Humble Beginnings

February 01, 1996|By Helen J. Ails

Four thousand years ago, legend tells us,

Lei-tsu dropped a curious fuzzy object

Into a bowl of hot water.

Her eyes must have widened

as the delicate cobwebby tangle

Loosened, then released a single, endless filament.

The lifeless chamber had given up its

Secret as it relaxed and unwound, revealing

Visions of potential. With patience, and delicacy,

The lovely web, not spidery wide, but

Tiny and tight, unwound. Then

was rewound, metamorphosed.

Lei-tsu's strand became stronger than string,

Or yarn, or even steel (if thickness be the same).

But it would be soft as a songbird's wing

It would be warm as a lover's first kiss.

Beauty awaited, just beyond our sight,

Wonder undiscovered, poised, tentative.

Boil the threads, soak them,

Stretch them, dye them.

Weave them together and make them into

Something new and wonderful.

A damask tablecloth, a surgical suture, or

A gown for a Chinese princess.

Who could know that a three inch worm,

Dieting on mulberry leaves,

Would give us satin, voile and silk?

And who can prophesy what other

Humble beginnings will startle us

With their soaring conclusions?

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