What Rough Beast | Poem for March 27, 2017

Tricia Knoll
Portland’s ICE Center As the Crow Flies

Less than two miles from the horse-race track
where the Japanese reported first for detention.

Less than two miles from my home,
a rain tapping on umbrellas, clutches

of old men and women from churches,
watch the line of golden people

wait in the chill to be called in for processing,
a huge glass and steel building too crowded

with people to hold them all. More women
than men, babes in arms with blankets

over their heads, strollers and toddlers.
Fear over documents tucked in folders.

Black-tinted ICE vans pull through the metal
gates, disappear as twenty-foot gates clang down.

Through front doors, ICE agents with guns and pepper spray
monitor metal detectors, guide the people to remove shoes,

sit on a bench, be swallowed up with the paperwork
of documents, residency, translation, apprehension.

After an hour, a small woman with a brave smile exits.
She may stay six months more. The witnesses applaud.

A man here for twenty years has never been called in
before to be processed, to be pinpointed

where he is and what he is doing working
for the County. He seems less afraid than a little girl

with braids who burrows into her mother’s skirt.
This cold queue waits for processing, a cannery word

that once meant Oregon berries, salmon, and green beans.
Now it means people. Processed people. Who live here

not far from all their people who matter.


Tricia Knoll‘s poetry collections are Ocean’s Laughter (Aldrich Press, 2015) and Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press, 2014). Her work has appeared in dozens of journals nationally and internationally and has earned five Pushcart nominations.

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