When hope feels as distant as an echo, we asked poet, educator, and activist Denice Frohman where she turns to find it.
These days I’ve been turning to nature. I stop for the sunflowers. Or, if I am by the ocean, I’ll notice the moon. I’ll just look at all the trees and the flowers and the green space. If I am in nature, I am in awe of all that I don’t know, all that still exists in spite of us. And how gentle that rebirth is; how generative our natural world is. I think the pandemic slowed down time, in a way. It created a pause to look at the smallest things. So nature is where I turn for hope. Like, “how are you still here?” Or, “how are you growing back already? How did you do that?” It tells me that there is something beyond what I can see.
This month we explore hope’s configurations: where it dies, how it breathes, and where it is resurrected.
Next month we shift to:
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In Conversation with Adam Golub
“I feel ambivalent about my rage. I find that when I am angry and I am approaching injustices, I’m at a disadvantage. It doesn’t make sense to be rageful in the face of people who are also products of their environments and inculcated and absorbed into a system that has complete control over us. Nuance feels like the antidote for rage.”
In Conversation with Kim Maxwell and Lily Brown
“The work that exists inside of you is enough. The work isn’t out there. It isn’t some degree that you don’t have. It isn’t the house that you don’t have. It isn’t the perfectly scheduled day where you know exactly what you’re doing and you do it all. It’s already there. You don’t need to buy or do anything else in order for what you are to be enough, and good.”
I’ve always been afraid of spiders
and you’ve always been my mother
so when you ordered me a calendar
of toulouse-lautrec’s paintings one christmas
I wasn’t surprised to see
a square of paper with two printed bees
you must have cut from a magazine
carefully pasted over the crawling spider
in the painting of the gray cat crouching behind a half-open door
it seemed a given you would take the time to do this manual photoshop
but when the year was over and the calendar came down
I kept that page, carefully framed, in my bedroom
knowing somehow that when you’re no longer here
it won’t hurt to have proof you loved me
Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Arts. She resides in Graham, NC with her cats Charlie Chaplin and Janis Joplin.
There are caged birds in the hospital waiting room. They tweet unlike
clockwork. My mother thinks while waiting: they better not have to take off
my nail polish for this. I think while waiting: the cage is a foot by three feet
by two feet. I hope on holidays they let the birds at least fly around the room.
My mother says that is unsanitary. She wonders if she will live through this.
I wonder what it would look like if she lived.
Everyone in the South, especially nurses, speaks to each other
like we’re dogs: soft and like you’re at least a little cute and stupid.
Like any time now, you’ll turn rabid. They’ll have the needle ready.
In this procedure, we’re going to remove a length of your gut,
but we won’t get all the poison out, it’s been there too long.
Okay now sweetheart?
When asked what pain level my mother would “like to get to
before taking morphine,” she says 3. The IV needle was a 2.
I check my pulse any time I am under a 6. I wonder about a body
that has served as a cradle and exit, but collapses
with a pinprick. With a broken dish.
When asked if a student can join the surgeon to watch the procedure,
my mother hesitates, quotes her own mother: he sees somethin’ he’s never seen before,
tell him to shoot it. I wonder what yesterday’s school shooter saw
that he’d never seen before. I wonder what the next one will.
I sit by my mother’s bedside for a week, never leaving.
The only part that’s new to me is the surgery-smell. She taught me
for so many years how a room can be a cage, my shoulder-bones
disfigured by staying. She will live through this,
but what she says inside the morphine breaks the glass.
She lives through this, but I never see her again.
Annie Virginia (she/her) is an MFA runaway teaching high school English in New York City. She received her undergraduate degree in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. She is the Social Media Coordinator for Post Journal. You may find her most recent work at Brooklyn Poets, The Seventh Wave, in ‘Best New Poets 2019’, and upcoming in Blue Earth Review as a runner-up in their annual contest.
Fire Will Not Cross the Stream to Kill a Toad
You’ve heard this somewhere probably in the words of your father,
so you replace the “toad” with your name, then put “God” in place of “stream”—fire
will not cross God to kill you
It is harmattan, and every part of your room looks hungry for water.
Your dog had stayed sick for weeks, you left a note saying “find him in here” at your
not because you’re lonely or the dog dying beside you cannot cope with the weight of
sinking your room. You just believe that sometimes the voice of man is the voice of God.
You place your two hands on your chest to stop the dog from dying. From the other side of the room,
two shadows lean against the bare wall facing each other as if waiting for a priest
to bless their union.
Through writing this poem, I wanted to understand the intersectionality between the Divine and hope, how our belief in the Divine can actually heighten our vulnerability or powerlessness. When I say “fire will not cross God to kill you” I mean you’re the wound and what carries the wound: death, in its ordinariness, is transitory.
Okeke Onyedika is an undergraduate at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, where he studies Sociology/Anthropology. His works have appeared or forthcoming in The Blue Nib, Kissingdynamite, Deluge, Rockvale review, Convivium, Kosmos journal, among others. He lives in his hometown, Ojoto.
It’s work, you see, going to the window
to listen for birdsong
again and again
you’ve tried to love the too-far stars best
your heart was born to love
this slow-sickening splendor set below
You have to lie down
to keep going
rest, while you’re there
lay down your lashes
Your breath holds
let it go
and it comes back
Harmony Wade-Hak lives and writes in Ojai, California. She can often hear birds outside her apartment.