For my Grandmother Knitting

For my Grandmother Knitting
There is no need they say
but the needles still move
their rhythms in the working of your hands
as easily
as if your hands
were once again those sure and skilful hands
of the fisher-girl.

You are old now
and your grasp of things is not so good
but master of your moments then
deft and swift
you slit the still-ticking quick silver fish.
Hard work it was too
of necessity.

But now they say there is no need
as the needles move
in the working of your hands
once the hands of the bride
with the hand-span waist
once the hands of the miner’s wife
who scrubbed his back
in a tin bath by the coal fire
once the hands of the mother
of six who made do and mended
scraped and slaved slapped sometimes
when necessary.

But now they say there is no need
the kids they say grandma
have too much already
more than they can wear
too many scarves and cardigans – 
gran you do too much
there’s no necessity…

At your window you wave
them goodbye Sunday.
With your painful hands
big on shrunken wrists.
Swollen-jointed. Red. Arthritic. Old.
But the needles still move
their rhythms in the working of your hands
easily
as if your hands remembered
of their own accord the pattern
as if your hands had forgotten
how to stop.
Liz Lochhead

from A Choosing: Selected Poems (Polygon 2011)

Reproduced by permission of Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn Ltd

Liz Lochhead

Appointed Scots Makar – the National Poet for Scotland – from 2011 to 2016, Liz Lochhead is both transgressive and popular; as Anne Varty wrote, ‘her work is that of one woman speaking to many,  and one person speaking for many’.

 

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