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Breath & Shadow

Fall 2013 - Vol. 10, Issue 4

"Routine", "Dentist Visit", and "I Fly Into Your Indifference"

written by

Akua Lezli Hope



Paraplegic poet meditates on TR


I sleep to wake and take my waking slow

I fear my fate in what is no longer there

I get nowhere that I used to go


We think we know what we don’t know

I pray daily to be cured, I cry to rise from here

I sleep to wake and take my waking slow


Many have abandoned me, both friend and foe

God grant me strength! I yearn for just one listening ear

to take me somewhere that I used to go


Cruel April stalls spring, we’ve lost the status quo

Climate change costs lives, increases costs for care

I sleep to wake and take my waking slow


Reason eludes: why did life undo me so?

One day, it might be you, run now in open air

explore while you may, go far while you can go


Frayed nerves tremble me unsteady, I plead to know

what lesson in legs loss, I can’t climb the stairs

I sleep to wake and take my waking slow

I can go nowhere that I want to go.



"Dentist Visit"


I need help getting in the dentist chair

more help getting out

I assess the strength of the one

who stands behind and say,

maybe someone stronger

she gets someone who knows.


I thank her replacement

who worked in an old folks' home

her sister in a wheelchair

all her life

maybe that makes it easier

she doesn't know it’s hard.


They laugh when I ask for my tooth

blood stained, ragged bits of flesh on blue foam

transparent top on blue bottomed case

I examine it for clues to why

I can hold this thing and not have its use

feel the pain of its parting below

one frozen nostril,

swollen left cheek, and know


it's gone, though whole, resting before me.



"I fly into your indifference"


again and again

a wave lapping at a stone wall

spattered  scatters  shatters

into tears that evaporate into air

become some other thing

perhaps nurture or nourish

feed or perish but does not persuade

And I am ever pulled toward this

uselss propitiation to think

I built some part of you, that

strength that can’t admit

or love me anymore

A third generation New Yorker, Akua Lezli Hope has won two Artists Fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts (1987, 2003), a Ragdale U.S.-Africa Fellowship (1993), and The National Endowment for The Arts (1990). Recent publications include Three Coyotes (Fall 2011); Stone Canoe (2011); The 100 Best African American Poems (2010); and a short story in Too Much Boogie, Erotic Remixes of the Blues (2011). Hope was paralyzed by transverse myelitis in 2005.

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