by Hannah Beth Nicholson
Gansey (n) a jersey. [O.Sc. & E.dial. gansey (orig. garnsey): a woollen jersey, esp. one worn by fishermen; originally a garment of the sort from the island of Guernsey]
(From ‘Shetland Words: A dictionary of the Shetland dialect’ by Alasdair and Adaline Christie-Johnston)
As a Magnie in the city, I wear my Fair Isle knitwear
Like an extra skin. It sits cosy and warm
And protective across my shoulders, and proudly
It displays my heritage, a woollen badge of honour
Worn like a mantle. The patterned yoke
Adorns it like a mayoral medallion, the alternating
Snowflakes and fir trees like a Norwegian winter scene.
Carefully conceived by one more talented
And swifter of hand than I, the repeating motif
Is framed by the bright block colour surrounding it.
To me it is a symbol of the identity
That I struggle to retain, as I live
In a place unfamiliar where I was not born
And raised, when I have to put on airs
And affect my accent for the folk I meet.
Each time I feel my mother tongue slipping,
I pull it around me like a blanket
Instead of shedding it like snakeskin,
Clinging tightly to a constant remnant of home
And keeping my roots as close as I can.