lunatic fringe

This old poem about knitting and unknitting, pulling together and coming undone, seems to suit me right now. I’m whipping yarns into a frenzy while I’m stuck in a chair and using the knitting to keep me sane. Of course, it’s an expensive hobby, and I’m not working, so I’m selling all the scarves at my etsy shop, if you are interested. I’m not exactly a charity case, but when you buy one, you get a fabulous scarf that will last forever (and people will point and stare—in a good way—so be prepared) and you keep me from, well, unraveling.

It’s not as easy as you think
to unravel the half-done coat—
the mohair enmeshed with wool,
the intertwined tweed and Wintuck
(in colors so promising you use it
though you know it pills).

It’s not as easy as you think
to unravel a foot of coat
with so much time invested,
so much counting of rows
and place holding,
so many plastic rings slipping
from needle to needle,
the saved-for-later stitches
held gingerly on a spare rod,
the book buckled
with folded graph paper
from the chart you made.

Even when you make a mistake,
it’s not as easy as you think
to unravel without dropping
or twisting the tiny knit or purl
(though my Grammy,
the first multi-tasker,
could do it blindfolded
playing bridge).

But it’s been years
since you’ve picked up stitches,
added a row, tied on a color.
And each time you take those
good intentions from their pouch,
it takes an afternoon
just to find your place.

It takes days
to get the rhythm back.
And the rows are long.

So the unfinished coat sits in a bag,
spools neatly coiled
and instructions preserved.
It’s mostly nostalgia now,
like the time you got into beading
or yoga
and bought the accouterments,
which now sit in bins and boxes
because you might pick it up again.
That’s what you say each time
you climb the attic stairs
to poke around for an ornament,
nose around for a pair of jeans
that might fit you now.
That’s what you say each time
you look at the textures—
watch it flow from flat to fuzzy,
go from silky to nubby.
That’s what you say today
while you look for an old photograph.

And then it happens:
a few stitches fall from the needle
while your foot rests on the last spool.
And each time you move,
you pull them tighter and tighter
until they become the stitches
from the row before and then
the row before and the
row before.

And now you just want to tear at it,
just want to rip the whole thing out—
annihilate its order,
erase the time spent,
destroy its memory.
So you pull that string,
your arms, long and flailing;
the yarn, a mass of tangles,
miles of lunatic fringe;
and you, the star of this
hysterical knitting drama.

But it’s not as easy as it looks
to unravel the half-unraveled coat,
as the knots of each tied on color
catch on the permanent waves
of seven years in stockinette stitch captivity,
seven years of almost-coat-ness,
seven years of the broken promises
of a button placket,
a lining,
a cool fall day.

No, it’s not as easy as it looks
to unravel.

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  1. Keri January 16, 2009 at 6:45 pm #

    OMG, I can’t make up my mind! But it’s my birthday next week and I WILL have one of your creations… *quickly dashes to the closet to see which will go with more of the things in it because you know… wearing it ALWAYS is everything*

  2. jodi January 16, 2009 at 8:16 pm #

    oh, wow. this is wildly fantastic.

  3. Charlie January 17, 2009 at 1:17 am #

    God damn, I love your poems.

    Getting to hear you read it was a nice bonus.

  4. Jane January 17, 2009 at 2:34 am #

    Thank you. I needed to hear your voice today. I’m unravelling….and it’s not easy.

  5. Aunt Teena January 17, 2009 at 3:28 am #

    This is a poem I can really relate to.

  6. Leslie F. Miller January 17, 2009 at 4:13 am #

    Thank you, guys. Really. Charlie? I don’t know you, do I? But thanks for coming by.

    My voice is sort of thin and unpracticed. I’ve been trying to sing, but I’m not doing well yet.

  7. Tracy January 17, 2009 at 10:15 pm #

    wonderful poem.
    not sure if you are famialiar with this blog, but this woman is into yarn.

  8. jennifer January 18, 2009 at 12:45 am #

    fantasticness, all around. and your guitarring is perfect.

  9. jo(e) January 19, 2009 at 2:12 am #

    Oh, this was great! And I especially love getting to hear it in your voice.

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