“Long ago in China, knot-makers tied string into buttons and frogs, and rope into bell pulls. There was one knot so complicated that it blinded the knot-maker. Finally an emperor outlawed this cruel knot, and the nobles could not order it anymore. If I had lived in China, I would have been an outlaw knot-maker.”
― Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
Happy Lunar New Year. We are progressing forward, toiling as the Ox, steadfast.
I have been a member of the outlaw knot-maker clan for many years, tying Shibari style rope bondage in my BDSM sessions and sharing my rope skills as fundraising for my community.
I am an Aging nonbinary woman, a keeper of spaces, and Mother of dragon and tiger daughters. My moonblood is waning and my hands are gnarling from the inside. The tendrils within pull taut as the arthritis I inherit from my matriarchal blood claims my hands. Our hands that have always looked older than our years, old woman hands on a child. Our hands that have created, destroyed, and cared for a world.
My Lau Lau's hands knitted and sewed clothes for her four children; they melted bullets for the guns that would protect her family on their way to Taiwan. My mother's hands played Midnight sonata for me to fall asleep; they fused the monoclonal antibodies for the first AIDS rapid test kits in Africa.
My hands... my hands have pushed into and pulled flesh, marking skeins of skin with pleasure and pain. They've been tourniquet to a sliced arm, saving a life; they've also loaded the heroin that killed my best friend. They've held babies to my breast for milk; they've slapped my lover in both passion and anger. My hands fold dumplings, pour tea, libations, repot plants, light candles, braid hair, twist nipples, write and type and are coiling from the years.
My hands pulse at night and in the morning, they have curled into dried leaves. When I run rope through my fingers, along the palms of my hands, I feel yesterdays slipping through them. I touch my daughter- dragon or tiger-'s cheek and feel tomorrow. Whether they choose my craft or my mother's or my mother's mother's or entirely their own, they will be outlaw knot-makers, because they have my hands.
Red Canary Song is providing mutual aid--cash for migrant workers who cannot access government aid. This week, our hands gave red cash envelopes, as part of the Chinese New Year tradition, and collaborated with Astoria Food pantry and People's Bodega to hand out bags of fresh vegetables and eggs. If you'd like to donate to our efforts, please send a donation through the following and be sure to subject the payment with RCS donation: