‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—
And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—
I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me. –Emily Dickinson
Hope deferred makes the heart sick.—Proverbs 13:12
They are selling hope again, this time with bared teeth, a deep growl and the hair raised along its spine. It used to be a soft thing, the “thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” This new hope longs for blood, or power or gold, or all three, balanced precariously on the brown backs of those who speak a different tongue or pray to another god.
It’s an angry hope, a hopeless hope, the hope of crushed spirits who want others to be crushed like they have been. It’s not hope at all, really, it’s more like sound of a hammer slamming against the Gulag rock. But it sells, and they buy it in huge bundles, from warehouses stocked with dreams that no one dreams any more.
Watching the hopeless hope can make your heart as sick as theirs. It can harden you against their tears. Their tears are real as your tears, their lives as precious as yours.
I saw a man, early the other day, before the sun was up. He was sitting on a bench, drinking coffee from a Styrofoam cup. He had only one shoe, the other foot covered with a red sock that the Baptist hospital gives to those without shoes, or with shoes too small to cover the swollen feet of the sick.
He spoke to me, and I looked into his yellow eyes. His words were just guttural moans, and I could not understand what he said. But I knew what his hope was: that I could give him something leftover from my life of plenty. He fingered the crumpled bills I took from my pocket. Then he stood, grasping the coffee to his breast. It was very cold, in the early morning darkness. He limped away.
I hoped he would be okay.