ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Judy Kronenfeld

Couple Observed

Bodily decrepitude is wisdom.
—W.B. Yeats

In the hospital garage, he, bent,
limping, one hip higher
than the other, bright dome
of his head white-fringed,
lurches out of the elevator
in front of me, pushing
her wheelchair, and she,
haloed in white frizz,
slumps forward in the seat,
face turned to one side.
Then, astonishingly,
they stop, she brakes,
he helps her up, and, shuffling
in her bedroom slippers, back
stooped nearly ninety degrees,
she leans into the handlebars,
and, with preternatural slowness,
moves him towards the rows
of parked cars. And I imagine
the inequities in their histories
must be sleeping
in their graves.

We balance precariously
on the near side of the pointer
embodied/not, we could step off
our front porch into
the afterlife. But, if we are
lucky, we will reach
such equilibrium:
the dregs of bitterness
over  two ambitious
lives unreconciled, of grief
for lost momentum
in the sun, all utterly expunged
by the violent equality
of age—the scythe before which
the whole field bows.


My 8-Year Old Granddaughter Discovers
the Arbitrariness of the Sign

I remember being a kid saying
times over, until it dissolved into a primordial
sea of non-meaning, and couldn't be
recovered for a while—no boat
even making it out there with a search
party; only the tongue against the soft
palate  ANkle ANkle ANkle, like a helpless
untrained oar slapping the water.
Scary and thrilling, too, like being unable
to move in a dark fun-house room
with tilting floor and walls—
all boundaries confused.

And now my daughter reports from afar
that my beloved girl, turned
philosopher—told to get into her teammate's mother's
car for soccer practice—said: "Why is a car
CAR?" Then louder, exasperated hands
clutched at her waist, "I mean
what is CAR?" Then,"What is a WORD?"
she apparently almost shouted,
before heading out—as if she'd been fooled,
and was now getting wise to the ruse.

She must have been really vexed!
I wish I was there to say: the fun
beats out the frustration, pumpkin,
take heart. If I phone and catch her this weekend
in the hour between dance class and soccer,
she'll probably have forgotten
her insight and sharing my own
will feel forced and stale, though I want to tell her,
Wait'll you notice you're using phrases
arriving from nowhere, whose histories
are mysteries, whose meaning you can't
state. And yet they're redolent
as fresh bread, and fit into conversational
slots neatly as bagels into bagel
slicers. I want to share that my dad,
her great-grandpa, delighted in saying
"You're a gentleman and a scholar,"
whenever he won a few pennies
off a buddy at gin rummy.
And how I've spent smiling moments
anticipating dropping "And Bob's your uncle"
into the stew though I've no idea
what it literally means—or maybe because.

You're my referent for the sign granddaughter,
darling, though 3000 miles away.

(And Bob's your uncle!
I've written my part in a ghost

Welcome to the world where solidities
are mostly space, sweetheart.

Score a goal!

Judy Kronenfeld is the author of four full-length collections and two chapbooks of poetry, including 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 Cider Press Review, Cimarron Review, Connotation Press, DMQ Review, Ghost Town, Miramar, Natural Bridge, New Ohio Review, Offcourse, One (Jacar Press), Rattle, South Florida Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and other journals, and in two dozen anthologies. Her creative nonfiction has appeared nine times in Under the Sun and has also been published in Hippocampus and Inlandia: A Literary Journey, among other places. She is Lecturer Emerita, Creative Writing Department, University of California, Riverside, and an Associate Editor of the online poetry journal, Poemeleon. In a previous life she published a controversial book on Shakespeare (King Lear and the Naked Truth, Duke U.P., 1998), as well as a number of essays on English poetry of the early modern period.


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