A while back my brother-in-law asked if I wanted to collaborate with him in putting on a poetry event here in Wilmington. Yes, I said, before he proposed hope as a theme. 

Hope, of course, forms the basis of all my writing. Just kidding.

Early on, as a poet in college, I wrote a poem mocking Wendell Berry's "The Peace of Wild Things." It was a scathing lampoon, and accomplished too. One day I'll dig it up and post it here. Earlier, in high school, I wrote of tortured love, depression, the impossibility of closeness or connection. Earlier still, in grade school, I penned story after story of human cruelty toward other animals. You could say hope was my essence, my obsession, my brand. If you were an idiot.

So as the day of the event draws near, I've been turning my attention hopeward. I remember being in a meeting of Unitarians where the leader eloquently made clear that hope, not optimism, was the thing. I wish I could recall her exact words, but her conclusion, if not her rationale, has stuck with me. I've always had hope, I know. I would not still be alive if I didn't. But I've never thought to explore or emphasize it in my poetry, until now. With just over a month till the event, I'll be seeing what happens when I adjust my poetic lens to put hope in focus and let the rest go blurry. Here's what happened this morning:


One day I went looking for hope
enough to leaven a poem
the way yeast leavens powder into bread

knowing I wouldn’t find it in any store
I walked past all the markets
knowing I wouldn’t find it on a road
I left behind asphalt and macadam 
and the dead epaulets clasped to their shoulders

did you know there are roads almost everywhere
did you know I have heard the sound of machinery
every day of my life

I took myself as far as I could go
not very far
just a shady patch of earth
where it was easier not to see 
vehicles crisscrossing the sky

I watched the sweat bees drink
their fill from my salty skin
and that was one grain of yeast
I swam in the drying wind
and that was another

and when a squirrel scolded me for staying too long I left
wondering if my species
was the world’s unwanted guest

then I saw a family in a dusty sedan
stopping to let a turtle cross their path
and their patience was one more grain
and their wide eyes taking in the turtle made two
and the turtle herself 
sticking her neck out into a future 
not even the blind could see 
was a third

and then I had enough grains
for this poem to rise
enough hope to keep plodding
my way through the world

where you also are
and you
and you
and you. 


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