A Modest Proposal

Joy Ladin

Let's not kill or die today.
Let's make angels out of yarn, men of snow, mashed potato animals
that smile as we spoon
their eyes of melted butter.

Instead of killing ourselves or one another,
let's neatly stack anxiety's sweaters
and scratch our itchy trigger fingers
by whittling turtles for our mothers,

or pretending to understand Heidegger,
or imagining the sexual embrace
through which time and space
first conceived of matter.

If we still aren't over killing and dying,
we can search the stacks for library books
that haven't circulated in generations
and savor the mold

that spores their spines
the way wine snobs savor the nose
of vintage wines bottled
between wars to end all wars.

Look, we've played all day
and haven't spilled a drop of blood
apart from the occasional paper cut.
In an hour or two, when it's very dark,

let's make up stories out of stars,
and fill them with all the killing and dying
we didn't do today, except in our imaginations.
Let's pull our comforters over our heads

and sing ourselves to sleep
like good little civilizations.

More by Joy Ladin

Time Passes

Time too is afraid of passing, is riddled with holes
through which time feels itself leaking.
Time sweats in the middle of the night
when all the other dimensions are sleeping.
Time has lost every picture of itself as a child.
Now time is old, leathery and slow.
Can’t sneak up on anyone anymore,
Can’t hide in the grass, can’t run, can’t catch.
Can’t figure out how not to trample
what it means to bless.

Tarot Readings Daily

They’re reading Tarot cards right now,
in the little pink house with the sign in the yard.
Shadows spider across still-green lawn
whose fate, so far, defies the frosts.

Someone asks the right question,
draws the right card.
Many cups in the immediate future;
radiance pouring down.

They know the future,
the creatures in the yard:
night, thirst, frost.
Only the sapiens in the house believe

fire, water, air, and earth
would bother to reveal
when to fear and love.
The one who’s paying

draws another card.
Outside, in the yard,
a squirrel noses seed that fell
like radiance, from above.

 

Between Wars

You’ve lost your soul again. Go back
to the window. Note the crocus
defying expectations

in the bed your mother hunkers over,
missing you, in her fashion,
now that you’re always there.

Why don’t you wear your uniform, she asks.
Will you ever get out of bed,
running her hand through your uncombed curls,

sweating eau de toilette
that forces you both to remember
the hollows she cannot scent.

Several soldiers’ buttons
glitter in her trowel, a spectacular find
that conjures and erases

the sad, stained trench
in which their bodies vanished.
Your mother gives a cry of surprise.

The child she bore
bears you no resemblance; only
this habit of losing your soul

suggests yours is the head
she brushed, in a perfumed cloud,
straightening what wasn’t tangled,

as something rolled across the floor,
where she would never find it. 
Many surrenders later,

what glittered and rolled
perforated by equidistant holes
while you froze in her haze of fragrance

has surfaced among the spears of crocus,
as though the boys who burst their buttons
jabbing dummies with bayonets

had risen from their graves,
untangled, untarnished,
ready to forgive.