The Inscrutable Illness of Things

by Satya Dash

My grandmother often in bouts of anger
turned stone pink in silence, quietly
remarking: it’s impossible to silence
silence.
It took me years to understand
my awe for the way she could deal a noun
its own verb. I think about the last years
she spent paralyzed, a body washed slow
by warm cods of light, preparing for death
the way a flower softly quakes its nightly
bloom to be nibbled by a bee’s mandibles.
I’ve considered I might die alone rotting
in ecstasy. I’ve considered dying next
to a lover’s corpse. Their death preceding mine
for me to knead soft the elastic dough of absence.
I’ve considered death as death must be—
in reflections: clean spoons, mild scented soap,
whole mouthed words gravitating to me even
as I reel in aftermath. To be the right man
at the right time would shave away the fine
winter hairs of vulnerability. My tongue begs
you for an awakening: When the bird sings at dawn,
can you try singing too?
Open your mouth
to yoghurt mornings vending you taut. A voice
rubbing your throat rare, so a pitch could emerge
from you like a crystal’s edge. A pedestrian on a pesticide
soaked footpath. A cockroach in a cardboard corner.
A broom nurdling it. This too is your world
to feel and forget. Who owns peculiarity in things,
the arrival of mossy stains on my lapel, I don’t know.
I read about Noah’s Ark and my eyes dribble
sugar, dreams depositing a sludge of fondue
I dip my imagination in. I imagine an afternoon
relinquishing light, pulling back a hand from gloved
shame. The noon comes when we paddle boats
on film held up by the city’s churches floating
like brainy meringues, you and me on shores
sandless. The southern wind cradles anything
conspicuous. After you haul me up, shaking my fist
of colours loose, we skim borders, my rectangle
facing yours, our plural shadows in space walling up
the intimacy of rooms wherever they could.

Previously published in Redivider (Volume 18.1)

*Writing Prompt: Clarifying by Reimagining: Allow a poem to take flight from conversation(s) with a loved one, from observation/adoration of mannerisms that struck you. Reimagine the poem’s atmosphere as a world where anything is possible. Now, think about reality: see what elements remain common to both worlds: Imagine them residing in the overlapping region of a venn diagram: why are they integral to both your worlds? Discover connections in the process: enjoy your discoveries!

Postpartum April

by Anna Meister

baby fights through 
painful growth new 
understanding world 
expanding like a capsule- 
turned-foam-horse-in-water 
again he settles 
on a sleepless we 
o so symbiotic
o wonder week

 shushed but not saved
in the blue-black room
we relocate
i picture my eyes scooped out 
with a melon-baller 
the thought comforts me  

now halfway through
my hours i teeter
just this side of dangerous
could never say aloud
all of what the brain starts looping 
after a few days zombie
wrung strung burnt
the fuck up & out
it gets really dark
like if only we had a garage
what i share is careful
still hurtful still wrong
to call myself alone
when i am never
the only one in the room  

a fantasy: nothing
on the calendar no 
calendar at all nobody 
to speak to no body 
with which to speak 

where could i leave him 
who might forgive me  

more pills would turn up 
white-noise make me
too lifted unbraid my breathing 
my milk tainted groggy  

my suicidal ideation speaks 
in poet voice she’s trying 
to start something
but that’s a self i severed
in exchange for a new project
i made the most beautiful boy
perhaps in order to know 
i need to stay
but now
i feel like a dirty empty mug
on the edge of the sink  

his babble
his reaching toward me 
his one word
his tongue
his lashes
my envy
his entrance
my purpose
& after
the vinyl recliner 
monitors & tubes  

i’m naked under here
long & drooping downward
son strapped to me
as i was once strapped to the table 
still able to create
even while they zapped me
a couple hundred times  

it’s so easy to get back there
the hallways & questions
& beeping being rewired 
assuming i would never make it 
here & being here now 
stuck in that memory 
when the whole point was 
to forget  

his soft spot pulses
when finally passed out
fat cheek pancaked against 
my drained breast
he smells like warm vinegar 
circular dreamer my dream
i cannot reach my water 
glass cannot move lonesome 
bliss-fog i’m locked in
ad infinitum  

i guess i’m just sorry
for giving life & still wanting 
to give it away
i watch the bud willing it
to bloom before my eyes 
nothing happens all damn day

Previously published in Redivider (Volume 18.1)

*Writing Prompt: List your worst deeds, or at least three thoughts that, due to fear or shame, you’d never say aloud. Who might forgive you? Write to them. Write toward forgiving yourself. Add flowers.

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


Satya Dash

Satya Dash’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in Waxwing, Wildness, EcoTheo Review, Passages North, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Florida Review, Prelude, The Cortland Review amongst others. Apart from having a degree in electronics from BITS Pilani-Goa, he has been a cricket commentator too. He is a two-time Orison Anthology and Best New Poets nominee. He spent his early years in Odisha and now lives in Bangalore, India. He tweets at: @satya043.


Anna Meister

Anna Meister is author of two chapbooks, most recently As If (Glass Poetry Press, 2018) & her debut full-length collection, What Nothing, will be out from Sundress Publications in 2021. She holds an MFA in poetry from New York University, where she was a Goldwater Writing Fellow, & her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, BOAAT, The Shallow Ends, & elsewhere. She lives in Des Moines, IA with her wife & son.