.org/articles/ojibwe-dreamcatcher-legend

      Now, think of the story as coming full circle – a coming of age story – based on the legend.

      Remember, though, if you took away something different from it, that’s not necessarily wrong, either. Sometimes, a poem has multiple layers and possible interpretations. I may not have meant them, but if you saw them, you’re not wrong.

      Reply
  2. Shalzmojo

    I have read this legend some aeons ago and its faint in my head. But reading the poem I thought you had metamorphosized into another you via your nightmares and that one torments you now. I guess the last para and the image finally put it together.

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I need to send Mitch back here to read what you wrote. He was reluctant to comment, worried he’d be “wrong.” I told him that there was no such thing as “wrong,” and that is something I discovered through my friend, the artist Todd Kruse, when I felt the same way over modern art. On delving deeper, I learned that the whole POINT was the viewer’s (or, in the case of poetry, the reader’s) own interpretation, based on their own experiences and feelings.

      I am, to be quite frank, a little bit surprised and fascinated that the meaning I had in mind is not as concrete and clear as it seemed, to me, when I wrote it. That is, I never intended it to be a puzzle or layered in confusion for anyone. And I’m still not sure that it is. I wish more people would venture a comment on it, so that I could see what else they might see woven in the web of words. I’m not going to say, here, what I was thinking – that would spoil it (for me!) as I’m more interested in what you see in it. What else might have bubbled up from my subconscious? (You’re not wrong, I just hadn’t thought of it that way, at all, while writing it.)

      Reply
  3. Shilpa Garg

    Loved how you have woven the legend of Asibikaashi in this verse. Of course, I could understand the beauty of your words and the imagery they created, after reading the note at the end and reading it again! Profound and thought-provoking.

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I kept wondering why the note wasn’t just a dead giveaway. 😉 I debated including it at all, but like I said, truly wasn’t trying to be cryptic. Thanks, Shilpa!

      Reply
  4. Bob J.

    I read the post and then the comments and then the poem again, so my comment is a compilation. Like Mitch, the first time through I did not get it, other than the surface level of it being about a dream catcher; then, I thought, a spider weaving a web; finally, your “spider woman” made it come together, as a woman protected as a babe, growing older and finally becoming gray and surrendering the role of protector to the young woman, who continues the cycle.

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Thank you, Bob! I like the fact that you read through it a few times, and I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts on it here, in the comments. Now, I have two questions and I want only honest answers (I know that everyone might give a DIFFERENT answer to this, so this is to anyone reading through comments): (1) Did you enjoy the poem (whether it made sense the first time through or not); and (2) Do you prefer a poem that’s “easy” or one that kind of unravels a bit more with each reading?

      I know that my own answer to (2) has changed several times throughout the years. It may feel like a cop-out to say, “Something in between,” but the truth is that I’m not fond of superficial verse (I’m still scarred by a rhyming verse poem I read, once, about the murder of a toddler) and I’m ALSO not fond of poems that seem to work too hard at making the reader work too hard (you know, I don’t read poetry to pass a quiz about all the hidden symbolism, at the end!) I do, SOMETIMES, like to come back to a poem and think, “Oh! I hadn’t thought of it that way, the first time through…” but that requires that I thought of it in SOME way the first time I read it, or there likely won’t be a second time unless some wizened English prof is holding a grade book against my head and threatening to fire F’s into my permanent record.

      Reply
  5. Shalini

    I loved how you weaved a beautiful poem through the eyes of Asibikaashi legend! I’m glad you wrote that little note in the end because I never knew of the legend of dreamcatchers. This truly is insightful and your poem is profound.
    Shalini recently posted…Book Review: The Dog Who DancedMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Thank you, Shalini. I think that many people like dreamcatchers but don’t know a thing about their origins. That’s where “inappropriate cultural appropriation” happens (we all borrow the best bits from each other, I think, but there’s a fine line – and at least here, in the US, I’ve seen it become a commercialized, meaningless, “trendy” motif, and I was determined not to write this if I couldn’t honor the original story). I hope that if there are any Native Americans reading this, they find it faithful to their traditions. I found their story very relatable, as a woman, a mother, and a grandmother, but added my own “spin” (hah! see what I did there?) on it.

      Reply
  6. Reema D'souza

    I absolutely loved your take on the prompt. I liked how delicately you’ve woven the legend into this poem. Thank you for participating in Wednesday Verses.

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Thank YOU for hosting! I need a kickstart to the brain, sometimes.

      Reply
  7. Corinne Rodrigues

    I like the way you verse suggests the continuity of this protective circle and the growth of the child to becoming a mother herself. And through it all present from a distance is the Spider Woman working through grandmothers, mothers, and on and on.
    I enjoyed reading your verse, notes and all and the comments too. How each person interprets a piece of poetry always fascinates me.
    Corinne Rodrigues recently posted…Deconstructing AnxietyMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Ahh, you saw what I saw in my mind’s eye as I wrote. I think a poem, like a piece of abstract art, is part communicating the author’s mental image and part setting a stage for the reader’s own observations. For example, I decorate my living room. I cook, I set out appetizers, I serve drinks. You come in and sense the mood conveyed by my home and other guests, the lighting, the aromas – not just the ones I’m carefully assembling for your pleasure, but perhaps the scent of a wet dog that came in after the rain, or a hint of laundry detergent, or new carpet, mingled with the food and the perfume or sweat of a nervous guest. I’m too intent on not burning dinner to catch the interplay of those things, and to you, my living room is a suggestion of what I envision, but it is both more and less and something different. Neither of us is wrong; it’s truly a matter of perspective.

      Reply

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