Ten Legs, Eight Broken, Poem: Summary & Analysis

In the poem "Ten Legs, Eight Broken," the poet explores the themes of fear, prejudice, and empathy through the perspective of both a human and a wounded spider. The poem begins with a human expressing their fear and aversion towards the spider, comparing it to its "brothers and sisters" that have scared them before. The human accuses the spider of being an unwanted intruder, using vivid language to convey their discomfort at its presence. The poem then shifts to the spider's perspective, revealing its vulnerability and questioning the fairness of its treatment.

Ten Legs, Eight Broken

To the spider,
the shadowed creature in the corner of the room
i hate you.
You scared me just as your brothers and sisters did before you,
and i will tell you what i told them,
You are a trespasser that does not belong here.
You entered without knocking.
Roamed freely like this is your home and decorated my walls with unwanted, silk webs without asking.
You may not be the only killer here, but only one of us is innocent,
and it's not you.
The spider says to me, it's brittle body squashed and dying,
It's not you, either.
There is venom infused in my fang-shaped maws,
but i was born this way.
What's your excuse?
If you could count your murders, how long would you be counting?
Am i really this threatening?
I thought human hearts were bigger that mine, but you have killed with malice instead of marrow of your bones and poison bubbling behind your scowl
And i'm sorry for scaring you,
but i didn't know being seen would cost me my life.
If you didn't fabricate the prickly feeling of my legs creeping upon your skin while I crawled across the living room floor,
If the webs I weaved were made of cotton candy and captured clementines, cherries, and sweet peas rather than struggling wings and blood;
If i had a pink tongue, push fur, a wagging tail, and fur legs instead of eight
If i had only two eyes, and they were glittering stars and not supermassive block holes;
If i was the same but looked different;
maybe you wouldn't hate me.
Maybe you wouldn't have loved me, either, and maybe you still wouldn't have let me stay,
but maybe you would've shown me the door or a window.
Maybe you would've shown me mercy.
(But you are still standing, and I am still sorry).
I think
no matter how reluctant,
mercy would've been enough.

Critical Analysis

"Ten Legs, Eight Broken" is a thought-provoking poem that delves into the complex emotions of fear, prejudice, and the capacity for empathy. The poem skillfully juxtaposes the viewpoints of both the human and the wounded spider, inviting readers to reflect on their own biases and perceptions.

The human's perspective in the first part of the poem reveals a strong aversion and fear towards the spider, seeing it as an intruder and comparing it to past experiences. The human's accusations highlight the disconnect between the two species and the lack of understanding between them.

The shift to the spider's perspective in the latter part of the poem humanizes the creature and exposes its vulnerability. The spider questions the fairness of its treatment and wonders if its appearance had been different, it might have been spared. This reflection emphasizes the arbitrary nature of prejudice and raises questions about the value of mercy and empathy.

The poem's use of contrasting imagery, such as "venom infused in my fang-shaped maws" and "poison bubbling behind your scowl," serves to highlight the irony of the situation, where the human accuses the spider of harm while possessing their own destructive tendencies.

The final lines of the poem express a yearning for mercy and understanding, suggesting that even in the face of fear and prejudice, the possibility of empathy remains. The speaker acknowledges the limitations of their actions but emphasizes the potential for a different response.

"Ten Legs, Eight Broken" challenges readers to examine their own biases and consider the impact of their perceptions on the lives of others, encouraging a deeper exploration of empathy and compassion.

Themes of the Poem

  • Fear and Prejudice: The poem explores the fear and prejudice that lead to the mistreatment and misunderstanding of the spider.
  • Empathy and Mercy: The spider's perspective highlights the importance of empathy and mercy in overcoming biases and fostering understanding.
  • Appearance vs. Essence: The poem raises questions about the superficial judgments based on appearance rather than recognizing the essence of a being.

Stylistic Analysis

  • Shift in Perspective: The poem's shift from the human's perspective to the spider's perspective underscores the contrast between their viewpoints.
  • Imagery: Vivid and contrasting imagery is used to evoke the emotions and experiences of both the human and the spider.
  • Repetition: The repetition of "maybe" emphasizes the contemplative nature of the poem, inviting readers to consider alternative perspectives.


  • Fear and Aversion: The human's fear and aversion towards the spider reflect negative attitudes and emotions.
  • Vulnerability and Reflection: The spider's vulnerability and reflections reveal its own sense of self-awareness and desire for understanding.


  • Metaphorical Language: Metaphors, such as "prickly feeling of my legs creeping upon your skin" and "poison bubbling behind your scowl," create vivid comparisons to convey emotions and experiences.
  • Contrasting Language: The poem uses contrasting language to highlight the disparities between the perspectives of the human and the spider.

Sound Devices

  • Rhythm and Flow: The poem's rhythm and flow contribute to its contemplative and introspective tone, allowing readers to engage deeply with the themes.
  • Alliteration: Alliteration in phrases like "crawled across the living room floor" and "clementines, cherries, and sweet peas" adds auditory impact to the lines.

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