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Joy Ladin, “Kiss”

Joy Ladin, “Kiss”

Author: Poetry Editor

April 30, 2012

This week, two poems from Joy Ladin’s The Definition of Joy, forthcoming from Sheep Meadow Press.


We meet at the lip
of the hole love digs. Come here
you say, meaning down, meaning in, meaning love

has exposed how naked I am, how worn, how young,
how totally yours, how kittenish.
Is that what made you laugh?

I’m too tired to ask. I dream
of hurting and being hurt, I call my children
but they don’t answer, I call my answers, my old answers –

God, karma, trees in flower –
but they don’t pick up the phone. The hole
is getting deeper. Does that mean we’re getting closer?

That I’m your girl? That I am
a girl, and not just a hole
love is digging

deeper and deeper? Come here you say,
meaning your arms that fit
my need to fit somewhere, meaning

you’ve been waiting for me
since I was someone you’d never imagined,
meaning the hole

love digs through our differences
which are bigger and not as big
as the differences between fear and laughter, water and air,

between a former lover
sliding a finger between your legs
and my lips dissolving

against your lips, between the lips
of the holes love digs
and the lips my fingers kiss.


After great sex, a formative feeling comes. Bodies part
into body parts, napes and necks
and privates nakedness makes

somehow more private. Souls and fingers
unlace, something unspeakably good
shreds and settles, silvering our skin.

We giggle, plan, get out of bed,
coat ourselves in separateness,
play ourselves in miniature –

I apologizing for no reason, you worrying
you’re pushing me away –
sinking together into the depths

of not quite knowing one another,
not quite sure
if the selves we expose

are ours, or bubbles on the ocean, the same old ocean,
of circulating skin
that’s metamorphosing us

into something new, shoots of boy
spangling stalks of girl
slicked by the strangely formal rain

greening our unformed world.


JOY LADIN, Gottesman Professor of English at Yeshiva University, is the author of five books of poetry, including Lambda LIterary Award finalist Transmigration, Forward Fives award winner Coming to Life, and a new collection, The Definition of Joy, from which these poems are drawn. Her memoir, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders, was published in 2012 by University of Wisconsin Press.

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