Tricia Knoll – Four Poems


A Syntax of Light

The scientist said light knows no grammar.

As if its rules fail to follow clockwork.
Rise to fall precision. Waves and catch-up
leap lights, emissions ordered, sequenced,
lasered and paragraphed.

Today’s weather newscaster alerted us.
Watch this evening’s sunset strung out
in pink and purple, rowdy in pollution’s dust.
Skirt as noun and verb.

Lightning surprise on the horizon
coming from cloud press and repress
goes knock-knock in the night.
Gerunds smacking edgewise.

Riddled with who goes there, a one-candle
headlamp pokes through the woods.
A head-first stumble over rotted tree roots
blamed on prepositions.

The ten thousand synonyms
for blaze. Antonyms
for burial. Indents
of shadows.

That tunnel of gold radiance
the not-long dead
come home holding –
the big question mark.

The comma,
simile-way a face softens.

She Who Knits in the Buddhist Monastery

I respect silence. I did not come for preaching.

Her bare toes nudge the barn floor
from her caned rocking chair.
She sways. Her fingers knit stripes,
cables of mantle and crust, riffs of watersheds
running down to ruffled-water blue binding.
Ribbed fabric slumps around her knotted calves
like lazy Vermont mountains.
I pass near her. I hear a hawk. A gong.

Rock and knit. Patience
stitch by stitch, inch by inch,
she binds up guardian green.

I am one apprentice, come to find my call
in hoe and loam, heirloom seed and pollen.
Others move beside me – basket weavers,
windmill makers, moss minders, modelers of fault zones,
river tenders, ocean keepers, and selvage menders.

Her needles slish against each other.
She tilts her head at my glass of cold water,
crosses the needles in her left hand,
and reaches with her right. I offer
my sweated glass, see a lifeline
on her palm.

Label Warnings I Didn’t Read

I shrunk a green cotton dress
before I got too fat to wear it.

Despite a diagram for how the ink fits in
the printer, I press forward with intuition.

When the amber check engine light comes on,
I eventually drive to the mechanic’s shop.

I forgot to beat the egg whites
for Belgian waffles. Twice.

Today I planted the new hybrid Go-To-Gold
rose beside last year’s prize-winning pink.

Then I read the tag, this rose
is not comfortable with pastels.

You said you didn’t think I could change you.
I didn’t know you came with a tag

that said I cannot be any other way,
attached with a wire on your root stock,

wary of pastels.

The Failure of Imagination

Studying the laddered spirals of genes in magazines,
heredity’s chain of chances and choices,

a reach back to dank caves with fire-sooted overhangs.
I see how footprints wander or broken bracelets unclasp

and reconnect awkwardly, what may have made me.
When I hear low tones of native flutes, I try

to intuit waves between all living things like wind swirls.
When I see the fairy tutus of the cherry bloom

how hard to grasp that we are one.

Author’s Statement on Beauty

Beauty’s calls attention to itself,
seldom shrieking, to indulge
in repeats in subtle variations –
wrinkles on hands of grandmothers,
tilts of rock strata, sand ripples
in a neap tide, untrained voices
when a crowd belts out a song
for love and justice.

Beauty may choose to wear leaves,
expand in jigsaws of ponderosa barks,
show off its designs of naked branches,
or rest in snowfalls on quiet volcanoes.

Beauty smells of impermanence,
a tight-fisted winter rose
vulnerable to freeze. The curator
with plexi-glass cases and UV filters
measures degrees of micro-fading.

Now I put my finger on one point
in a line that extends to starbursts
and to the green past of wild earth.
Grace does no harm.


Tricia Knoll is an Oregon poet. Her work appears widely in journals and anthologies. She has a mild voice disability and has been writing lately about silence. Her poetry collections include Ocean’s Laughter (Aldrich Press, 2016) and a chapbook Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press, 2014). More at