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she sits

she knits

the needles click

as strand by strand

in cracked crabbed hands

each stitch

might haul them

back to land


her days, her nights are one, the same -

a gift of darkness borne by grief

to wounds already salted well.

lips taste each quarter

of the wind; she hears the tides

advance, retreat -

as if in echoes from

some  ancient stranded shell.

she feels the swell of mercury -

a spell, for whalestorms

breaching to the west.

her heart has learned

the transit of the moon,

his wax, his wane,

his pull,

his rest.


he was a Padstow boy, born with the caul -

immortal, priceless, fashioned for the sea -

she the fishgirl in her sequin scales

waiting through each squall, each calm

 - stab and slit,

flick and twist,

and fling the guts

out to the gulls -

and Sunday Chapel

singing him from harm

when tempest claws

made ribbons of the sails.


the tide came empty-handed, slack

and lifeless, limping in, where wives and girls

watched clocks and waited

for fear their eyes should ever meet

where hope and time evaporated

and whispers sold for tears

to the ends of every






she stood. alone for forty nights they said -

never slept or dropped her stare -

beneath the Lizard’s beam and seven sisters

huddled overhead, when at the last

it was the sea who brought the news

- a gansey, sodden with a name

an almost-pair of boots

tangled rope

snapped spars

a dream, drowned

in eyes refusing to believe

in the horizon’s

empty truth.


for Brixham boys she knits.

Lamorna lads and Mevagissey men.

she hears their songs and feels

the beating of their hearts

between the blues

beyond the Longships

and the Wolf

into the starry





she sits.

she knits.

the needles click.

row after row

hand over hand

she hauls her skeins

like ragged net

and stitch by stitch

by inch by inch

she knits them

dreams them

to the land.



◄ Breathless at the Butcher's . . . or . . . The Sins of the Flesh.

Zorro's Children ►


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Cate Greenlees

Thu 2nd Jul 2009 13:29

Very moving.....I love this onr.
Cate xx

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Fri 19th Jun 2009 14:15

Hi Anthony - I am trying to wipe out all trace of my name from google so unfortunately have to delete the 5 or so comments I placed on this. Just for the record everyone - I totally love this poem and find it so deserving of being judged poem of the month. Very unsentimental but poignant handling of grief.

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Steve Regan

Sat 9th May 2009 11:54

A marvellous evocation of love lost, the cruel sea and the beautiful land of Cornwall.

Loved these lines, among many, Anthony ...

'her days, her nights are one, the same -

a gift of darkness borne by grief

to wounds already salted well.'

And the mention of Lamorna...oh,that walk from Mousehold to Lamorna along the cliffs never fails to blow me away with its beauty! I must get down to Cornwall again soon.

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Anthony Emmerson

Wed 6th May 2009 23:07

Go on Isobel! Treat yourself - be pedantic! And I would love to have you write a thesis on it. I think it's pretty lightweight really. It is what it is, a short story. I guess there's stuff you could read into it, intentionally (by my intention in writing it) or otherwise. Most of all I hope it might entertain some people - on at least some level, and that it is reasonably accessible. If my vocabulary and imagination was a Lego set, then I was attempting to build a Newlyn fisherman's cottage. Not easy with Lego - the lobster pots were a real challenge.

<Deleted User> (7790)

Wed 6th May 2009 20:09

Eloquent, moving, oddly dispassionate and then there's a bloom of emotion, an astringent leak of despair. It's very finely crafted indeed. It's the detailed richness with which you show us the sea widow's beliefs, her simple magic thinking that knitting will draw the men to shore -- against the fact that being born with a caul didn't prevent her husband's death. Crikey, this makes the poem come alive. Fab!

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winston plowes

Mon 4th May 2009 19:43

I had another sample of this just now, this time in audio! so much more powerful. Slowed things down and it was easy to imagine the wait for news from the sea almost (unending)


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winston plowes

Mon 4th May 2009 16:24

Time stands still in parts of this...I liked the respect of a traditional relationship with the elements and the sea and the sense of destiny you have managed to get accross


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