Now there’s a terrific word, handy
for describing the way life baffles,
twists itself in knots and drops a stitch. 

How ‘Tangled up in Blue’ perfectly
mimes that inexorability
with its fragments, its dangling refrain. 

(Tangle has its roots back in Old Norse
and other Northern tongues, meant ‘seaweed’,
the fronds which would wrap themselves, clutching,    

clinging, around the oars of longships,
as the Vikings wandered the whale-road.
The first syllable recalls the stink.) 

‘I got in a tangle,’ you said once,
‘With “Neæara’s hair”, I suppose?’
I joked. Your face went completely blank. 

The past’s shifting scalene triangles
tease us to adjust their angles,
though geometry won’t put it right.

So tangles now seem less romantic,
as we hunt for memory’s thimbles,
dreading the mayhem of dementia; 

but at least there’s more tangle about,
more to pore over, to unravel:
orange threads from red, green threads from blue. 

Poems, too, construct their tangles –
the clutch of riddle, the cling of charm –
for all that cannot be avoided.



Harry Ricketts teaches creative non-fiction at Te Pūtahu Tuhi Auaha o te Ao, IIML. He has published around 30 books. His Selected Poems came out from Te Herenga Waka Press in 2021.