Should I add hope to the poem? I'm resistant to the idea: I'm writing about despair -- the absence of hope. It's not obvious to me how to add in hope and still be writing about despair. I don't think the poem works if the N has some hope.
Maybe there's a way to add hope to the poem so that the reader sees it and still show the narrator not having any? That seems challenging though; he'd have to be narrating it without realising what it was. For example, if I add in something like phosphoresce, as Sarah suggests, the N will have to have a reason for mentioning it without realising what that it signifies a glimmering of light in the darkness.
Or maybe there's a way to show that it will pass, somehow? Perhaps showing that it's happened before would do that? A sort of "here I am again" vibe?
I think it's a question of how far you want the poem to reach its potential. It's a good poem as it stands. But it isn't a 'twist your heart into tiny pieces and transport you to another world' poem. In my reading, it's finished itself before it's ready, lost some possibility or depth (for those of you who possibly think I'm being really mean to Matt, I promise I'm not - this is a conversation we've had before & he knows to ignore me when necessary!)
I think despair might be more powerful if there is a counter-balance. Like negative space. How can we have despair if we have never glimpsed hope? If there is some magic that's been lost then the despair becomes more powerful, maybe?
The 'it will pass' could work too. It makes me wonder if there's something N does/enacts when floating to ensure they stay afloat, and if that could be brought in there somehow? Like stimming
(or something more directly swimming related!)