top of page

Tricia Knoll

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

two toddlers.

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;:


bottom of page