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KATHRYN MERWIN | A Compendium of Essential Knots

Blackwall Hitch – A temporary means of attaching a rope to a hook. Tricky to untie. Once you were untangled, and so was I, and the sun bloomed between us like a breath-swollen lung. We forgot the sun was temporary, too. Like the Hitch, if exposed to enough tension, a person can fray. The knots will come slowly at first.

Wolf Whipping – The simplest of whippings, the Wolf is a series of smaller knots intended to keep a rope from unraveling. Sometimes it takes more than one knot to keep all the threads together. When it all comes undone, don’t trust the Wolf to hold together. It will fall apart at the smallest touch.

Eye Splice – A permanent loop at the end of a thread. Used for stitching things together, the eye is one of the most trustworthy knots. After all, eyes don’t lie. I stitched you back together, too, spliced your seams and runs. Ignored the eyes in all the walls. Dreamt of the slow freeze of your saucer-eyed stare.

Continuous Ring – A chain of small knots in careful orbit, the ring is made to protect what’s inside. But that’s not you. You were never a protector. Used to conceal against sea salt and moorings, the ring knot sheaths what’s within. But you’re not the ring, you’re the sea. You’re not the knot in this one. You’re the water, the rainflow, the small fish in the shark’s halo, the drizzle of cool stars spinning towards a black hole; translated --- you don’t know what it’s like to be terrified (I’ll show you.)

Kathryn Merwin is a writer based in Baltimore. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hayden's Ferry, Passages North, Sugar House, Prairie Schooner, Verse Daily, and Blackbird. She has read and/or reviewed for the Bellingham Review, WomenArts Quarterly, and the Adroit Journal, and received her MFA in poetry from Western Washington University. Her first collection, Womanskin, was published by CutBank Books. Connect with her at


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