Konch Magazine - Three Poems by Ishmael Hope


When you were born,

I held

your six pound body.

I held

your little red hands.

You looked at me


not entirely trusting,

until you found

it warm enough

to sleep

in my arms.


How lucky we are

to be put in these bodies!

Even my sadness

tastes sweet.

Even my bitterness

crackles in my palms,

like gravel.

If God was

the desire

that wouldn't let

me sleep,

if God was

a man and a woman,

who bathe in

a waterfall,

or, briefly,

in the spring rain,

if God was

the tongue

that brushed

every corner

of my heart,

if God was

the messenger

who tells me

of the music

I heard


I was born,

then I pray

every day,



I want to tell you

about all these things.

It’s not easy,

you’ll be disappointed

so many times,

sometimes by me.

Sometimes you'll

need to stand firm,

and even put away,

for a while,

your gifts.

But leave a drop

of sweetness

in a place

where only

you can find it.


When I was four,

a boy told me

God is everywhere.


I imagined

a hundred

invisible little men,




I still turn my head,

every now and then,


I'll see Him.





My first memory

was in a shower,

my mother’s eyes were closed,

holding me,


brushing me with water and soap.

If I could go as far back

as when I first saw light,

I might have heard my mother


“My baby.”

Though I could have dreamed this.


After an argument with my father,

after he spent days away

from our home

at university housing,

my mother was up all night.

She told me never to choose

a girl over my dreams.

I told her yes,

though I didn’t understand her.


She told me the story

of Asraaq, Blueberry Girl

Who Became a She-Bear.

I would run off

before the story was over.

But I remember how Asraaq

pulled her lip over her face

to hide herself in fear

of the brown bear,

the brown bear

who became her husband,

the brown bear

who became our relative.

We know the heart’s absence,

but not its return,

not until we sit past

the end of the story.


Sometimes I imagine my mother

when she was younger,

so beautiful,

a huge smile,

hippie jeans,

riding her motorcycle,

away from her home in Kotzebue,

getting to know America.

I want to make her dreams come true.

I want to forget

that I always tried to be her hero.

I want to tear away the years that passed.

I want to stay in the walks

through Totem Park,

and the rain that came through the leaves.





Before airport security

was like it is today,

my brother Andy and I

used to run up the tunnel

as my father’s plane landed,

jumping up and down,

as we begged for whatever

gift he brought us.

Usually it was a bag of peanuts,

and we smiled as he picked us up.


I never knew what he did for work,

until he started calling me at my office,

talking through ideas and new projects.

I was happy to give him money

when he was looking for a job.

When I just started learning

how to live on my own,

my friend Chris was helping me

move my stuff to a new apartment.

He gave Chris my mother’s book of poems,

and he said,

“If anyone screws with you,

fuck ‘em.”

And he lifted his middle finger.

“Fuck ‘em.”

And I learned something

about standing on my own.


My father hardly ever looked up,

and even his friends rarely

looked him in the eyes.

But sometimes

he would play Van Morrison

or Lucinda Williams

in his living room,

and I would see his soul wake up.

I would see his heart making confessions.

I would see the rocks on his shoulders

melt and float with the music.


I share some of my father’s burdens.

The duty to his people,

as old as dust,

as heavy as grindstone,

the straight line that he walked

through the killer whale’s mouth.

And some of those burdens

don’t have names yet.

They drift in the room like smoke,

drifting to the edge

where my father stood.