Knots by Sam Ramos


The True Lovers, or Fisherman’s Knot
     
Two lengths of rope are held against each other. They are intimate. In the depths of a storm the wind may torment them, but they will not be set free. The bond is infinite.
     
To loosen: Hold underwater until swollen with fluid. Pull from both ends to disintegrate.
     
     
     
The Bell
     
An elegant knot found in sentimental places. It was invented by monks to hold barrels of wine to carts, as well as to secure vellum when it was scraped and pulled. The vellum was then used to make holy books. It carried gold leaf well – and lapis – without their fading.
     
Pope Alexander II stayed up late reading military histories. Christian warriors sang his praises and departed to make Jerusalem free.
     
Centuries later a young priest recovered a knot almost turned to dust in the Vatican library, with the Pope’s seal.
     
To loosen: Let sit, alone, for hours.
     
     
     
Mors du Cheval
     
A knot used exclusively in horse racing. It is used for the bit, also for the saddle, and, too, for the breaking of foals.
     
At the races a board displayed the winners and losers as well as the times. A boy sweated into the palm of a girl, who coughed. The girl, no older than seventeen, was pink in the face, and squinted from the sun. The heat invaded her dress and the wide-brimmed hat she wore provided no relief. Several rows away a vendor sold cigars. Well-tailored men raised their hands to get his attention. A collection of guarded, indifferent eyes looked on.
     
When she was a child her parents took her to the races. She watched a horse named The Pride of Olympus. The Pride of Olympus stood tall and red, his eyes a deep, liquid brown. She clasped her hands against the rail as The Pride of Olympus was led from his paddock by a length of rope, which was attached at the neck by the Mors du Cheval.
     
After the Pride of Olympus lost the girl put her face in the boy’s shoulder and cried. He thought she laughed. He smiled and patted her back. He rested his palm on her damp back and he frowned while she laughed. Meanwhile the girl was almost sobbing.
     
To loosen: Pull the foal’s front feet down. Once the head and shoulders are clear, pull straight out along the mare’s spine.
     
     
     
The Alpine Butterfly
     
The Alpine Butterfly does not prefer sun-drenched mountains or valleys that are green as jade. It does not carouse with village girls or Swiss laundresses. It does not ever lower buckets into wells.
     
Two men were lost on a steep climb and stopped to rest in a cave. They built a fire safe from the wind. By morning one had frozen to death and the new lover grieved.
     
Yellow mist crawled over the gray exterior. A soldier put his mask on as the gas overflowed his trench.
     
It does not float on warm breezes.
     
It does not want to put its feet in the water.
     
It does not want to be sung to.
     
It does not want to be cradled to sleep.
     
The Alpine Butterfly does not bear them away.
     
To loosen: Cut with a knife.
     
     
The Water Knot
     
The Water Knot is used in the ocean – in the deep with the whales. It can make a net, and then a dam, to hold the water back.
     
The Water Knot can be made from water.
     
A Water Knot is not unraveled in the wave.
     
To loosen: This is not impossible.
     
     
     
The Simple Noose
     
The Simple Noose is the most basic of knots. It succeeds where the mob and photograph do not (It was common during a lynching for participants or witnesses (a witness is also a participant) to photograph the mob and the victim.). Often, postcards were made for distribution.
     

Three men hang as their captor looks on. The artist Francisco de Goya made the Simple Noose famous in his Disasters of War series.
     
The Noose will dredge up a bitter, all-knowing filth (A Simple Noose in a tree makes the specter of a many-armed death).
     
The Noose is surrounded by walls and held aloft over mud.
     
If the Simple Noose were a rose, and grew from the ground straight to the sky, in wild green fields, a breeze would blow them sideways, ripping them from their roots and tossing their seedlings onto the hot steaming pavement of a nearby road.
     
To loosen: The gentle hand of the Noose can soothe one to a blessed sleep, where every dream is a relief, and the caress of darkness is an answered prayer.
     
     
     
Slim Beauty Knot
     
The Slim Beauty Knot refers to every longing of man and woman recorded throughout history. It is the longing for a moment free from time and its cold meter. It is the pained desire for a place with no loss.
     
The Slim Beauty Knot ties down all things wanted and loved so they will never be missed.
     
It is the lightest knot, and the most forgiving. The Slim Beauty Knot holds you and never forgets you.
     
The Slim Beauty Knot has dark eyes.
     
It is the quiet, warm breath between happening and appreciating.
     
It is a length of rope treated with wax and made to last forever.
     
     
     
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Sam Ramos is from Austin, Texas and is seeking his Creative Writing MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He’s been published in Hobart, Jettison Quarterly, and Empire Builder, among others, and is currently working on a novel about love and violence.