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Knots

Some years ago I was teaching a novel class at Denison University. One of the novels I chose was Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News. Every chapter of The Shipping News (which is about a small newspaper in Newfoundland and contains one of my favorite headlines: Dog Fart Fells Family of Four) – every chapter is headed off by a quote from a very interesting book, Clifford W. Ashley’s The Ashley Book of Knots.

The Ashley Book of Knots is a large format, 620 page coffee table sized book. I thought it might be useful in discussing the more nautical aspects of The Shipping News, but my students weren’t especially interested in it. Not so long ago, I began to read it and it inspired a series of poems, beginning with the sheepshank knot, a knot I remembered from my Boy Scout days. (We used to have speed knot tying contests.) Many of those poems appeared in the online journal Theodate. There’s a school of them in Goldberg-Variations.

Here’s one that’s not in Goldberg-Variations. I have used the fancy term for its title but the English translation is Granny. We’ve all tied it at one time or another.

Noeud de Faux

Now I tie thee end to end,

left over right, right over left –

somehow fudged,

one of those steps –

a granny I’ve got, small fish,

too small to catch yet caught,

curled in the sun out of

symmetry, timid knot,

foolish fish caught

in the wrong rhythm, right

over left, left over thee,

I pray right, loose end.

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© 2015 Charles M. Wyatt

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