Any given day may bring me a measure of joy in my garden or running. I also know the uneasiness too of not being able to decide which is more likely to cause human extinction: inability to live in peace with other beings or disregard for the hard work of caretaking for and restoring ecological balances. I know they don't need to be weighed against each other, but these ideas are a burden I carry in a two-fold backpack. I seldom write humorous poetry except the poem I wrote about being so serious. Website: triciaknoll.com
Neighbors told me his name was June Bug.
He was as black as any black man ever is.
Two years younger than I.
Liquid brown depths of kindness. I saw
that in his calm eyes and his quiet way.
I don’t know how he tied up beetles.
They said he got his name because as a kid
he captured June bugs, iridescent scarab
beetles, under a flashlight at night
in his family’s vegetable garden.
With black thread he tied a beetle
to each of his ten fingers.
He held his hand so beetles would flop-fly
around his forehead. Maybe those boys fooled me.
Their story made him smile, small and shy.
I trusted him. If tethering bugs
contradicted kindness, I didn’t ask
or wonder then.
I think of him when people discuss
what color Jesus was or I see
an airbrushed Jesus on a wall.
Cede to other women skin
tints of caramel, taffy, and fancy maple,
heady Jamaican vanilla extract
in amber glass. The glow
of copper wire. Oxides,
raw or burnt sienna.
The roughed-up walnut heartwood
deepened on roofs
of the Lower Ninth Ward.
How black poets sing
Eyeball my elbows.
garden spawn. Folded water
in a rapids’ raceway. The color
of a hand-carved horse-chestnut bowl.
The background of poker cards
common like toothpicks,
rolled paper on the Marlboro,
whipped froth of separated eggs.
Salt. Milky soap. Cores
of candy apples and bananas
and the sultry slink
of the first pair of evening gloves.
We are wedding dress
and baby’s breath.
Pale like airborne chalk and moist smoke,
the stretch-skin of tambourines.
We are leather-bound family bibles
and derivative dictionaries
made of pearl linen cover cloth.
Our ivory endnotes press
of the little we know.
-first published in Hamilton Stone Review, Fall 2015
The Property Line in a Portland Suburb
No fence separates us from neighbors.
This is suburbia. Their barking dog sounds like mine.
I don’t like his radio turned to university football games.
They may not like how I call crows to feed on cat kibble.
Fireplace smoke floats between us.
Smells of lilacs, roses, freshly mowed grass.
We’ve borrowed sugar, tomato paste, and molasses,
shared how kids are doing, where we took vacations,
gossip about families up and down the street.
We noticed how the new people with twins
moved in a washer-dryer before anything else.
Our paths intersect below the street light
or watching for the mail. We don’t talk
about husbands much.
Then ash whiteflies, Siphoninus phillyreae
clouds of the tiniest specks,
moved up from California,
skipped there on European fruit.
They don’t belong here.
They cross the line,
a violation we talk about.
Authorizing Limited Operations
On February 11, 2015, President Obama asked Congress for authorization for a three-year military campaign against ISIS.
I ruffle up my war poems,
the one with the dollhouse for yarn people
writing thumb-nail letters that oppose Guantanamo,
or the one with the Syrian father holding his bleeding
son while the doctor shakes his head,
we have no medicines today.
Writing poems about war
is a useless as bemoaning
the death of bee hives.
That black hat box, the Civil War letters
from my Dunn boys to their sister and cousin.
From the dates and locales heading their letters
I know what they were doing
more than one hundred and fifty years ago.
Quite a bit about the weather.
The mud, the snow, their boots,
and the dead.
She wrote to them from back-home
that their good-old dog had distemper
and she had to shoot that mad dog.
They all thought they knew
exactly what they were doing.
©2015 Tricia Knoll