Red Wool

I knit a sweater out of wool from Shetland,

a sweater that would not exist but for windswept islands 

and hard weather. My little boy sat in a wooden chair 

by the window, wearing that sweater I made from one long,

long strand of red wool. One day I tugged it over his head

for the last time.

Explain technique and this turns into a knitting 

pattern. Tell about the wolf loping 

the well-trodden path through the woods, and it becomes

an old story I read to my granddaughter

who sits at the supper table in that same old chair.

But where is the poem, the poem I started to write?

Am I looking for words? Or something else, further

back? Before the sweater was the yarn. Before the yarn came 

the fleece, the sheep, grass, and before the grass,

rain, wind, the sun,


I could go back further, but right here the next

sentence is “The sweater was made of rain.”

This is the poem, isn’t it?

Susan Marie Swanson is pictured outdoors. She has chin-length hair and eyeglasses.

Susan Marie Swanson lives in St. Paul. Her poetry has appeared most recently in Water~Stone Review and Psaltery & Lyre. After she completed her MFA in poetry at University of Massachusetts Amherst, she worked for many years as a visiting poet in elementary schools. Her books for children include The House in the Night, winner of the Minnesota Book Award and the Caldecott Medal.