‘Ironing the Spider’ by Sasha Dugdale

My most violent act: once ironing a spider.
She had climbed between sheets on the ironing board
And was resting in the pastel scent of laundry:
A large spider, slightly prim, self-assured.

I can’t abide violence. I can’t even swat a fly.
The death of this meaty widow left a creeping stain
And a horror in my throat, like the first kill
Like the first time you cause another creature pain.

I gagged. Only a little, and momentarily,
Unable to regain the balance that had been undone
By introducing death to this pink-white refuge:
Violent, unpleasant death by branding iron.

I have since seen her soul all scorched and resentful
Her spirit crushed and oozing. I am reminded then
Of the railway victims on the Pskov station board.
It read: do you recognise these men?

Part-covered by a red flag. Maimed by trains
As they staggered home, chased
Silently from behind, a horrid shove
Removing the drunken smile from their face.

I knew them all. We were of the same species
Not sapiens perhaps, but homo for sure
I could have ironed their shirts, their sheets,
Sat waiting for them, cross-legged on the kitchen floor.

(from Joy, Carcanet, 2017)

Sasha Dugdale’s Joy (Carcanet) is the PBS Choice for Winter 2017. She is former editor of Modern Poetry in Translation. Twitter @SashaDugdale