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Knots & Splices

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Take hold of the bitter end;
pass carefully around
the standing part,
being mindful of the bight.
Finish with a round turn,
make the knot up tight
and it will not slip under load.

But you'll find it not
so easily undone;
dangerous in the dark and cold
and wet, when it matters most.
These knots command allegiances.

The Turk's head and midshipman's bend,
the lighterman's hitch and
the hangman's noose.
See what names mean:
Knots are men.

Facing page—a simple eye-splice.
Apply a whipping at the end
so no strands come loose
in the braid. The knot will hold
Anything you care to bind.

Source: Poetry (Poetry)

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This poem originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Poetry magazine

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Knots & Splices

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