Whooping Cough, 1952, Age 5 – Tricia Knoll

I was not trusted to climb eighteen pink stairs
without fainting. I carried a porcelain bell.
Not trusted with just a washable yellow robe
(carry the green towel for cough ups).

My chest seemed so small
I didn’t know I had a heart.
I didn’t trust the brown Zenith radio
with the gold dials and sad music.

My mother said she watched me every second.
I saw her doing a crossword puzzle.
I did not trust ginger ale
bubbles or the over-plump pillow,

the musty smell of our couch
with its pink and green carnations
or the silence of everyone-else-at-school,
me at home, grandmother tuned

to losing Cubs games. I trusted my mother’s
fingers, cool from milk bottles in the fridge.
I never begged her to take down
the gold-framed watercolors

of the blood and white star-gazer lilies
those pairs of ferocious,
mouth-agape lilies that wanted
to eat me.


About the Author: Tricia Knoll was raised in a faith-healing family. She remembers the whooping cough as a series of nightmarish events and has little patience with parents who do not immunize their children. Most of her work is lyric eco-poetry or poetry of place. Her collected works include Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press), Ocean’s Laughter (Aldrich Press) and Broadfork Farm (The Poetry Box). Website: triciaknoll.com

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