Judy Kronenfeld



Though I recall that moment [of his baby's death] with absolute crushing clarity, it is still unimaginable to me.

                        —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

translucently edged.


My self is tied

in the chains

of you, silenced

by you,


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

of shadow!

We're thick as thieves

we two, I'm in the thick

of you—


Give back

my brilliant





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.

Judy Kronenfeld's third book of poetry, Shimmer, was published by WordTech Editions in 2012.  Her most recent prior full collection is Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths, winner of the 2007 Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize (2nd edition, Antrim House, 2012); her most recent chapbook is Ghost Nurseries (Finishing Line, 2005). Her poems, as well as the occasional short story, personal essay and review have appeared in many print and online journals such as Calyx, Cimarron Review, The American Poetry Journal, Natural Bridge, Poetry International, Spoon River Poetry Review, Women's Review of Books, and The Pedestal, as well as in a variety of anthologies including Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer's Disease (Kent State, 2009), Love over 60: An Anthology of Women's Poems (Mayapple, 2010), and Before There Is Nowhere to Stand: Palestine/Israel: Poets Respond to the Struggle (Lost Horse, 2012). She is Lecturer Emerita, Creative Writing Dept., UC Riverside, and Associate Editor of the online poetry journal, Poemeleon.



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