Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Issue 24, December 2012—Trans / Queer Issue)

Joy Ladin
Sent Mail (a haibun)


I’d like at least to hear your voice. It’s hard to have a relationship crisis — or a relationship — under these circumstances. Hard to remember who I thought I was, who I meant to be.


Forgetting happens more and more these days.

Life forgets death, death forgets to live, forgetting forgets

what it’s the opposite of,

Aquarius forgets her water-jar, it shatters between Leo’s forgetful paws,

“I” slips backward from the tip of my tongue,

the highly contingent effect

of highly dependent clauses

that have forgotten their subject.


N is sleeping over. We’ve had delicious time and tough time — it started with her saying, “I know you’ve done terrible things to me, and I’ll always be angry with you” and “What does it mean to you to be alive?” This morning we looked at old family pictures. In some I’m a man, in some I’m in the miserable drab of early transition. In all she has the family she never wanted to lose, and did.


Two Directions

after N

That direction flatters like a well-placed mirror. In the other, a child’s face is scraped

by pirates wielding razors.

In that direction, events arrange themselves around me.

Destiny is my butler, polishing silver, lighting candlesticks.

In the other, walls decked with scraped-off faces, torches sconced in sliced-off lips.

Who handed me this razor? Placed this face in my lap?


Most of us have wandered this wilderness, tormented by the same questions: do we who have never insisted on existing have a right to exist? Is the pain of others is justified by our need to live?


Today’s assignment: feel at least as alive

as the branches budding above the tines of retired men

scraping scurf from ungrown lawns

in the chilly gleam of spring.

As TV static. As a body

awakening in a tomb,

the body, as it happens, of another Jew

for whom death was a way for life to resume.


I’m still not sure how clearly I’m seeing — I feel battered by events (not by you!), fragile and prone to over-reaction. And no one sees clearly when it comes to love. Blind archer shooting us in the back: even the most piercing desire aims without cracking its lids.


You’re afraid of knowing you’re mine, of shrinking

in the light of my eyes. My gaze falls like moonlight

on your sleeping face. When you wake, I pretend

we’re just two people taking turns in the bathroom.

Spoon coffee into your future’s filter,

wait for boiling water.


I walk out on you, into the world of fire engines, emergencies that aren’t ours, cobblestones and deepening greens, sleeveless women walking dogs, an old man staring at the engine of his car. You were glad to see me go, which is why you touched my arm at the door. Our choices are simple, yes and no. Derrick, siren, chickpea sizzling on sidewalk grill, lanes of traffic yellowed by cabs Van Gogh would paint as sunflower souls, burnt and burning, ready to explode.


Last night I sobbed in your arms.

This morning you’re distant, bright-eyed and busy,

shirts to iron, songs to sing,

a sparrow on a fire escape,

wings aflutter, loving.


I do like that bird, the one who wakes the world at dawn, shrilling broken power chords like an avian air guitarist, the bird who persists, dawn after dawn, unconcerned with beauty, audience or trying to eat, whose song never seems to finish because it’s always complete.


Vaults of a cathedral — whorls of your ear —

new leaves drinking in late spring light.

Our bodies whistle as we fall through time. It took centuries

to find your hand in mine, the way newborn stars

take centuries to shine.