Judy Kronenfeld




My hairdresser, lathering my grey head,

giggles over the "wild man"

he used to be in the days of Shampoo. 

He wants to embrace

Jesus' thinly clad waist. It can't be

he won't see the people he loves again. 


I picture that attainable

eternity, a chute from the present

to the infinite, like an airplane's

emergency slide. Death's vindictive

storm rattles the plane, and it crash-

lands, yet the travelers glide from the burning

wreckage on naked feet, leaving all

behind—purse, heels, souvenir snow globes,

collection spoons—and are clasped to the cushiony

bosom of Abraham.


Vince presses the towel gently 

against my damp ears,

and I sail back over years

to the all-"girls" alma mater

I flew into, on a scholarship carpet

from my Bronx shtetl-street—

with her pastoral Anglican

sobriety, her Latin-school

traditions (Gaudeamus igitur,

Iuvenes dum sumus!) . . .


where, in a monastic carrel, reading Herbert

and Vaughan, I became like God—a circle centered

everywhere, bounded nowhere—and where

I floated downstream on the raft of belief

in the future, the power

and the glory, to unrestricted literary

heaven, with Moon River, my huckleberry





Vince muses about opening

a retirement home as he combs

and clips. He likes old people.

"Imagine growing old and helpless,

thinking you've had your last shampoo and set!"

He'd do hair on Mondays, and on Tuesday

evenings his wife would play the piano

and sing those comforting old hymns.


Yesterday, a choir on video in the stroke ward

cycled through "O come, O come,

Emmanuel," "O come, all ye faithful."

My mother chanted her agitated litany,

"I am so farblondzhet! I am so

fardreit!," and paused—as if the distant

past flickered, like a broken film

the projectionist is trying to run

in a dark theater—chanted

and paused.


I tried to hum an ancient

tune, chestnut of childhood weddings

and bar mitzvahs. The third time

through, she swayed a little

in her chair, then quavered

Beltz, mayn shtetele Beltz,

mayn heymele


for those few notes—

dreamy about the dream

of childhood in the little, lost


               to which no one, ever,

really would return—


called back from exile

into the exiles' community.

Judy Kronenfeld is the author of two books and two chapbooks of poetry, the most recent being Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths, winner of the 2007 Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize, which was published in summer 2008. Her poems, as well as the occasional short story and personal essay, have appeared in numerous print and online journals. Recent poem credits include Cimarron Review, Natural Bridge, The American Poetry Journal, Calyx, The Hiram Poetry Review, The Pedestal, as well as a number of anthologies, including Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California, edited by Christopher Buckley and Gary Young (Greenhouse Review Press/Alcatraz Editions, 2008) and Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer's Disease, edited by Holly Hughes (Kent State University Press, 2009).  She is also the author of a critical study: KING LEAR and the Naked Truth (Duke U.P., 1998). 



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