“Whipping” by K. D. Harryman

Cord or twine used to bind 
or cover a rope, keep the ends
from fraying.
To begin,  place a hand 
on your daughter’s shoulders.
Tell her fifth grade is 
a bloodletting. Show her your own path
of hard turns taken
before you were hauled taut
and loosed into motherhood. Say, this knot 
is a folded note. 
This knot is a map back to me. Lay out a rope.
Tell her to gather each end.
Say stitch them tight
or burn them down.  


“I’m interested in the emotional fortitude and the trauma parents pass down to children, and I think often about ancestors and their reserve of knowledge and experience that we can draw from. This poem originated with a line from The Ashley Book of Knots, a beautiful encyclopedia of knots written in the 1940s. I had been working for some time with the metaphor of tying and untying knots and being female, the ways in which women are manipulated, how we contort ourselves, make ourselves small, and how it takes concentration and effort to both live within that smallness and to undo it.”
K. D. Harryman


K. D. Harryman is the author of Girls’ Book of Knots, forthcoming in 2023 from BlazeVox Books, as well as Auto Mechanic’s Daughter (Akashic, 2007). The recipient of the 2019 Rumi Prize and the 2018 James Hearst Poetry Prize, she serves as the poetry editor for Five South. She is originally from Kentucky and lives in Los Angeles.    

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