Sunday, August 6, 2017

Aug 5 2017

My fingers are unravelling.

The frayed edge
they fuss and rend,
the warp and weft they split.

The strand of hair
they tug and twist,
the napkins torn to strips.

The puckered scab
they pick and pick,
the sound of ripping cloth.

As if you could hear
knitting needles click
but in reverse.
The weave returned to ball of yarn
the ball of yarn unrolled.
The parted skein, uncarded wool
spinner in reverse,
the shorn unsheared
fleece restored
sheep set free to roam.
Dry lips, busily nattering
as the needles clack away.

Nervous fingers, with a mind of their own
twirling, plucking, worrying stuff,
twisting, rubbing, all undone.

It starts
in a stocking's small run.
A single thread
dangling from a tightly woven world
is the start of its unravelling,
and I can only watch.

I came across the word unravelling, and immediately responded. It has a lovely sound. It has this connotation of genteel dissolution. I can immediately see the busy fingers at work.

I come by these images honestly. My father had this compulsive habit of tearing paper napkins into strips. My brother unconsciously twirled his long (when it was long) hair. I pick scabs, and can't keep my hands off the dogs.

The word also has a metaphorical weight. There is this idea of these orderly worlds we construct for ourselves, the illusion of stability. But life is contingent and unpredictable. Our neat worlds can incrementally and inscrutably unravel; while we look on, more helpless than we thought.

If nothing else, this is a word-play poem – I think my favourite form. Because if the poem fails, or comes across as presumptuous or pompous or prissy, it can at least be fun and mischievous. I think the key is to recite: say the poem out loud, at the pace of the human voice. Which, really, is how all poems are meant to be enjoyed.

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