“Girl Mending Nets,” William Collins, WikiArt.

“Fishing nets begin with island sheep and
You, Willow,” Papa said, unfathomed mental
Connections, roaming flocks, deep-running
Schools of flip-flopping fish, warm wool
Gathering, spinning taught string, twisting-
Turning spindles, thin line coiling on stone,
My bare feet. Hard pull at length of yarn,
Papa struggled to break. Pipe-puffing nods,
“Willow, need near-on 500 feet, from here
To distant shoreline tread.” On driftwood
Sticks yarn we rolled, not twisted round and
Round, wound on like turning wagon wheel.

“Skills pocket money make,” Papa advised,
Setting, mending, floats and weights, curtain
Hanging, cold water depths, fish caught by
Hundreds. More there was my mind to grasp,
Odd wooden tools, shuttle, gauge, I watched
His rhythmed quick handiwork. End tied to
Back-iron hook, loops, tight knots fashioned
In equal-spaced precision, shuttle moving
In and out, around net growing in length,
Rows added. My turn to try, awkward move-
Ments, too sloppy round the gauge, Papa’s
Hands on mine, one row we made together.

Modern-day net setting, Grand Manan Island, NB, Canada.

That night, fingers, hands hurt, back muscles
Sore, Papa said, “Tomorrow, sing a song, let
Shuttle ride along. It knows what to do.” Few
Weeks, I was setting nets, top and bottom,
Fastening to long horizontal lines, hand-
Blown glass floats, iron weights, marked so
We knew our own. Boat net loaded, careful
Flaking, hard oaring to fishing grounds,
Leading weighted edge lowered overboard,
Net disappearing, bay-bottom sinking, Papa
Slow-oared, I fed out bitter anchored end,
Tides, currents, island sheep, fishing nets.

For more on ancient skills of fishing net making, see this link.
Thanks for reading.

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