Joy Ladin

Letter to Joy

Even now that I pass myself off as you, I remain the residue
of the lifetime of depression
that still feels true, nourishing, familial,
bringing me coffee in the morning, singing me bedtime songs.

Out of the goodness of your heart, you catalog the discrepancies
between your account of life and mine,
my mistaking of pain for treasure, the beauty of death
for the beauty you represent, the beauty that includes the beauty of ending

because it never ends, the music you make of suffering
for some parlor-magic forgery of Heaven.
You seem more amused than angry
as you lead me through mountains

where death is the commonest tree
and you play like sunlight over everything I see:
shadows, stains, ditches and streams,
a fold in a leaf, a clearing.

Joy Ladin, Gottesman Professor of English at Yeshiva University, is the author of six books of poetry, including recently-published The Definition of Joy, Forward Fives Award winner Coming to Life, and Lambda Literary Award finalist Transmigration. Her memoir, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders was published in March by U. of Wisconsin Press. Her poems and essays have been widely published, and have recently appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Parnassus, Educe, New Haven Review, Bodies of Work, Belladona*, and Stone Highway Review.