I don't follow paper patterns.
They're in my head. Passed down
from my grandmother and hers,
time out of mind.
One word after another,
I ply one whilst holding the next
like a thread of wirset wound round my finger.
At first, my work looks like abstract dots.
The pattern will not emerge for several rows.
Two colours wound in and out:
that's the secret. Two is more than one,
transforms the other, like magic.
My nib flashes like needles, the wool cloo
of my thoughts in my pocket. Whilst doing the chores,
I'm still counting back to childhood memories,
checking the tension, untangling knots,
like the women walking the hills with kishies
of paets tied to their backs, makkin,
even when blethering with their neighbours,
for when the hairst is spoilt by a hail o' showers,
the men are away, press-ganged,
or fishing on the Far Haaf
I must knit the poem of our lives:
the gloves and socks, the ganseys and hats,
and hap up my babies in shawls,
lacey as the scoom of waves,
for when the cold winds blow.
Sometimes, when I don't notice I've dropped
a stitch until later, I discover unlooked for patterns,
or combinations of colours.
A handsel: something that's mine.
Shetlandic glossary: makkin- knitting; wirset - worsted, a type of yarn; cloo- ball of wool; kishies of paets - rush baskets full of peat; hairst - harvest; gansey - jersey; scoom - spume; handsel - gift.
'Makkin' was Highly Commended in the Norman MacCaig Poetry Festival Competition, 2011 and is published on the Festival website.