Knitting Lessons

By KIM NORIEGA

POETRY SEMIFINALIST

for Mrs. Hogue

When I’d visit after school or on Saturdays, you’d be clicking away, sitting at your kitchen
table—a Marlboro Gold smouldering in the ashtray, your cat, Huntley asleep in a basket
of yarn, your crisp white blouse tucked deftly into a walking skirt. In winter, a hand-knit
cardigan, too, draped over your shoulders.

When I asked you to teach me, you said, of course dear, and just like that handed over
your current work-in-progress. Grasp the needles, one in each hand, firmly but not too tightly,
you said. Hold the stitchwork loosely with your fingers. Angle the needle tips slightly together.
Glide the needle beneath the yarn. Now wrap around, pull back through, and look at that,
you’ve made your first stitch.

I came back the next day with fat wooden needles I scrounged from our attic, a meager skein
of peach yarn, and our lessons commenced in earnest. Slip knot, cast on, knit two, purl one,
you taught in your kindly southern voice—that blanket of acceptance.

Even later, when I ran wild, sneaking out with that Miller boy, stealing your cigarettes
(you must have known) and your son’s heart (which surely I broke), joyriding
in your ’66 Tempest. I’m sorry Kim, I’ll have to tell your parents, you said when we
got caught.

Mistakes are to be expected, you’d say, as you’d take my little peach scarf into your hands,
and (overlooking much, I imagine) peer at it over the tops of your glasses, checking
for inconsistent tension, uneven rows, stitches dropped.

And worth fixing darlin’, you’d add, handing it back with a wink—so there I’d sit,
beside you, our heads wreathed in a Marlboro Gold halo, knitting the same stitches over
and over, till I finally learned—which I must admit, took longer than I ever could have imagined.

 

Kim Noriega was given her first book of poetry—The Complete Works of Emily Dickinson—at age 10, and has loved poetry ever since. She grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and currently lives in San Diego where she heads the library’s family literacy program. Noriega’s poems have appeared in journals and anthologies, including The Paris-Atlantic, Arsenic Lobster, Verse Daily, and most recently, Veils, Halos & Shackles International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women. Her poem “Heaven, 1963” appeared in Ted Kooser’s syndicated column American Life in Poetry. Her poetry collection Name Me was published by Fortunate Daughter Press.


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