Reviewer: Oregonian
Date: 02/17/14 0:48
Chapter: Chapter 1

Your poem about Blaise Zabini’s mother as a little girl and then a young woman certainly deserves a review. And thank you so much for the clue that Yolanda is the eventual Mrs. Zabini; this fact makes the poem instantly understandable.

I like the contrast between the first half of the poem, when Yolanda is so child-like that she is frightened by the sudden sight of a spider, and the second half, when nothing frightens her. I envision the first half of the poem as taking place in a bathroom because the spider is sitting motionless on a “porcelain throne”, the floor is grouted tile, as old-fashioned bathrooms often were, and the girl is barefoot. Stating that she is too timid to trap another living creature reinforces her childishness.

The two halves of the poem are neatly tied together by the continuous themes: the presence of a real or figurative spider, the presence of milk or cream, the mention of porcelain, and the frequent mention of the colors of things. I presume the rosy-red willow is the pattern on her porcelain tea set.

The second half of the poem contrasts sharply with the first. Yolanda sounds outwardly innocent and harmless as a child, though she secretly knows not to do as she is told, but as an adult she is dangerous, more dangerous than the probably harmless little black spider in the bathroom of her youth. Her guest is so self-assured that he carelessly does not bother to look at what she is putting in his tea. We see him through her eyes”arrogant, lazy, sprawling, brazen, a fool. She has contempt for him. Is this what she thinks justifies her treating him as if she were a spider about to devour its prey? This is the woman who we all believe was not entirely innocent in the deaths of her several husbands.

There is one fragment of a line that is not entirely clear to me. “…it knew it had only itself…” What does this mean?

I enjoyed this poem, an imaginative glimpse into the character of someone about whom we actually know almost nothing. Thank you for writing.

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