Herman, The Sturgeon by Tricia Knoll

FunWithFish_HermanSturgeon

My palms press against the thick glass wall
between me and Herman. I nudge in
next to three young girls with ponytails.
Herman glides, a profile of fossils.

The sign to my left:

Species: acipenser transmontanus (Pacific Sturgeon) –
the largest freshwater fish in North America
Age: 70 plus years, born during World War II
Eyes: Steel gray
Length: Ten feet
Weight: 450 pounds
Genealogy: Species to 175 million years ago
Residence: Bonneville Fish Hatchery on the Columbia River –– since 1998 captive in a man-made pool fed by Tanner Creek and groundwater.
One Herman or another has circled this pool for over sixty years.

The blonde mother distracts her kids with goldfish crackers.
I’ve got the window.

Does Herman see my hands splayed on the glass?
Am I as irrelevant to him as barnacles
crusted on the container ships on the Columbia
heading through Bonneville’s locks to Lewiston?
Does his brain sense how near his river is?
How high the wall to the upper Columbia?

I lean in as if to weigh the theft
of his wild identity, this land-locked fish.
Does he always swim clockwise?
Ignoring cycles of spawning?
His eyes give away nothing.
Bottom dweller. Four barbell sensors,
armored scutes. Yet – a brain that integrates.

My blessing to this fish
through my hands, through the glass.
Bless his terrible beauty.
Does he feel how my laying-on pulses the water?

 

First published in Song of Eretz.

 

 

Tricia Knoll moved from Oregon to Vermont in 2018 – two places that underscore the importance of eco-poetry holding up beautiful places in transition due to climate crisis. Website: triciaknoll.com

Older Than Dirt by Tricia Knoll

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Mother, Father, whatever name,
Earth is tired too.

Not from make-young-again magma,
grinding tectonic plates that might
yawn in ennui, star-dust meteors,
off-center tilts, or hot sea vents.

Weary of extraction.
Extinction – weightless shadows
on the steps of nuclear death,
war zones, mass graves.
Fracture – refugees
crawling under desert fences.

Under the weight of all words
for home, dom, nyumbani, বাড়ি ,
the universe’s common hum
most resembles womb when home is
more than the dirt we are born to
or are buried in, common ground.

 

 

Tricia Knoll moved from Oregon to Vermont in 2018 – two places that underscore the importance of eco-poetry holding up beautiful places in transition due to climate crisis. Website: triciaknoll.com

 

Art by Jenn Zed.

#Immigration: Mother Tongue by Tricia Knoll

mother tongue tricia knoll photo byJoeLeMerou

He told me he speaks Eritrean,
my cab driver, as he gives advice
by cell to his new roommate,
arrived, in despair of finding work.

I hear a thick, slick muscle wad
clicking of a glick sound,
the phantom of a Spanish vowel roll,
some impatience and much caution.

Raindrops on my side window fork
like sycamore branches at the quarry,
my through-vision to a rundown
neighborhood of convenience stores and bars.

My father wanted me to learn
French, maybe Latin. Not German.
His parents fled the Prussian draft.
Learn, he said, a language without his shame

of run-together hooligans of a history,
thugs and ash. My memory twists
on words I overheard living with him
like wringing out sopping towels,

pinning them up to dry, the return
to utility a matter of dry time.
The driver listens to his cousin. We merge
onto a clogged freeway. He taps the wheel.

Some family words I’ve lost, a database
named forgotten. The tires
plash a puddle. My tongue pushes
my top front teeth.

My open mouth accepts tears
that branch like drizzle on this window.
There is a funeral
at the end of this.

 

 

Tricia Knoll is a poet just learning how to live in Vermont after moving from Oregon in June. Her poetry appears widely in journals and anthologies and has received 7 Pushcart nominations. Her most recent collection is How I Learned To Be White (Antrim House, 2018) Website: triciaknoll.com

 

Photograph by Joe LeMerou.