Joy Ladin

Sitting in Wordsworth's Garden

                     Summer 2018

where you sat
iambicizing childhood, revolution, and the Terror,
I inhale the scent

of virtues you knew 
would bloom
even when forgotten by the future  

sitting in your garden
in a sweat-stained sleeveless dress
trying to come up with something to say —
flowers? clouds? loneliness? — 
unable to make poetry, 
unable to make sense

and unable to say nothing
as my country cages children
who may not survive the growing season.

No matter how many are caged or killed, 
your garden’s short-lived citizens,
rosa mundi, apothecary rose, common valerian,

annually perform
their parable of resistance.
Die and blossom again.

No one expects them to rhyme
beauty with justice, stamens
with the fear

that’s coated my country like pollen
since the last election. People 
are thrown in cages

and poets like me, alive and afraid, conscious 
and unconscious, singular 
and symptomatic, 

scan heaven and earth 
and beds of flowers
for an arc that bends toward justice

and something eloquent,
original, and vague — 
something a flower might say — 

that makes liberty sound inevitable and safe
and tyranny destined to pass away.
Poems aren’t keys 

that unlock cages, 
just strings of letters
on screens or pages

hoping some future 
will read them and remember
that somewhere there was a garden 

and somewhere there still is,
inexcusably rhyming 
beauty with existence

in a language that has no words
for justice or injustice, 
complicity or cages.

In pastel plosives; violet vowels; 
half-blown roses’
luminous consonance.

link to video 

Joy Ladin is the author of ten books of poetry, including 2022's Shekhinah Speaks, National Jewish Book Award winner The Book of Anna, Headmistress Press's gorgeous edition of Fireworks in the Graveyard, and Lambda Literary Award finalists Impersonation and Transmigration. Her poems have appeared this year in a number of publications, including Liber: A Feminist Review, Sojourners, and two anthologies, The Long Devotion: Poets Writing Motherhood, and Queer Nature. She has also published a memoir of gender transition, Through the Door of Life, and a work of trans theology, The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective. Her work has been recognized with a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship and a Fulbright Scholarship, among other honors.