Knitting Poem of the Week 7

Roy Fisher
Neighbours We'll Not Part Tonight

Roll me round to the stories of the great knittings
That took place in the foretimes
About the woolen northern country
In a smell of straw and peat and smoky kitchens;
    With a ‘clack!’ for a sound
    We’re knitting the houses round
As the great sheep’s eye of the sun slunk down behind the fell
And his thick grey blanket folded its long rows over
Door after door closed soft as the mighty strode,
Staggered, ran, limped, in the dark to their knitting spell;
    With a step for a sound
    We’re knitting the houses round
There was Ram’s-Back Rachel, Black Tick and Tam Tup,
Six-Pin Tirleyman (Twistaway Gannelbone’s grandson)
Little Stichy Baby and Kitty Curl, Granny Pullock with the straddle legs,
And a long pale idiot man who would knit with his toes:
                                    these made the party up;
    With a breath for a sound
    We’re knitting the houses round
Then came the girls Pocket and Flitty, and Ribber Wagstaff
                                            with his strong thumbs,
Giantess Appleyard in ten petticoats and not perspiring,
And Schoolmaster Weazell with his knitted walking stick,
Come to set all the children their knitting sums.
    With a squeeze for a sound
    We’re knitting the houses round
Where was the clicking of laughter then but amid the smoke
When the knitting songs and the knitting stories ran free,
And the mutton-grease fumbled the wool,
And the wool-swaddled babes in the loft began to choke?
    With a laugh for a sound
    We’re knitting the houses round
When it’s long past midnight and the yards of knitting enfold
Foot upon stamping foot, not gingerly pressed together,
And the flushed pink faces still mouth out the rows of song
Then the joy of the knitting runs stitches through young and old;
    With a gasp for a sound
    We’re knitting the houses round
Then the needles fly faster and faster; wondrous rows fall
Like foam in the beck from the warm long-labouring fingers;
Pile on the floor, to the last knitting hymn, round knees,
                            waists, bosoms, and envelope
All the great passionate ones in a soft breathing pall;
    With a tactful silence
    We’re knitting the houses round

Reprinted by permission of the author. Written by Roy Fisher in 1957, "Neighbours We'll

not Part Tonight" was published as a portfolio of serigraphs in 1976 by Circle Press


Other books by Roy Fisher include The Dow Low Drop: New & Selected Poems (1996); and

The Long and the Short of It: Poems 1955-2005, both published by Bloodaxe