“Sickness and Health”

Thursday, December 11, 2014 - 10:02 am
Joy Ladin plays with her youngest daughter at a playground in Amherst, Massachusetts.

“Sickness and Health”

You wish you could cure me. We float together
in your bed, on a postage-stamp sea
frozen into wood -- your charming, warped floor --

that shakes and heaves while you sleep, arm wrapped around my waist
as though you could anchor me,
as though love meant simply holding on,

as though insomnia were simply wrong
when it whispers that we're drifting apart.
Car horn. Hours till dawn. Our bodies

will be here when it comes,
glowing like communion wafers, touching symbols that aren't ours
of the crumbling body -- this we share -- of God.

I need to say this now
when your arm around my waist
is the only answer you can make

to the heaving sea of boards
which, if you'd whisper, if you were awake,
neither shake, nor heave, nor carry me away

because beyond our love there is no sea.
I wish it were true.
That the sea were wood, the wood still tree.

That your love could cure me.

Reprinted from "The Definition of Joy" by Joy Ladin. Copyright © 2012 by Joy Ladin. Used with the permission of the publisher, The Sheep Meadow Press.

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is Gottesman Professor of English at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University in New York. Her memoir is called Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders. She’s also the author of seven collections of poetry, and is currently the recipient of an NEA fellowship to write I am What I Will Be: Reading God and the Torah from a Transgender Perspective.

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