Learning to Say “I”
I like a tree in a walking forest
walks slowly over a mountain toward a city
where fourteen million I's brush branches and root
in one another's soil.
Sunset purples half-opened windows.
I smokes on the sill in short-sleeved tee,
I is nothing if not sexy.
I knocks on I's door, asks to borrow
full fat milk.
I is a mammal, so is I.
Let's not talk about that.
When I is alone I will will shave I's legs.
Sometimes I is pregnant.
I wishes I could stop saying “I.”
“I” is a lie. Or is I?
I looks inside, excavating versions
of I within I, each unearthed I
larger, cruder, than the I it hid inside.
dissolves into blurry cells of I,
a swarm of stars or fireflies. I is too close
to appreciate the swarming beauty of I.
I has had it with searching for I,
blessing I, regretting I, fingering I's privates,
beside slimmer, smarter avatars
of I's idea of I.
Sometimes I stops fingering, excavating, blushing,
smoking, swarming, lying.
I realizes that whatever I does,
I is always walking
in a forest whose collective sigh
expresses something I
hasn't learned to say,
something other than “I.”
The Water We Are
The water we are: the stream of you
braids the stream of me. Braided,
we wash stones toward the sea.
The water we are wills itself thicker.
Whitens; ices over. We trade flow
for crystalline structure. Clarify
how thoroughly we've merged;
of flowing together.
The water we are – something's changed,
some tilt of earth toward sun
melts our grip on one another, unbraids us.
The water we are
abrades the bed that shapes us,
the forks of dirt that break us,
you into you, me into me,
separate streams, separate directions,
that share a source, a destination, a sea.
Similes for Sentiment
Like a flower deflowered by a 12-year-old,
one petal a pop, despair and hope,
I'm stripped to stem and center.
Like the 12-year-old, I don't care
that I keep getting the wrong answer.
It's June, school's out, the whole wide world's in flower.
Joy Ladin, Gottesman Professor of English at Yeshiva University, has published six books of poetry, including Forward Fives award winner Coming to Life and Lambda Literary Award finalist Transmigration; her seventh collection, Impersonation, is due out in 2015. Her memoir, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders, was a 2012 National Jewish Book Award finalist. Her work has appeared in many periodicals, including American Poetry Review, Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, Southwest Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and North American Review, and has been recognized with a Fulbright Scholarship.