Jennifer Compton lives in Melbourne and is a poet and playwright who also writes prose. Her book of poetry – Barefoot – was published by Picaro Press in 2010 and her unpublished ms – This City – won the Kathleen Grattan Award and will be published by Otago University Press in July. Her stage play – The Third Age – has been short listed for the Adam New Zealand Play Award and she is hopeful that it will eventually be produced.
How to Cast Off
I poised the needles to do the final thing
you can do for a shawl (before the fringe)
and forgot, forgot how to cast off.
My hands blanked out how to do it and
I have done it a hundred hundred times
I got a fright.
I walked around the house for a bit
but it didn’t come back. I sat.
Learning how not to know something.
I still knew what a selvedge looks like.
And I still knew wool.
I put two and two together.
And worked it out.
Yes, it was late. I was tired. But
casting off had slipped away from me.
Somewhere in the city
I lost the knitting
the sentimental wool
I had unpicked to reknit.
The colour scheme was alarming
but that was what my mother chose
when she was still capable of crochet
so I held my peace and flew her colours.
I had been warned of an imminent loss
the knowledge of loss had thrummed by
so I kept checking I had everything
one hand delving in my shoulderbag.
And more than the knitting is the pillowcase
made by my husband’s mother, now deceased,
she had run it up from a summery cotton frock
with two ties at the top to keep the knitting safe.
My hands know the scarf in progress intimately
I was working away at the royal blue stripe
plain and plain and plain and plain again and turn
the yarn between my fingers running like smoke.
As I rose to leave my train at Upwey Station
a thud of portent hit me – something missing –
my soft bundle pierced by two sharp needles.
And my hands, now, disconsolate as ghosts.