TWO POEMS by Joy Ladin

/ / Issue 6, Poetry


Half-empty plane, hot black coffee – it takes  so many people
to keep my body soaring.
I must be important, or at least not dead,

and my not being dead must matter, or it wouldn’t be so sunny,
and if it’s sunny because I’m not dead
I must be the fulcrum, the measure of existence,

the line God draws
between meaning and meaninglessness
in sand composed of outgrown shells and diatoms,

animal and vegetable
ground into mineral glitter
by the pestle of existence.

I’m not ground yet, so I must be happy,
smiling for the camera
eternity, focused on me, must be.

I must be happy, falling asleep,
sinking into the clouds below my seat, soothed by engines’
rumbling stutter, the click-click heartbeat

of eternity’s shutter.




That was a short list, wasn’t it?
An old man fingers a double fugue

alone on a famous stage.
There’s no smart way to die

during a Bach partita’s
helices of being and becoming

twinning, twining and untwining
chromatic, arpeggiated longing.

No genders, no time,
no way to die, smart or otherwise,

even though we practice death’s scales
day and night,

confounding individuation with despair, avoiding recognition
that the only part of us that lives forever

is the otherness we anticipate and echo,
a fugue that began before we began

and sings without a moment’s interruption
when our seats are emptied, our despairs compressed

into obituary and epitaph, our bones broken down
into nutrients absorbed by grass

nibbled by rabbits struck by hawks
and assimilated, briefly, into their soaring organs.

The smart way to die is to recognize
the stage is bare, the piano wheeled away,

the old man probably has a tough time peeing,
lets flattery go to his head,

foolish as the rest of us
when the universe serenading itself through him

lets his fingers become fingers again,
the universe too smart to die without rising,

twinning, twining and untwining
old men, vibrating strings, creaking seats and silence.




Issue 6 Contents                                       NEXT: Two Poems by Lee Sharkey