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Wednesday, June 03, 2020


by Tricia Knoll

Protesters in Chicago on Saturday.(Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press) The photo accompanies the essay that prompted this poem: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Op-Ed “Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge,” Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2020

they come down with barbs
on flashing tails    or as slime
on the slope you slipped downhill

did you try to connect them
to a machine to measure amplitudes
and heard gut-punched moans

when they shook their rattles
in your dreams, did you wake,
cower, throw bricks

or put them in a drawer
where they roll like marbles
until ground-shaking stops

and TV spits them out
to chew on with worn-down
molars under cracking klieg lights

until we saw tonight
how they churn to burn
the deepest anger and hurt

so deep you can only guess at
the darkness of an abyss and
smell the smoke into daylight

to give them names they’ve earned
for decades: injustice, racism,
inequity and mourning.

Tricia Knoll is an aging white woman of privilege isolated from COVID in the woods of Vermont. Her poetry collection How I Learned To Be White involved three years of introspection into how privilege manifested in her life—and she is  not convinced she learned everything she must learn. She is grateful for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's op-ed.