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Joy Ladin, “Girl In A Bottle”

Joy Ladin, “Girl In A Bottle”

Author: Poetry Editor

November 4, 2010

Today, two poems from 2009 Lammy finalist Joy Ladin’s forthcoming book, Coming to Life.


You may have lost hope
But you are definitely a girl
Hope hasn’t lost.  The almond, orphaned scent

Of adolescence braids
Your life with unwanted features,
Shaving your head,

Raising the shades
That kept you nice and protected,

Your year of being nude, a crystal skull
Extended to full-size
For everyone to see.

The restless young light
That is always on
Pearls the little secrets

Of your body, misting the habits
That strand you
In the mirror.  Reality

Lines up to smooch,
Bites your fingernails,
Whispers the secret signs

That can get you into the best parties –
Or are they anxieties
That only look like parties? –

Bullying, taking full advantage
Of your metamorphosis
Into a girl you don’t even know.  It’s time

To fill in the blanks.
Which makeup will you choose?
Which conscience?  Which version of family

Will take your breath away?
Your arms, your legs,
Whisper the world you always wanted,

Fashioning conscience
From your body’s vulnerability.
You vowed to conceal

The hope whose strands
Made you real,
But you have been born

Into the streaming light of history,
A shyly confessional bliss,
Because you didn’t have to live,

Girl in a bottle,
And did.


It’s time to celebrate
The anatomy of There,
The difference, the exile

That’s inside you,
More reliable than the life
You wish you hadn’t made. There

Is there, between your emotions
And your fingertips,
Diverting your eyes

From the familiar, scary
Miracle of life
Kissing your hair, laughing

At your exile, touching you


JOY LADIN, the David and Ruth Gottesman Professor of English at Stern College of Yeshiva University, is the author of four books of poetry: Alternatives to History, The Book of Anna, Transmigration (a finalist for a 2009 Lambda Literary Award), Psalm, and the forthcoming Coming to Life from Sheep Meadow Press, from which these poems are drawn. Ladin, the first openly trans employee at an Orthodox Jewish institution, is also the author of Who Will Be: A Woman Caught in the Act of Becoming, a yet-unpublished collection of essays reflecting on transsexual transition.

Photo by Lisa Ross.

Poetry Editor photo

About: Poetry Editor

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