Ode to My Shawl
with a nod to Neruda
My friend Libby knit me a shawl, It was still summer - We were standing in her garden - When she took me by surprise Handing it over Like a foundling delivered into my arms. I tossed it open, it floated Down around me A cloak of fleece, a cloud Of breath and foam Radiating Animal heat. “I made it out of plötulopi,” she said, “Unspun wool from a breed of long-haired Icelandic sheep At least a thousand years old.” I once watched her pull a strand apart, Two wisps a Viking wife would bind with spit - “like knitting with air” - Two fleeces from the same sheep: Part thel, silk from the underbelly Entwined with tog, the wiry outercoat, One smooth, one hairy, like Isaac’s sons. “These are your colors,” Libby said. At one end, an iron-black hoof Clambering out of a cave, mounts Through rust- brown fields Into mossy pasture And on Up, ever higher Through mist, clouds, chalky cliffs, bubbling pools, mud-puddle lace, Each band including and transcending the last, The green shot through with tan, The tan with grass, and so on Every first a last, every last a first, Knitting winter into summer Darkness into light A coincidence of opposites Without boundaries or borders Not One and Not Two Either The seamless whole that Bonaventure saw In the mind’s journey into God Ending on a snow-capped glacier. Here is forgiveness Here is reconciliation Like those twin sheep-herding brothers in the movie Rams,* Kiddi and Gummi, their bushy beards identical, Their barns a mere hundred yards apart - Who haven’t spoken to each other in forty years - Gummi, regularly rescuing Kiddi from his drunken stupors, Himself gets lost in a snowbank where Kiddi finds him Out cold. Desperate to revive his brother, Kiddi builds a cave of ice and snow, hauls Gummi Inside. We see them, naked as newborns In the final frame, Thel and tog carded together Wound once more in the womb of birth and death, Kiddi, caressing and warming his long-lost brother, “Gummi, Gummi,” knitting hatred into love. *Rams is a stunning 2015 Icelandic film about two warring sheepherding brothers which won a prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Watching it during the pandemic makes it read like an allegory. I have since learned that an Australian remake was released this October, but I’m attached to the austerity of the original.
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