Janelle Tan’s “Even After” & Sean Cho A.’s “Relapse Desire #6” (Asian American Writer’s Workshop)

Even After

by Janelle Tan

the dead bat in the hallway –
wings folded, shriveled on its side, the year we greeted
bats with terror and asians with diseased and spit.
even after a car turned burning meteor 
in the FDR tunnel, the smell of rubber on fire
dispersed seven blocks. in trying to contain smoke
the day before the election, everyone i passed turned
futile. as the bat was buried across the island of manhattan
where it flew through a window for warmth,
the heat drying out its small body – 
the Q train holds its breath like snow 
on the manhattan bridge. a man with white hair
and newsboy cap watches the city stopped through glass,
his sandwich with a big bite in it. 
lord, please gift me that same wonder. 
to pause hunger for a larger suspension, 
what we call hunger i know to be seeking 
satiation larger than simple desire. 
on the platform at atlantic, even before grief
we anticipate, a man sells chocolate bars 
for a dollar. two men and their steelpans 
out of sync with each other 
and the music play dionne warwick. 
what hope, to be singing 
while a tunnel is burning – 
forgive me. i see in everything 
the immigrant habit of clearing out 
wonder as we make way.

Previously published in The Margins (March 2, 2021).

* Writing Prompt: Collect everything that happens to you for a week. Collect observations on your daily walks and/or commute, and try to observe at least three things a day. Without ascribing meaning, simply describe and place the observations next to each other. You can only ascribe meaning once at the end. Make it count.

Relapse Desire #6

by Sean Cho A.

Don’t the cocoon. It’s been April
for too long. Look at the clouds,
their shape held hostage by the wind:
a fat boar being stalked down by three
anxious poachers. No. Two, bull frogs
resting in the mud. Now, a fawn,
having seen its own reflection in
the still river for the very first time,
darts off into the sky. No. Everything
painted in the absence of grey.

Listen, we can stay here forever, in Tucson,
rain is a fable and we don’t need
a story to fall asleep. Forever Awake?
Yes. Our pillowcases can be day shirts,
and shirt-shirts. Night shirts? Forget
night. Look up: an owl thieves
three robin eggs from their mother’s
nest, strong gust, then loses his wings,
but not his feathers. What about
our hands? Look at air-space on my two
sides. Did you think “arms”? No.
See, the calendar reads October,
and no one is waiting, Don’t you
want something to be faithful to?

Previously published in The Margins (April 20, 2021).

* Writing Prompt: Write a poem that starts in disaster and ends in joy.

This issue of The Hard Work of Hope is produced in partnership with Asian American Writers’ Workshop.

Janelle Tan

Janelle Tan was born in Singapore and lives in Brooklyn. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Michigan Quarterly Review, No Tokens, Winter Tangerine, The Southampton Review, Nat. Brut, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from NYU, where she was Web Editor for Washington Square Review. She is a Brooklyn Poets fellow and Assistant Interviews Editor at Singapore Unbound.

Sean Cho A.

Sean Cho A. is the author of American Home (Autumn House, 2021), winner of the Autumn House Press chapbook contest. His work can be future found or ignored in Copper Nickel, Pleiades, The Penn Review, The Massachusetts Review, and Nashville Review, among others. He is currently an MFA candidate at the University of California Irvine and the Associate Editor of THRUSH Poetry Journal. Find him @phlat_soda.