ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Judy Kronenfeld


Sunday after Christmas in SoCal, and the mall
is crowded as Mecca, the mob
circumambulating the food court and then
clockwise, back. Fresh-faced schoolgirls,
bustier'd and booted, proud of the tattooed
masculine muscle slung around their plump
shoulders; women rippling in their tights stretching
their last gift dollars at many-pawed cut-price racks;
and me, in post-parties anomie,
flung along in what-did-I-come-for
confusion, hoping for cheer
but ending up feeling anything bought—
the stackable bangles weakly flashing their charms,
the gold-tone rope chain—while good for the lackluster
retail economy, would be goods
for the grave. Oh, I think I was trying to bury
the story fixed in my mind
of a friend's widowed mother only twenty years
older, gasping for breath through the long hours
of her death—the gift she most sought denied
by a cruel hospice doc
sanctifying the letter of the law—
though everyone had gathered
as if for a Christmas Eve party, though
she'd whispered I'm ready.

I ran to my car to get out of there,
out of here, of the fear, home to you
and some tea, and my book, and our bed,
and the radiant, holy, priceless dream
of waking beside you on infinite days. 


Voted America's Best Cemetery

Sign on Freeway

Do most of the clientele
still like their views? Or enjoy
the Remember-the-Taste
-of-Coffee Klatch in the morning
whispery hour when the leaves all turn
silver in the breeze? Or the true Ether-
Net, where all their posts still float?
Do they appreciate
the beneficial feng-shui?
Do the new shades mention
the attractive stone benches where
friends will meditate
under convenient trees—if they keep
promises to return
after the obsequies? 
Do the residents all praise
the quite long space of mortal time
before their graves are broken up
again? Or are there complaints?
About common-as-grass
flat markers nose to the dust, chosen by relatives
chintzy to the end? Or about standup
headstones encrusted with tacky angels,
or gaudy mausoleums—
bought by fatcat family
just to flaunt their name?

No. Still, the dead abstain
from yea or nay—their ash eyes
blind, their ash hearts utterly burnt clean
of love of beauty, memory, hope,
and scorn.


Dream Displacements

Who sits with my long-departed father,
pillowed at the head of a holiday
table? The pillars of memory
waver in image-floating sleep. Am I
the favored child there in a living room
looking onto a New York fire escape above an alley
where the bone-and-rag man cries?—
the child in the bosom of her tribe,
upon whom the rays of familial love
pour and kindle?

Or is it my own far-flung child
I see in this dream, dipping bitter herbs
in salt water, under the melting
eye of my mother—in California
where my parents long ago
cleaved to their seed?

Some essence fills these emptying
dream-rooms, a quintessential invisible
atmosphere as if the departed
are a structure like dark matter
drawing the visible universe
together, and their descendants are still racing
to embrace ghosts, or escape,
my children and I are children
bringing them report cards
for adulation, I am a child—waylaid
by an aunty in the elevator
as I return from ferrying kitchen rubbish
to the basement—who vanishes for cookies                               
and milk into the dim difference of another nest,                                    
whose mother stands frantic
on the street corner, fists
clenched at her aproned waist,
until the distant past—so intimate—mists,                                                                     
funnels, performs its disappearing act—                                                
and I am liberated into the eternal ageless

where the dog who entered our bedroom
as you and I, love, lay down for our naps—
and settled her arthritic hips
like a low-rider operated by hydraulic
pumps—now raises her head
as her significant others stir,

where the two of us are late rickety nesters,
pillars in a household, a country
unto itself—this free-standing, light years removed,
faintly lonely cosmos.


Judy Kronenfeld's most recent books of poetry are Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017), Shimmer (WordTech, 2012), and Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths, 2nd edition (Antrim House, 2012)—winner of the 2007 Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize. Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, DMQ Review, Ghost Town,  Pedestal, Rattle, and Valparaiso Poetry Review, among other journals, and in two dozen anthologies. She is Lecturer Emerita, Creative Writing, UC Riverside, and an Associate Editor of Poemeleon.

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