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This free-standing sculpture is made up of a sweeping, backward-facing C shape supporting a series of ten curving, interlocking, thin wires that cascade down and to our left in this photograph, each one ending in a flat, leaf-like paddle on either end. The C-shaped arm forks into three feet, on which the sculpture sits so the other branches float freely. The S-shaped arms are linked by tiny rings at the center of each arm, and they descend in size as they arc down and to our left. Each S-shaped arm has a black, roughly triangular paddle at the top; the third paddle from our right has a hole in it. The paddles at the bottom of each arm are each a different color, with ruby red to our right, then marigold orange, pine green, honey yellow, and the final four to our left are white. The size of the paddles also descend in size from our right to left. The branch connecting the S-shaped branches to the C-shaped base is curvier, and has one black paddle, the largest of all, at the bottom point.

Alexander Calder, Little Spider, c. 1940, sheet metal, wire, and paint, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1996.120.18

On Little Spider by Alexander Calder

Teri Ellen Cross Davis

Whisper said Movement to the Spider. 

Casting off light, propelling into color’s true power.    

Heaving, thinking: Spider grows: awaiting 

Itself:  its pointed intuition: its gnawing hunger  

fuels fruition.  

Heaven is heavier 

in cognition.  

Belief:  a tri-prong stand. 

A web— a glistening intention. 


A web— a glistening intention.

Belief:  a tri-prong stand.

In cognition 

heaven is heavier,

fueling fruition—

itself its pointed intuition. A gnawing hunger 

heaves into thinking: Spider grows: waiting

casting off light, propelling into color’s true power.   

Whisper says Movement to the Spider. 


Please note: We have tried to preserve the formatting of poems, but some devices may distort how text appears. Read the poem in its original formatting here.

Teri Ellen Cross Davis

Poetry coordinator of the Folger Shakespeare Library

August 28, 2023