The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Judy Kronenfeld
—Alexsander Hemon, "A Tale of Two Daughters"
Just out of "successful"
surgery on the hip she broke
after her second stroke, my mother
asked for a comb and a mirror
and said, for the 1000th time,
"I look like a prune"—
unlike the faceless,
the deformed, the knowingly terminally
ill, the body-debasing, who have learned,
or been forced, to think of themselves
as souls. Death was not yet
close as her coat, wasn't
sleeping with her, lived
in another country, reachable only
by an arduous, and as yet unplanned
And that's when we can
imagine it—isn't it?—whether it's ours,
or even—God help us—a child's. Mahler said
he couldn't have written
the Kindertotenlieder after his child
had died, though he'd imagined his child
had died, in order to write. But before,
just a touch Romantic, isn't it,
à la Père Lachaise—the caped
and draped figures, streaked with corroded
tears, the small child head rolled back
in final grimace, held aloft
in the angel's arms—
My mother might have
imagined triumphant vindication à la
Ann Landers—"Guilty and Heartbroken
Daughter" writes "Now my mother is gone
and I'm racked with remorse."
But I wasn't.
I did what I could.
I brought the comb and mirror.
I put them away. I sat by the bed.
I held the fingers that dripped over
its side, and she whispered
"my angel" as she slid.
My lucky mother
put down the mirror, clucking.
No slow striptease of the mortal, no
death mask, no practice coffin, no hot
death breath prickling the back
of her neck. She said to oblivion
Not me! and to us: "God doesn't
want me yet." And the next
day: mugger death in the dark alley—
one quick rap to the back of the head.
Wake me again, indivisible
with liberty, bottles singing
in the milk truck, tipped heels clicking
down my street, and my windows flashed
open to the cloud-quilted sky—
a box-stitched comforter
thrown up to air, squares
My self is tied
in the chains
of you, silenced
collapsed down into
an irretrievable black box as you
swerve, droop, fizzle—
oh, don't evict me
after my long lease—
and doctors collect
your measurements, medial,
proximal, pick your locks
with dilators, depressors . . . .
Don't drag me
down like a bale
We're thick as thieves
we two, I'm in the thick
What I Love about New York
August morning, eight A.M., as I clump
off the curb on a Soho street
in my walking sandals, backpack flapping—
the day cloistered with heat,
the glinting sidewalks already
repositories—a woman in a sea-spume
froth of tropical turquoise cocktail dress, steps off
from the south side towards the north. A slick of sweat
gleams in her puckery crepe-paper
cleavage; under their freight of fantail
lashes, her eyelids beat a syncopated
pulse; her wine-stem ankles alternately
bow slightly out and in as she stutters
across in her four-inch rhinestone-embossed
platform sandals. I can almost hear
the thwuck as a heel is plucked
out of the ancient dirt between the cobbles—
and I nearly give a you go girl nod because
its owner's quest has been so severely
tested. But not utterly crushed.
Copyright 2006-2012 by Cook Communication