Bio Note: I'm a retired university lecturer, who taught literature and creative writing for many years, and is happy not to be doing that on Zoom. I'm thrilled that my fifth full-length collection of poems, Groaning and Singing, will come out in February 2022 from FutureCycle. New poems appearing this spring and early summer in Muddy River Poetry Review and Pratik: A Magazine of Contemporary Writing, and other places.
A Partial Critique of Urban Nostalgia
The blind side of a run-down apartment house in the rain-dark movie street, puddles sheened by street-lamps, surprises me with longing unrelated to the plot— And all the next day I think of the backs of tenements—so unlike the “garden apartments” my mother yearned for—turning empty eyes to the tracks as the El rumbled out of the station: open windows, half-pulled shades, yellow curtains blowing out, a towel hanging to dry… Here, in these suburban streets bleached by Western sun, where stillness lies down like shadows in the deep afternoons, what do I miss when I think I miss striations of fire escapes, of El girders leaning across the mottled sidewalks, the blur of subway cars, pour from doors? Is it the marble atriums of desired quiet, dripping slow and cool as fountains, guarded by doormen I was once too class-shy to approach— the very dream of some success to come? Or walking down my own mottled street in a rhapsody- in-blue joyous swell because it was my first, my own? Sometimes I dream of waking at low-cloud level, bird flight-path level, my bed suspended in air. Or of the evening’s flocks of lights thrilling up like sudden ground as a plane banks. Sometimes I want for one night, all night, to hear the city’s white noise— like a soothing watchful body lying close, or the hum of the universe—speaking to the young—itself.
Originally published in JWLA (Jewish Women’s Literary Anthology)
The bent-backed zeide, newly moved in after grandma died, enters his grandson’s toy-filled room after school—the parents not yet home—where the boy’s arranging action figures on a shelf. Wrapping spindly fingers around the boy’s thin upper arm, he pulls it to him and kisses the warm flesh—smelling like sun-baked grass—as he kissed the edge when he donned his prayer shawl for his morning prayers. But with more fervor—age to youth, old country to the new. His hazel eyes crinkle and melt. His beard and moustache are white, with discolored yellow whiskers— from his food?— and his lips are a little wet; the boy thinks of the bristles on a walrus snout. He is embarrassed to be made a sort of god, and flattered as if it were deserved, and not sure what the qualifications are. But what to do with his anointed and immobilized right arm, still clutching a soldier in khaki uniform? His grandfather’s zeal is unreadable as the characters in his prayer books, his worship is so private and complete that the boy cannot pull his arm away, but waits, squeezing shut his eyes to resist tugging down his sleeve to rub the wetness off. Zeide is Yiddish for “grandfather”
Originally published in Innisfree Poetry Journal
©2021 Judy Kronenfeld
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