A Wasp Woman Visits a Black Junkie in Prison


Knight, Etheridge




As the title of Knight's poem suggests, “A Wasp Woman Visits a Black Junkie in Prison” describes an encounter between an upper-class white woman and the black junkie she visits in jail. Although the junkie feels confused and even indignant upon first meeting his visitor, the two begin to fish “for a denominator, common or uncommon” and eventually “summon up the fact that both [are] human.” This poem offers an opportunity to explore our shared humanity, the assumptions we make about those who are different from us, and the value of dialogue and conversation, even if, as Knight says, “no shackles are shaken.”

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Big Questions

How do we connect with those who are different from us?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. What is happening with the man in the opening stanzas? How would you describe his mindset?
  2. Why does the prisoner think, “this cannot be real”?
  3. What are the reasons the prisoner comes up with to account for the lady's visit?
  4. Why is the woman there? What sense do you have of her?
  5. What do you think of the prisoner's question, “You got children, Ma'am?”
  6. How would you describe the impact of this whole encounter?
  7. The last lines of the poem are: “But after she had taken her leave, he walked softly/and for hours used no hot words.” How do you interpret these lines?
  8. Should the woman come back for another visit? Why or why not?
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