A Casting-Off

She sits and briskly knits, her needles clack,
and grimly add the seconds of her life.
Her head is bent so she won’t see his chair
whose vacancy insists “no longer wife.”

She chooses factory-wound wool, as skeins
would underline his absence, sharpen need
for deft controlling thumbs to gather threads,
his held-out arms that always took the lead.

And at her knee she taught me purl and plain;
she’d pick up stitches, undo and put right
my every tangle; tackle garter, rib,
till lymph, and blood, and bile snapped off her light.

Her knitting bag was needle-sharp, and full —
unfinished work, and ball on ball of wool.

Angela Topping
(From Letting Go, Mother’s Milk Books)