Joy Ladin is a Gottesman Professor of English at Yeshiva University, and author of six books of poetry: The Definition of Joy, Coming to Life, Transmigration, Alternatives to History, The Book of Anna, and Psalms. Her memoir, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders, was a finalist for a 2012 National Jewish Book Award, and a Forward Fives winner. She is also the author of a book-length study of American poetry, Soldering the Abyss: Emily Dickinson and Modern American Poetry (VDM). Her work has appeared in periodicals, including American Poetry Review, Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, Southwest Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and North American Review. Ladin’s work has been recognized with a Fulbright Scholarship.
Letter to Jonah
It must be cozy there, in the belly of the whale.
The whale knows you aren’t the end of his world,
his enormous heart pumps unbroken in the dark.
God reverberates quietly inside you,
a psalm you sing as you dissolve
in his gastric juices.
Dissolving is safer for all concerned
than growing into who you are.
And aren’t you really closer to God,
there in the cozy belly of the whale,
dissolving into gratitude and krill
and a story sailors tell
about a man who slept through a man-killing storm
and when they woke him up to pray
said “Throw me overboard.”