Because the world has its own version of solace
by Amy Dryansky
in a field of decapitated corn stalks
on the corner of Reed’s Bridge and Elm
a flock of wild turkeys scratched
as if something nourishing remained
between the rows of dry stubble.
They interrupted a disappointment
I can’t now remember but rose in my body
like fever-driven mercury
from those perilous, pre-digital years
when I once spent an undocumented hour
using the unprotected tip of my finger,
to play with quicksilver spilled
from a dropped thermometer.
I was taken by the element’s reluctance
to break, its talent for self-repair, reshuffling
molecules around a breach to form again
a perfect, otherworldly bubble,
when all I could be was the same girl
sealed inside the held breath
of what might come, watching for some
as yet unnamed law of attraction
to upend and shake me, hard,
until something resembling danger, but soft,
came loose and made me
disappear and different and away.
Previously published in The Massachusetts Review (Vol. 56, Issue 1).
*Writing Prompt: Make an argument for something you might believe but don’t fully understand. Before you start, make a “word bank” of 10 words based on something risky you’ve done.
Start with “Because the________ is _______.” Every time you falter, drop in a word from your word bank and/or repeat the “because” phrase. Try not to stop or edit as you write. Stretch out your sentences as long as you can. Keep us in suspense.
by Jane Wong
I told the earth to settle back
down, to lay deep in its mud
armchair, to soften the static
from its flaring mouth.
Can we slow down, tender
those we miss? The sky—
ledge or loom—dangles in my
grandfather’s mouth, jaw
bone in the burial ground.
In my dream last night,
he was a golden beet in
January snow. I grate
ginger over an ant hole,
certain it would gild them
too. I repeat: I will not be afraid
that the world is about power.
My ghosts fill me with feathers,
my lungs: a mane unplucked.
The near promise of erasure
settles me in this world, buzzing
fridge fluorescence. The rotting
head of broccoli in my grandmother’s
bowl blooms with power.
What we keep, we eat, what we
love, we break off. In another world,
a bee falls headfirst into
a pitcher of rice wine. I set
an altar, the altar billows
with ferns good in any soup.
Ants sing along the stems.
I scrub the sugar off my face
and offer this too:
my gold-leaf self, sheet by sheet.
*Writing Prompt: During these times, I am comforted by the strength and beauty of my ancestors. Write a poem where you begin by listing what you’d like to offer to honor your ancestors. What would you place on an altar for them? What questions would you ask them? How would they respond? How can this guidance and tenderness carry you forward?
This issue of The Hard Work of Hope is produced in partnership with The Massachusetts Review
Amy Dryansky has published two poetry collections; the second, Grass Whistle (Salmon Poetry) received the Massachusetts Book Award. Her first, How I Got Lost So Close to Home, won the New England/New York Award from Alice James. Her work is included in several anthologies and individual poems appear in Harvard Review, New England Review, Memorious, Orion, The Sun, Tin House, and other journals. She’s received honors from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, MacDowell Colony and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and is a former Poet Laureate of Northampton, MA. She directs the Culture, Brain & Development Program at Hampshire College and parents two children. You can find her at amydryansky.com.
Jane Wong’s poems can be found in places such as Best American Nonrequired Reading 2019, American Poetry Review, Agni, Poetry, Third Coast, and others. Her essays have appeared in McSweeney’s, Black Warrior Review, Ecotone, The Georgia Review, The Common, Shenandoah, and This is the Place: Women Writing About Home. A Kundiman fellow, she is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships and residencies from the U.S. Fulbright Program, Artist Trust, the Fine Arts Work Center, Willapa Bay AiR, Hedgebrook, the Jentel Foundation, and the Mineral School. She is the author of Overpour (Action Books, 2016), and How to Not Be Afraid of Everything (Alice James, forthcoming 2021). She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Western Washington University.