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Friday, December 17, 2021


by Tricia Knoll

This photo combo shows Katie Posten holding the front and back of a photograph she found stuck to her car's windshield on Dec. 11 in New Albany, Ind. The photo is from a tornado-damaged home in Kentucky that landed almost 130 miles away in Indiana. The photograph was among dozens of personal items to turn up far from home in the aftermath of the tornadoes that sowed a path of destruction across six states. Photographs, by far, were the most common find. In major storms, they’re often carried the furthest, said John Knox, an associate professor of geography at the University of Georgia. “They’re like little wings when they go up into the air,” he said. (AP via The Washington Post, December 12, 2021)

I archive my family’s wings
    letters Union soldier William Lewis wrote home during the Civil War
    my grandmother’s photo holding my squirming mother
    my mother in her fancy hat leaning against my dad’s black Buick
    my mother rocking my newborn daughter
    my daughter holding her newborn
 I have no idea where they go next. 
I cannot forget    
    I found the photo of an altar boy wearing a halo
    and a white gown in a driveway in the Ninth Ward
    in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. 
I never knew whose angel he was. 
What hurricane wind tears apart
    flies, lives that shift from black and white
    to battered color. Wings beating birds 
    to refuge on a windshield,
    a mud puddle. Stuck in the twig
    of a naked sycamore. 
Angel memories try to find
    a way home. I believe
    the only thing my mother feared
    was the hurricanes in Florida. 
    I have no pictures of her fear.

Author's note: I am the archivist of most of the Civil War memorabilia of my great-grandfather William Lewis who served in an Indiana regiment. I never heard back from the historical societies in Indiana when I offered them the 65 letters he and his friends wrote to my great grandmother. Some of what he said is included in my book of poetry How I Learned to Be White.

Tricia Knoll lives in Vermont which catches the tail end of most weather systems that flow from west to east. Her poetry appears widely in journals, anthologies and five collections. Most recent is Checkered Mates, a chapbook out from Kelsay Books. Her next collection entitled Let's Hear It for the Horses—love song poems to horses—is on pre-sale discount from The Poetry Box publishing house through December 31 for its release on February 1.