Let’s Go to Heaven

by Mary Birnbaum

A name halo winks on your chest.  
Your heart chakra is open for business. 
A deck of Tarot cards fans your heated face.
Out jumps an angel, smiling, handing out
wings that fold neatly under T shirts.  

I am here to teach the course
on how to fly. Like a little girl in pin
fairy costume, you can do it too. Look
at yourself in the mirror and laugh.  
Your feet are laughing too until tears  

run down your face, and when 
you can see again, you are revolving 
around your own planet—
don’t ask why 
the sky is pink, the water too. Put 
the mirror away. You can’t go home again.

Previously published in Soundings East.

*Writing Prompt: Step outside yourself into another person, or being, or into a surreal scenario. Now give your poem everyday details that bring its underlying realities into focus.

A Moment, Now Extinct

by Melia Lenkner

I curl into my father’s side, his favorite ratty polyester
blanket over his eyes, restless leg that shifts tectonic plates,
the Earth a floral couch that quakes beneath me
— unsteady or familiar?
can it be both?

Sounder open in my hands, I read to him,
read aloud in our warm and sleepy moment out of time,
a pocket of blankets and books and earthquakes
all our own he snores and I read, he snores,
I read, he snores, I read myself hoarse, 

and pause, and he pauses, too, halts his snoring, assures me,
“I’m still listening.”

Previously published in Soundings East.

*Writing Prompt: Our lives are a tapestry of little moments, and most of these moments are so common that we rarely offer them any significance at all. Think of a moment that seems, on the face of it, ordinary — immerse yourself in it; write down how it made you feel, and what you were thinking during the moment. Then, in these thoughts and feelings, find that final piece required to turn it into something extraordinary.

This issue of The Hard Work of Hope is produced in partnership with Soundings East.


Mary Elizabeth Birnbaum

Mary Elizabeth Birnbaum was born, raised, and educated in New York City.  She has studied poetry at the Joiner Institute in UMass, Boston.  Mary’s translation of the Haitian poet Felix Morisseau-Leroy has been published in The Massachusetts Review, the anthology Into English (Graywolf Press), and in And There Will Be Singing, An Anthology of International Writing by The Massachusetts Review, 2019 as well.  Her work is forthcoming or has appeared in J Journal, Spoon River Poetry Review, Soundings East, Pangyrus, Barrow Street, Pedestal, Ligea, and other literary journals.


Melia Lenkner

Melia Lenkner is an emerging writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. Melia Lenkner’s poetry has appeared in Soundings East, Up North Lit, Peculiar Journal, and Persephone’s Daughters, and is forthcoming in Apeiron Review So Say We All. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in The Lindenwood Review, and her fiction was featured in Antonym Lit. When she isn’t working towards her bachelors at Chatham University, she loves to spend her time sewing. Recently, she found a really cool cape at a thrift store.