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Propagating Hope

January 22, 2024

Susan Cowger

How odd we so often learn or grow only in the hardest situations, the ones that take us down. And what is it we find there at the bottom—not abandonment, Hope.

Propagating Hope


A smatter of pavement formerly a road    spalds 

Potholes resemble a mortar field    Deft swerving sideswipes 

any hope of sleep    Down-shifting Toyota trucks grind 


around our van toward land-bound countries    Niger & Chad 

We buy roadside carrots    raw & dirty

Enough for this day’s hunger    Moving toward worse roads


we squeeze into a matatu    the Kenyan version

of a cross-country taxi    Even with a speed governor

& seat belts & potty stops in the weeds    we are left


cramped from indigestion

& malaria pills    There is no comfort 

rising through the gut-grind of human smells     nothing


sufficiently covered by a sheet or blanket at the first stop

a hospital    where we’ve come to anoint every hopeless swell

Prayer for a wizened and gangrenous foot     a snake bite gone black


Can I pray    Yes yes   Every single TB cough nods and grasps fingers    

Under closed eyes they hold as precious    American words    as if 

finally    a fast-track to God    And we don’t tell them our secrets


how wanting is our faith    how we too long for first-world 

sweetness    those butter cookies called digestives    Lord Lord    

you see this helpless condition    Listen to me God 


I have not one answer left to lift    nothing remains in me

of those prayers    My alms are but a few crumbs on the floor 

and carrots on the seat in the back of the van    rotting


the way growing things change in the heat

The featured image, “Range Line View 2,” is courtesy of Lancia E. Smith and is used with her glad permission for Cultivating.


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