Private Urgencies Made Public
– a phrase from Adrienne Rich’s Usonian Journals, 2000
We wait to have blood drawn. Anonymous,
masked people in an understaffed beige hospital room
with gray chairs. Many elderly. The phlebotomist comes
out looking sweaty and announces that we would have to
wait an hour and a half. The skinniest, oldest man with a
cane creaks up to standing and leaves. More follow.
I stay, absorbed in news from Ukraine on my phone,
wondering how families survive winter without power
until a woman across the room begins to sob. Four
of us, the few left. Four women. Two sit side by side,
look-alike heads leaning together, perhaps sisters.
The fourth burst out an explanation. Her daughter
had just called to report her car had been broken into.
The vandal stole migraine meds and a necklace
made from the ashes of her grandmother.
A week earlier the man that the daughter loved
died. Fentanyl overdose. The daughter asked
his father to look in on the son, but the father
left for work and the son died, leaving behind
I speak: we feel for her daughter. For her despair.
The sisters speak of the Lord, healing,
and how love could make this right.
The weeping mother nods and says she knows.
I listen, no faith to offer this sadness.
The nurse calls my name. I follow her.
A needle pokes my vein. Dark blood in a tube.
The mom’s story sticks in me. I wonder what
the jewelry looked like. Necklace of ashes.
Of Rising Suns
You told a story. You ask me to tell a true story,
No hole opens in these stratus clouds, one light-gray
smear hints where the sun might be. The snow
is smattered with droppings and grunge.
I missed the first red of sunrise in jumpy dreaming.
My dogs seem listless. Where is my story?
A woman’s brown hands grabbed onto the other side
of FEMA’s chainlink in New Orleans. She insisted
Katrina was our judgment. I couldn’t imagine
what we might have in common besides being
of the few to be there. Three weeks after. The rising sun
over that fence, so in-my-face round and red, like nothing
I’d seen before. She grew up beneath it, her story.
Once I made a big arc, flying out of a swing
from an oak tree and landed on my back. Knocked
the breath out of me. I heard nothing. Saw
only noon sun in the June sky and a tangle
of branches. I was in heaven. When
my breath came back, a neighbor kid asked how
I was. I didn’t say I missed heaven.
A woman and I shared an office with big windows
overlooking a park. We talked a lot. Gossiped.
Offered condolences over interactions with our bright
but mean boss. I knew about her new boyfriend.
She missed a few days, being sick in February, flu season.
Years later she told me she had an abortion then. A story
come to light after she had a son.
If my stories lack radiance and heat, they meant something
once; the surprise ending – I lived this long to tell them.
from Middle English: all + one
I’m sick of writing about loneliness.
Two dogs curl at my feet, licking
snow from their paws. I walk
to my birdfeeder with a scant cup
of seed. Three bluejays wait to chase
away a loyal banditry of chickadees.
At my window I count them –
sparks I keep lit.
How many is enough
so this old lady sees
both forests and trees,
and in their seasons
butterflies and bees.
Tricia Knoll is an aging poet living in a Vermont woods. Her work appears widely in journals and anthologies. Her newest collection, One Bent Twig, features love poems for trees she has planted. lived with, or worried about due to climate change. Website;: Triciaknoll.com