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Janna Knittel

“Hospice” is based in fact. In March 2018, my father was dying from brain cancer, and I hit head-on my fear of him and his inability to communicate with me. The day of our last conversation, I drove to the airport, saw the crows, and they depicted how blown apart I felt.


“Hospice” also weaves in unrelated experiences for effect. I observed the sign over the Clackamas River in Oregon City on a previous trip, when I took the train to the airport. I wrote down the words in a notebook thinking, I need to use this in a poem. This is what it feels like to put your feelings on the line and get rejected.

Janna Knittel reading Hospice


I’d rather tame a bison bull

than ask,


            Is there anything

            you want to say

            before I leave?


But I do. He stares ahead,

eyes marbled.


            Not particularly.


I want to peel off my skin,

turn to smoke, ascend,

but I stay, massage his rusty hands

until I must chase a plane.


Over the highway, rags and ashes

reel, unfold,

into a current of crows.


A sign on the bridge

over the Clackamas



Undertow. Rocks.

Cold Shock.

Swim at Your Own Risk.

Janna Knittel lives in Minnesota but still calls the Pacific Northwest “home.” Janna is the author of Real Work (forthcoming from Nodin Press, 2022) and Fish & Wild Life (Finishing Line Press, 2018) and has published in the journals Between These Shores Literary and Arts Annual, Blueline, Constellations, Cottonwood, North Dakota Quarterly, and The Wild Word as well as the anthologies The Experiment Will Not Be Bound (forthcoming from Unbound Editions, 2022) and Waters Deep: A Great Lakes Anthology (Split Rock Review, 2018). Recognition includes grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts.

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