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Hoffnung

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He fancies his chances are good with her,
unaware that in the years since the war

she has come to prefer women whose cunts
taste like mustard. To pin one’s hopes on

a bark-colored moth, its wings crinkled
like crepe paper, a moth affixed high

on the kitchen wall, frozen for days where
it will likely die in noble clinging mode

just under the cobwebby heating vent,
is to confirm your need for more friends

and a greater daily quota of sunlight.
To raise C.’s hopes that T. can stop

drinking and then to liken those
hopes to fields of undulating grain,

alfalfa perhaps, is to wish C. hip deep
in acres of unscythed denial. The blind

typist hopes she’ll be hired tonight without
her disability becoming an issue. L. said he felt

hope’s rhizomes race throughout his body,
radiating in all directions, like some incipient

disease he’d been fighting since childhood.
Hope, he said, it’s as insidious as bitterness.

If mother earth only knew how much we
loved one another she would creak, shudder,

and split like a macheted melon, releasing
the fiery ball of molten hope at her core.

Source: Poetry (March 2013)

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This poem originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

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Hoffnung

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  • Known for its wit and complexity, Amy Gerstler's poetry deals with themes such as redemption, suffering, and survival. Author of over a dozen poetry collections, two works of fiction, and various articles, reviews, and collaborations with visual artists, Gerstler won the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for Bitter Angel (1990). Her early work, including White Marriage/Recovery (1984), was highly praised. Gerstler's more recent works include Nerve Storm (1993), Medicine (2000), Ghost Girl (2004), Dearest Creature (2009), which the New York Times named a Notable Book of the Year, and Scattered At Sea (2015), which was a finalist for the National Book Award.

    In Bitter Angel Gerstler introduces a variety of narrators, including a saint, ghost, clairvoyant, father, child, and lover. Bitter Angel was enthusiastically received.  According to poet Eileen Myles, Gerstler's poetry is "extremely rich. But not cluttered and not loud." Myles added that "the supernatural, the sexy...

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