J. Ladin


(after Psalm 147)
Whose word runs swiftest to the earth.

Slate nubs strung
In strings of six or seven,
Childhoods tongued
By centuries of winter,

Rimed and glozed by moonlit frost,
Losses lost in the field of loss
The bearded biped sidles past,
Still upright, still on legs, still bathing

In the tepidarium of flesh, slipping a little
On the fragile crust
That separates life from death,
Father enough

To wish to resurrect, to demand,
As though he didn’t know,
Whose word made their waters flow
Into slender wooden boxes, gave them

Snow for wool, frost for bread.  
The children shrug the shoulders
Of the lives they failed to live.  Words
Run swiftest to earth.  Psalms

Of socket and rib.


   (after Psalm 148 and Annie Kantar)

The birds of paradise have landed.  Heaven
Is closing in.

Every desire, every terror,
The unborn and the gone-forever,

Thickens and descends.
Even the trees are beginning to bend.

Mountains, hills, uncertain willows,
Snow and smoke, fruit-tree and cedar,

Youths and maidens alike, old and young together—
Heaven weighs on their branches.

Heaven bows their heads.
The birds of paradise’s

Orange finger-flares
Splay against the encroaching glare.

Angels incarnate as vegetation,
Their unflying finery the marriage—

The compromise, the give-and-take—
Of necessity and transcendence.

Heaven has earthed, Earth heavened.
The beauty of futility, the ecstasy

Of frustration, the gorgeous
Pining for skies

Designed to deny
The plumage designed to try them,

Vanish in praise’s conflagration,
The life beyond life

That moots the life
That made them.

The birds of paradise prepare
For the flight beyond, or within

The God whose beginning
Is their end.  

Orange beaks open.  Tremble.


Hope is the thing with feathers
--Emily Dickinson

We hatch as you collect your letters,
Fattening on bits of future.
You always seem surprised
To find we have devoured

Weeks of hours, buried sills
In translucent feathers,
Nested on so many rungs and rafters
The slightest shift

Might mean disaster;
When cornered become vicious, turning
On what bred us; when trapped
Gnaw off our limbs;

Spread like a bruise
When beaten; when systematically eradicated,
Multiply within, metastasizing life from loss,
Thriving on what kills us.

J. Ladin
J. Ladin’s first collection of poems, Alternatives to History, was published in 2003 and his second, The Book of Anna, is forthcoming, both from Sheep Meadow Press.  His poetry is featured in the current issues of the British journal New Writing and Cross Currents, an interdisciplinary journal of religion, and is forthcoming in the next issue of disClosure.   His poems have appeared in many magazines and journals, including Parnassus: Poetry in Review, to which he regularly contributes critical essays, North American Review, the Italian journal Storie, Puerto del Sol, American Literary Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, The Minnesota Review, Exquisite Corpse, Seneca Review, Blueline, Cottonwood and Sequoia.  He holds the David and Ruth Gottesman Chair in English at Stern College of Yeshiva University, where he also directs the Writing Center.  He is currently completing a critical study of the emergence of American modernism and a third book of poetry with the assistance of an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship.  In 2002, he served as Poet-in-Residence at Tel Aviv University on a Fulbright Scholarship.  He has also taught writing at Reed College, Princeton University, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  His critical work has appeared in Parnassus and The Emily Dickinson Journal; the next issue of Michigan Quarterly Review will feature a symposium on Holocaust poetry that centers around his essay on the subject.



Current Issue
Contributors' Notes

Deborah Ager

Karren Alenier

John Allman

Anne Becker

Mel Belin

Bruce Bennett

Doraine Bennett

Cliff Bernier

Doris Brody

Trina Carter

Grace Cavalieri

Norma Chapman

Maritza Rivera Cohen

Yoko Danno

Barbara DeCesare

Donna Denizé

Julie Enszer

Colin Flanigan

Roger Fogelman

Martin Galvin

Barbara Goldberg

JoAnne Growney

Sarita Hartz

James C. Hopkins

John Hoppenthaler

Laurie Hurvitz

Donald Illich

W. Luther Jett

J. Ladin

Diane Lockward

Jason Maffettone

Judith McCombs

Louis McKee

Larry Moffi

Miles David Moore

Yvette Neisser

Brent Pallas

Lee Patton

Hilary Tham

Rosemary Winslow

Kathi Wolfe

Ernie Wormwood










Email this poem

Printer friendly page






Last Updated: Sep 16th, 2007 - 08:34:32

Copyright © 2005 - 2006 Cook Communication.