Jessica Jacobs

Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.
                                                                                             —Genesis 42:8

From the new lines in my sister’s face,
I know I’m aging. From the kids I grew up with,
with kids of their own and cruise photos
and split-level homes, I learn I’m middle-aged.

So when Benjamin told the Viceroy of Egypt
about the sons named as living memorials
to his lost brother Joseph, he had no idea
this official in linen and gold
was that same brother: Ashbel, for God
captured him; Ehi and Rosh, for he was
my brother and my head; Huppin, for we
were not at each other’s weddings… And
with each name, the decades
of Joseph’s exile—all those years apart
he’d reveled in—the absence
felt by those who loved him
became real, as did the man he truly was
beneath the title and clothes.

We strive so hard for independence
when interdependence is our fate
                         and fortune too.

Without the love of others, we are Joseph,
a person without reflection; we are Rachel,
mother of Joseph and Benjamin, dying
on the road from one place to another—
only with no origin, no destination,
always in that no-place of on the way,
with no measure of how far
we’ve come, of how far there is to go.

                                                        My origin
is the giants who raised me, and now that they’ve
stooped to human dimensions, humbled
by chance as much as by choices, now fumbling
through best they can, I see a possible
destination—gathering from my parents
both how and how not
to get there.
                   And from my wife, I see what it means
to have a companion on the road between, how
we mirror and mold each other in that going.

Jessica Jacobs is the author of Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going (Four Way Books), named one of Library Journal's Best Poetry Books of 2019. Her debut collection, Pelvis with Distance, a biography-in-poems of Georgia O'Keeffe, won the New Mexico Book Award in Poetry and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Her poetry, essays, and fiction have appeared in publications including Orion, New England Review, Guernica, and The Missouri Review. An avid long-distance runner, Jessica has worked as a rock climbing instructor, bartender, and professor, and now serves as Chapbook Editor for Beloit Poetry Journal. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her wife, the poet Nickole Brown, and is at work on parallel collections of essays and poems exploring spirituality, Torah, and Midrash.