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Selected Poems by Frank Knoll

Swift Yellow Bird

Neither of us wanted much to be there.
Juvenile Court, after all.
You, Swift Yellow Bird, fourteen,
sister of Charging Thunder,
both truants,
making your appearance
after an overnight
in the Juvy,
I, the visiting Judge
from downtown,
protected from you by
men with guns.

Someone told me you were
Lakota,
Hunkpapa,
descendants of Rain in the Face and Sitting Bull.
You were
sullen,
and angry
and wouldn't
look up.

Little Bighorn,
Traverse des Sioux (24 million acres at 3 cents per
and not all paid)
and the Sand Creek Massacre
drummed in my head
when I let you go
after your mom came for you
on the bus
angry
and missing work.
This is really going nowhere, I thought,
no treaty today.

But as you left the courtroom,
unreasoned, I blurted
You have a beautiful name.
And you looked
up
right at me
and
smiled.

The Bond

Not to minimize, Gerry,
but I've been thinking
about just what you were up to
that day
when you were about to drive off
and commit armed robbery
and shoot the kid's papa
in the heart from three inches
at the Schooner
on his birthday.
Talk to your mom?
Put on clean underwear?
Oil the.38?

You'll recall

it was after tavern ball at the park
celebrating the birthday win,
and the kid was
just standing there
looking.

Did you imagine

the gun store clerk
wouldn't remember your girlfriend
going in twice to get the right bullets?
The guys you had on the floor wouldn't notice
the fake accent,
the plates on your rusted out Chev with your prints all over it?
Think the prosecutor
wouldn't bring up your priors
talking me into giving you
life plus 300 months,
consecutive?

You and I
have this strange bond
don't we,
wondering about
the kid.

 

Twice Blest

~The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, scene 1~

You were a
mother saint
making
your appearance
asking
mercy for
the kid
who
pierced
your son's
ventricles
with a puny green
pen knife
in the old Met parking lot
after AC/DC
played and sang.

Just a shoving match
the kid said.
Not much external
bleeding.
Said
he didn't know
he'd killed somebody.
No priors, sixteen
Just
stupid.
Prosecutor wanted 15 years.

Don't let them both
slip
away
squandered
you said.


Abdulahi

Your name
rings
lilting
in the primal recesses
of my brain
since
I learned
fifteen years ago
to say it.
aab du LAH ee.
It won't go
away.

Abdullahi
eighteen
robbed
tortured
stabbed
cut
twenty seven times
chased down
by the three white kids
on the railroad bridge
over the
Mississippi.
Stoned
with hunks of concrete
after
you were dead.


Abdullahi
here
away from
the
terror
of
Mogadishu.