Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "A Very Reliable Magic"

This poem is spillover from the September 3, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] mama_kestrel, [personal profile] curiosity, and [personal profile] readera. It also fills the "String / Thread / Yarn" square in my 9-1-19 card for the Arts and Crafts Festival bingo. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the series Beneath the Family Tree, which you can find via the Serial Poetry page.

"A Very Reliable Magic"

Busy Fingers the shaman
was making a new magic.

All spring she had sent
the children up hills and
down valleys, gleaning
tufts of shed wool and fur
that clung to the briars.

She had worked
the magic of Cord
for days and days.

It was a very slow magic,
but now she had balls of
the stuff piled in baskets.

There was brown from moose,
reddish-brown from mammoths,
and cream from caribou.

Now Busy Fingers sat
with a ball of Cord in her lap,
poking it with a pointed stick
and making it do things.

She poked and poked,
twisted and twisted,
pulled and pulled.

It was a very slow magic.

Everyone watched, though,
because not all shamans
would work magic where
other people could see it.

They watched in amazement
as the long, thin Cord transformed
into something flat and almost solid.

Busy Fingers had taken the Cord
and a plain old stick, waved her hands --
many, many times -- and turned
one thing into another!

When the new thing
was as wide as one arm
and as long as two arms,
Busy Fingers gave it to
Rabbit Woman and said,
"Here, wrap this around
your baby to keep her warm."

Rabbit Woman pulled at
the new thing, and it stretched,
but it did not come apart into
the fluffs of wool it had once been.

One end of it was dark brown,
the middle was reddish-brown,
and the other end was cream,
but now they all stuck together.

It was a very slow magic,
but also a very reliable magic.

"What is this new magic?"
Rabbit Woman wondered.

"This," said Busy Fingers,
"I call a Blanket."

"Can it be taught?"
Rabbit Woman said.
"Or is it a shaman's trick?"

"I don't know," said Busy Fingers.
"Choose some Cord and let's find out!"

So Rabbit Woman wrapped her daughter
in the wonderful Blanket, took up a ball
of Cord, and began to study magic.

* * *


“It turns out that knitting isn't about the yarn or the softness or needing a hat (although we really can't argue with these secondary motivators). It's really about this: Knitting is a magic trick. In this day and age, in a world where science and technology take more and more wonder and work out of our lives , and our planet is quickly becoming a place running out of magic, a knitter takes silly, useless string, mundane sticks, waves her hands around (many, many times...nobody said this was fast magic), and turns one thing into another: string into a hat, string into a sweater, string into a blanket for a baby. It really is a very reliable magic.”
Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Ice age Siberia hosted many animals.
The diversity of fungi found suggests that a brimming plant community thrived in northern Siberia to support them. This range of plants should also have sustained a diverse assembly of mammals – and the samples indeed contain DNA from woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis), woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius), reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) and moose (Alces alces) dating back to between 15,000 and 25,000 years ago (Molecular Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294x.2011.05306.x).

Based on the limited fragments of historical evidence, it seems that knitting (and perhaps also its related craft of nalebinding) is polygenetic. It may have arisen, spread, and died out on many separate occasions.

Read about the origins of crochet.
Tags: crafts, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, history, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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