On Knitting

Marie Naughton

The trickiest slips are stitches dropped
in the first few lines - the inch or so of rib
that gets a garment off to a sturdy start.
A knitter might make a fist of it,
stick to the pattern, kid herself she's on track.
The moment will arrive
when the flaw is undeniable.
If you're so brilliant, fix it,
my sister would hiss,
and fling a sleeve or collar,
needles and all, at our mother.
By breakfast, the piece would be waiting,
perfect, on the kitchen table.
A gifted knitter is dogged
and persistent like Miss Marple.
She'll root out a missing loop,
escort it with a crochet hook up a ladder
of knits and purls to the idling needle.
I have those skills, picked up
like prayers at my grandma's knee.
My daughters marvelled
when I pulled their little scarves
and dishcloths from the brink.
Yet sometimes there's no help for it.
Aran patterns and late-night television
make for cables as skewed as Chesterfield's spire.
The whole lot must come off.
Yield, and there's a thrill
in the unravelling, almost a shiver
between the legs as row after row
of kinked yarn piles up like the clipped coat
of a Labradoodle. Take a minute,
catch your breath.
Ease the wool round a hot water bottle.
Crinkles smooth as the temperature drops.
Give yourself distance - a week or so -
then lift the skeins from the darkness
of the wicker basket. This is your new project.

Marie Naughton

Born in Consett, Marie Naughton grew up in the North East and North Yorkshire but she's lived in Manchester since she was eighteen. Her husband is from Whitley Bay and they spend a lot of time criss-crossing the North of England. She's a psychotherapist and has three grown-up children.

Her poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the UK and Ireland including Mslexia, The Dark Horse, Southword, The Stony Thursday Book, Lines Underwater and Her Wings of Glass. Others have been placed in competitions. She won the Café Writers' competition in 2012 and was shortlisted for the Flambard Poetry Prize in 2015 and the Basil Bunting Prize in 2016. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the Centre for New Writing at Manchester University. She's working towards a first collection.

On Knitting emerged surprisingly from a prompt on the MA course - 'write about your birth'. (Prompts, after all, are guidelines, not rules!) Jackie Kay selected the poem for a prize in the Larkin & East Riding poetry competition in 2013.

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On Knitting © 2013 by Marie Naughton: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.