Joy Ladin: Poems from “The Future is Trying to Tell Us Something”

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.

4.  Sightseeing

from Wrestling,

There’s so much to see
on the long slow walk
from nowhere to nowhere.

Death is a state
of eternal tourism
a cruise among souls still tied

to the primitive technologies of life.
Salt leaks from their ducts.
They bare their teeth when they laugh.

When they yearn their bodies bulge.
They press their limits
to the limits of those they love

and somehow are comforted.
You pause to watch a woman
arrange a vase of wooden flowers. One tulip falls.

She reassembles it
petal by petal.
A guidebook would call her local color

an industrious native
of the country of life.
For forty-nine years

you called her wife.


Bagged bottles shatter
five floors down.
You turn toward me, spoon,
sigh and summon me down

into the paper-white deeps of sleep
where phosphorescent creatures,
you and me,
light each other’s dreams.

Awake, we’re nervous,
animals aboard the Ark
just before the rain.
Asleep, the windows of heaven

are broken, unstopped
the fountains of the deep.
Waters cover the face of the earth.
Waters, love, we breathe.

In This Dream, We Can See Each Other’s Dreams

In this dream, I am never tired.
We pedal uphill for hours toward a lighthouse
that keeps sliding higher, beyond our reach.

In this dream, your childhood
is there in your cupboard,
right behind the spices.

In this dream, we stroll arm in arm
through museums of beautifully terrifying things.
Shelves of books whisper as they write us.

In this dream, we have never met. We miss each other by seconds
in subways and movie theaters, a ballet of miraculous, life-changing encounters
we don’t know we’ve missed.

In this dream, you ride a roller coaster through a city.
I wait for you at the exit.
I’m the one who’s screaming.

In this dream, we stay up late watching bald men love and lie.
Our shoulders touch. Our thighs. In this dream,
potato chips aren’t fattening. That’s how we know we’re dreaming.

In this dream, we are the wine we’re drinking.
We pool in a pair of goblets, sharing the same excellent vintage,
nose of coriander, witty, ecstatic finish.

In this dream, snow sugars fallen leaves.
Your arm slides around my waist.
The trees and I turn green.

Sickness and Health

You wish you could cure me.  We float together
in your bed, on a postage-stamp sea
frozen into wood– your charming, warped floor –

that shakes and heaves while you sleep, arm wrapped around my waist
as though you could anchor me,
as though love meant simply holding on,

as though insomnia were simply wrong
when it whispers that we’re drifting apart. 
Car horn.  Hours till dawn.  Our bodies

will be here when it comes,
glowing like communion wafers, touching symbols that aren’t ours
of the crumbling body – this we share – of God. 

I need to say this now
when your arm around my waist
is the only answer you can make

to the heaving sea of boards
which, you’d whisper, if you were awake,
neither shake, nor heave, nor carry me away,

because there is no sea. 
I wish it were true. 
That the sea were wood, the wood still tree. 

That your love could cure me.

Image: detail from Walter Crane’s 1896 illustrations to Spensers Cantos of Mutabilitie in the Sixth Book of The Fairie Queene., public domain

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