Louise Green’s poem depicts hope as a magical coat, acting as a metaphor for anyone who survives hostile times. Illustration by Slava Nesterov.

In past times, when we held wakes
for the death of society
as black boots trampled bean fields
and men on horseback smashed
down gates, rode through city squares,
I wore hope like a conjurer’s coat —
collar turned up against the blizzard
sleeves crammed with conceits
keepsakes sewn into hems.
Wide skirts sheltered my brood as
I magicked smiles and sweets
rabbits and flags, fake-silver spoons.
We travelled in groups, at night
pockets stuffed with false papers
skeleton keys, riddles
for the gatekeepers, passports
to kinder countries.

Nowadays my hope weighs less
no more than a lightweight cloak
for numbered winters.
I bequeath hope’s strongest fabric
to a new generation.
May it hold them up.

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