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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 7, 2017.
About this Poem 

“One of the most powerful images at our biggest protest march yet, earlier this year in Washington DC, was one of the ever-moving sea of pink hats. The hat-project came together so quickly, and many hands were put to knitting hats for those who were to march, from those who could not be there. After I came home with my family, still feeling great unrest, I decided to make hats for all our DC hosts, especially as I had this sense we would be back, again, marching and singing, signing and moving. Also: this poem is informed by my mother’s project of raising sheep; shearing, carding, spinning and then finally, knitting. We were not great at it, but the yarn has a rather existential feel in my hands— having been through so much to get here.”
—Sophie Cabot Black

As to Why We Will Not Stop (Making the Hats)

This time it does not begin with the beaver
Instead only halfway up the mountain
Where the sheep we keep each year come through

Winter enough to answer us, enough
For us to shear, deft before the coming storm,
To take away from the body what it did not know

It grew and then astonished each spring to feel 
The quickening of the lamb, the heft of
Sudden weight crossing one more patch

Of snow. All with an eye out
For the cougar or some such animal
Of which the DNA is no longer

What it might have been, the coyote now
As part dog part wolf   
Already commonplace. We have come to know the truth

As no longer true— the old ways do not work
Against the new. How to reconcile the bear
As she comes down to what we now call ours

And how to prepare for the unforeseen
As we throw each sheep handily on their back
To begin at the belly—fleece to shear,

To wash, and pick, to card, to bale, to weigh,
To the depot where all will be spun, dyed
Into the wool we want, knowing it can be done

Again and again without much death
For the sheep she rises, shakes herself
Back into where she was before: grass, lamb;

Watches until we have pulled away,
As we head back down the mountain—
And in something like ability, or capacity, 

The condition of being human, or female,
Or both, we want to knit this out, into
Dawn light, into a long stream

Of making sense, into where we will go next,
Into skeins of design and colors
Of what blood can mean, pinks

Such as rose or carmine, wanton or nearly red,
Timid or raw, healing or newly born,
Scarlet, blaze, bloom, or shell, or blush,

Like the small fingers of a wakening child,
Each stitch to repeat, purl and dispatch,
To get this done, and into that which

We can call sustainable, so those from behind
Can choose from the many hues; likewise
To walk forward with covered or uncovered heads.

Copyright © 2017 by Sophie Cabot Black. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 7, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Sophie Cabot Black. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 7, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Sophie Cabot Black

Sophie Cabot Black

Sophie Cabot Black is the author of The Misunderstanding of Nature (Graywolf Press, 2013).

by this poet

poem
Not

that you are unloved
but that you love
and must decide which

to remember; tracks left
in the field, a language
of going away or coming back—

and to look up
from the single mind,
to let untangle

the far-off snow
from sky
until no longer

poem

To put one and one together making
Two and so on. A house appears, room
With a bed in it. To configure anyway,

Even without enough information.
We work into it, the chosen. To measure
Everything out until the one who takes over

Becomes taken. This as strategy, the art
Of how we

poem

Which cannot be written tries anyway—
From one room to another, each time startled
And does not want to hear of the already

Passed through, the country of before.
Poem that at each door believes itself
In the room closest to the end

Where finally everything will be gone over,