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Thursday, January 03, 2013


by Tricia Knoll

The Joining

Because of a maple fife.

My mother did the hard work
chasing down county seats
tracing that Webb girl,
genes where you got a second toe
longer than your big one.
The shoe fits when you honor that toe.

My grandmother, widow of the warden
wanted the grid filled
back to the Webb House,
that bawdy tavern
Braintree’s seat of battle plans.
My mother did the bidding
of grandmother’s nagging, finding

Jabez Cleveland, a fifer
in the Connecticut 8th regiment
died, thirty-eight at Bunker Hill.
He played a simple six-hole flute
of infantry battle calls
wake ups, soldiers, marching tunes
over greens, through woods
in-the-reeds shepherds songs
legacy of wind in thigh bone.

His thick blood of revolution
cries in my veins
--and in yours--
this must end
and heats me up
too many flag-draped coffins
limb from limb
so much this earth has given

Keep the simple six-hole flute
at your fingertips, my girls,
your pulse a beating drum.

The Parting of Ways

I thought learning
of generals and simple bravery
powder horns and compasses
would help me know

Jabez and his flute
the stepping drum
his blood, mine
that of my girls

Then bowed gray heads
chins to chests with golden pins
ask God
to bless America
there the flute calls me elsewhere

My Jabez plays
a humpback whale song,
a mother’s shrill screams in Gaza
above a bloody baby cradled,
plays for soldiers on both sides
wanting home
for monarchs out of milkweed,
AIDS orphans --
an aching god does not single out
the few

or ignores adopted babies
Bangladesh, Korea,
China, the Ukraine --
their blood becomes
our dearest family blood
they too may
hear a Jabez and his fife

I tuck his tune inside
my breath of reed
and boiling breast
to change direction.

Tricia Knoll is a Portland, Oregon poet who is also a master gardener and a frequent writer of letters to the editor of The Oregonian. Recent poetry publications include RAIN Magazine, VoiceCatcher, Verseweaver, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Pirene's Fountain.