Sharon Black

Eriskay Wives

On clear days, the Minch is a navy gansey
laid flat to the horizon:
a downturned palm can almost feel
the warmth of a man’s chest,
his heartbeat.

When wind rides in, nudging
sacks of herring meal, stacks of peat
and creels pulled clear of the water’s edge,
the sea’s a rumpled sleeve
of plain and purl.

It’s the other days – when even
gulls and kittiwakes take shelter
when door frames yowl and stone weights
stutter on the thatching –
that the island holds its breath:

stars are guttered lanterns, clouds are hulls   
and rainfall threatens                                   
     to unravel  
the rows of knitted panels –              
horseshoe, starfish, anchor, net –
it’s then we fetch our yarn,
keep our fingers busy
with a gansey for the eldest, for his brother,
for the youngest on his way,
the click of whalebone our covenant

that as long as we’re still knitting
the sea can’t take them, the thread
between us can’t be lost,
five-ply passing through our fingers  
from the deep skeins on our laps.



(runner-up, Mslexia Poetry Competition 2017)

Copyright © Sharon Black 2017