Fall 2021, Volume 31

Poetry by Judy Kronenfeld

The Fedora

Sometimes, to put myself to sleep
at night, when I am troubled,
I walk slowly, in memory—
as if on a moving sidewalk—through
the three rooms in the Bronx where I lived
with my parents as a child. Tonight,
I come through the solid apartment door—
with its little peephole—now requiring
neither key nor knock
into the narrow foyer, and rediscover
on my right the deep closet housing
mother’s and father’s winter clothes,
still pungent with camphor.
And now my risen father reaches in
to lift his woolen overcoat
from its broad and sculpted wooden hanger.
The nearby garments stir slightly on the rod.
I watch him as he hoists the heavy tweed
over one shoulder, slides his arm into a sleek sleeve,
feels behind to find the other armhole,
then takes hold of the lapels and gives the coat
a little shake into its proper place.
Now he brings the soft mouse-grey fedora
banded in black silk down
from the high shelf. Holding the hat
over his fingers’ armature, he uses
the side of his other hand to chop-chop-chop
the crease at the top of the high crown.
With forefinger in it, and thumb
out, he re-pinches the little hollow
on one side, then spins the fedora,
and re-pinches the other. At last—
nearly out the door to somewhere—
he puts the hat on, glancing in the hall mirror
to tilt it to the right, adjust
the front brim slightly downwards, a wisp
of a smile in his pale eyes.
I’m almost asleep now, my body
in a time-free cocoon, the scent
of wool and a trace of Old Spice
in my nose, before I’ve even
stepped into the living room—imagining,
as if I were six again—some foggy
sartorial mysteries of my own
I will enact in my world to come,
when I am grown.

Cold Spring Night

You draw the down comforter over your chest,
your eyes already half-closed,
and it seems itself to respire, taking in
a deep breath, then gently deflating—
and then you reach down again to pull
the old quilt over it, your fingertips brushing
the softness wrought by numerous spins
in the washing machine,
and then you pat the quilt flat
below your neck—as you would
smooth out the soil around a tiny sapling
you’ve just planted—as if wishing
yourself tender dreams, perhaps,
as you used to wish sweet ones
for your children who used to ask
to be tucked in—and behind those almost completely
vanished flashes, the vaguest shadows
hold their peace: your child self
in a narrow bed, kissed on the forehead,
the corner night light glimmering on,
the room dimmed...

What have you done in your life
to melt into this time-sum
of quietness and calm, not to be one
of the beautiful children or their mothers—
displaced for years—lying on stony ground
in torn tents shaken by hot winds
blowing gritty dust?

Pandemic Glissade

Lord, what am I doing
compelled into the kitchen yet again
for these milky morsels that melt me
wave on wave—punctuating my days
with velvet glosses on my tongue,
telling my hours with this recompense
until my teeth begin
to ache?—who am I kidding,
minutes, maybe, even seconds,
before the next fistful
of chocolate chips. Which hardly taste
like chips. Better to steal
the name of kisses, a fat-cheeked
baby's with pursed lips, each droplet
with its little silky topknot,
like the one curl on the baby's
forehead. Dark pearls drizzling
into my open mouth, upping the ante
for simple sweetness, sweepstakes sweetness,
come snow me in with flurries
of ellipses, until my ticking house
is muffled in your drifts,
and my hollow tooth feels satisfied
for years.

Visible and Invisible

A few dust bunnies waft from room to room before
we clean, proof the dogs are still shedding
their white fluffs, we are still discarding
particles of skin and strands of hair
by the hour. “Bunnies”—as if
what’s under the bed is another pet,
or two or three. So light,
and almost animate, stirring
in corners on the invisible currents
of the house—they make me think
of the French nuage, more than the thud
of cloud or guttural dirt.

The vacuum wand swallows them whole
like a snake, restores the corners to visible
emptiness. But, in the canister,
and in our mattresses, our comforters
and pillows, our cushiony upholstery,
the microscopic arachnids
that devour our dead skin cells thrive
in the hundred thousands, leaving millions
of fecal specks and body fragments
that make us cough and sneeze,
or worse.

There’s something to be said for piercing
the surface of things into the swarming truths
beneath. And something to be said, as well,
for noticing that even dust bunnies (or dust kittens—
in Hungarian—or dust poodles—in Finnish)
aggregating like the cosmic kind of dust—
perhaps in a universal process—
are sort of beautiful, if only because
they’re quickly removed from floor and mind.

Jacaranda June

Extravagant purple jouncing
above my head among
breeze-lifted green fronds,
and suddenly I look up
from studying my feet
into phosphorescent flounces
of bee-filled bells, all my doors and windows
thrown open,
my head tilted back,
and the sky sailing
in, the blue regatta
of it, astonishing me,
as if I had climbed
for the first time—through thrash
of rain and scud of cloud—into summer—
smooth as the jet’s own cerulean element.




BIO: Judy Kronenfeld’s fifth full-length collection of poetry, Groaning and Singing, will be published by FutureCycle Press in early 2022. Previous collections include Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017), Shimmer (WordTech, 2012), and Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths, (2nd ed. Antrim House, 2012), winner of the Litchfield Review poetry book prize for 2007. Her poems have appeared in Cider Press Review, Cimarron Review, New Ohio Review, Offcourse, One (Jacar Press), Rattle, Slant, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verdad, Your Daily Poem, and other journals, and in more than two dozen anthologies.