I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars. — Og Mandino

po_Joseph-Allison1Allison Joseph (born 1967) is an American poet, editor and professor.

Joseph is author of six poetry collections, most recently, My Father’s Kites: Poems (Steel Toe Books, 2010). She grew up in Toronto and the Bronx. She teaches at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and is Director of the Young Writers Workshop at SIUC, which she founded in 1999: a four-day summer program for high school students. In 1995, she was one of the founding editors of Crab Orchard Review as the magazine’s poetry editor and has also worked as editor-in-chief since August 2001.

LEARNING TO LAUGH
Allison Joseph

At first I laughed to hide my nervousness,
my hand closed over my mouth
to silence that titter,
an uncertain sound
I didn’t, couldn’t control.

Breasts exposed, thighs
uncovered, I’d been found out,
caught, held up under daylight
for inspection, my chest
rising and falling with each

sharp intake of breath.
Then I learned to melt
into your hands, sliding
into pleasure when your lips
met mine, labia parted

for your tongue, mouth
open as I gasped, nerves
signaling bliss. I pulled
you closer in, reveled
in joy so profound

that I couldn’t help laughing
a full laugh that rang
through the dormant building,
waking the sleeping, the drunk.
I laughed so low, so deep,

that I couldn’t believe such a sound
could come from my naked body,
the same flesh that once
could only titter in shame.
What finally did it? Your hands,

those fingers, that didn’t stop
touching every sexual place:
nape of neck, bare lower
back, undersides of breasts
Determined, those hands

set loose a woman not sated
with quick meeting, mating,
worked corners, crevices—
until that laugh came bubbling
out of me, sudden rapture

I didn’t deny, a sound that would never
be furtive again, proud and loud instead,
so loud that neighbors must wonder
what it is you’re giving me,
their ears burning when they hear

the laughs that just keep
coming, rising out of me
to stop traffic on the boulevard,
drivers slowing to listen
to the most joy they’ve ever heard.