From the sequence “Shekhinah Speaks”
Comfort, comfort my people ...
A voice says, “Your punishment has ended.”
You never listen to that voice. You really suck
at being comforted.
Another voice says, “Cry.”
That voice always gets your attention,
keeps you thinking
about withered flowers and withering grass
and all the ways you’re like them.
Hard to argue with that.
Death tramples you, an un-housebroken pet
trailing prints and broken stems,
pooping anxiety, PTSD, depression.
It’s better to be animal than vegetable
but best of all is to be spirit
flying first or maybe business class
with your emotional support animal, your body,
curled in your lap, soaring with you
above the sense of loss you’ve mistaken
for the closest to God you can get.
You want to cry? Cry about that.
Who do you think created
the animals to whom you turn for comfort,
dogs, miniature horses, monkeys, ferrets,
hungers you know how to feed,
fears you know how to quiet?
I form them, fur them,
it’s my warmth radiating from their bodies,
my love that answers
the love you lavish upon them.
Your deserts and desolations
are highways I travel,
smoothing your broken places,
arranging stars and constellations
to light your wilderness.
Sometimes I play the shepherd;
sometimes I play the lamb;
sometimes I appear as death,
which makes it hard to remember
that I am the one who assembled your atoms,
who crowned your dust with consciousness.
I take you everywhere,
which is why, wherever you go, I’m there,
keeping you hydrated, stroking your hair,
laughing when you chase your tail,
gathering you to my invisible breasts
more tenderly than any mother.
You’re right—you never asked for this. I’m the reason
your valleys are being lifted up,
the source of your life laid bare.
Mine is the voice that decrees—
that begs—your anguish to end.
When you suffer, I suffer.
by being comforted.
Joy Ladin is the author of nine poetry books, including Fireworks in the Graveyard (Headmistress Press, 2017) and The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017).
Debie Thomas: email@example.com