Tawanda Mulalu’s “Argo, My Argo” & Owen Torrey’s “The Dancing Plague of 1518” (The Harvard Advocate)

Argo, My Argo

by Tawanda Mulalu

The mirror’s clubfooted,
not me. Afro’s gone Medusa again.

Every coil’s its own Hydra.
I’m adventuring with a comb.

The sink’s full of myths…
The myths are growing…

Everyday I find myself
smaller with effort,

my life’s light
with every person who

spoke of me. Last night,
Achebe tried again

and I nearly heard him.
Ngũgĩ refuses these tones, says,

this music has the worst sort
of oceans beneath it.

Besides, his ears
are busy with real myths…

Being alive must be nice,
says the sink-basin, filling

further with myths…
I say, abandon narrative,

latch on to landlocked
home— forget ships,

take planes! land with
passport on to place

with shore— forget ships,
take planes! land with

passport back to place
without shore— forget ships

for a day sometime on
winter break, during summer—

our only seasons here.
My body’s a clubfooted boat,

not me. One time I went
blonde, that’s a different

prow. One time I went
with suit-jacket, that’s a different

sail. One time I go
and touch the exact difference,

pretty, sailing, she says, I love you.
I say, whose boat.

Previously published in The Harvard Advocate (Spring 2020).

*Writing Prompt: What’s eating away at you? Or rather, who’s eating away at you? Write your way away from them and fail.

The Dancing Plague of 1518

by Owen Torrey

I am headless in morning, so ask me to dance.

And it’s simple, I never relapse. I admit
it was me who once broke all the stars. Yes, I wrote
the last word. But I really don’t understand why

Shania Twain had no last shred of self once I was done

with her. All man I feel I have no bones. Like worms
in labs, heads having been removed, who dare still move
as lacking nothing. What we lack is little more

than it all. As in Strasbourg, how hundreds did dance

without rest. And the boiling still deep in the streets:
find once-ice. Long past vendors of nicotine, bread,
through the throng. And four-hundred more join. Do not look

at how all bodies fall to earth and meet the God who moves

them. Better become child again. Let limbs be shaken off
themselves and grab the un-denying. Shania
(the Queen) knew just what she was doing over me.

Previously published in The Harvard Advocate (Winter 2020).

*Writing Prompt: Pick a historical event, and look into some of its archives. Jot down any phrases that strike you. Write a poem that builds on these fragments, but apply them—at least initially—to a subject other than the event itself.

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

Tawanda Mulalu

Tawanda Mulalu is a poet and essayist born in Gaborone, Botswana. He studied Psychology and English at Harvard College, where he also served as a Ledecky Fellow for Harvard Magazine and the first Diversity and Inclusion Chair of The Harvard Advocate. His poems are published in HAD, Afternoon Visitor and The Harvard Advocate. His main is Ken.

Owen Torrey

Owen Torrey is a writer from Toronto, currently based in Somerville, MA. His poetry and non-fiction have recently appeared in Hello Mr., Painted Bride Quarterly, Exclaim!, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, featured at the Toronto International Book Fair, and long-listed for the 2020 CBC-Radio Canada Poetry Prize. Owen is currently a senior studying History & Literature and Sociology at Harvard College.