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Poetry

Judy Kronenfeld

Judy Kronenfeld’s most recent collections 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 Cimarron Review, Ghost Town, New Ohio Review, One (Jacar Press), Rattle, Sequestrum, Sheila-Na-Gig, South Florida Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and other journals, and in more than two dozen anthologies. She is Lecturer Emerita, Department of Creative Writing, UC Riverside, and an Associate Editor of Poemeleon.

Saving the Dead

Our memory is the only help that is left to them.—Theodor Adorno

We carry them inside us like persons
still unborn, as if everything they might be again
awaited them. The bodies of our mothers
before we were born: the once coquettish
bodies of our prim mothers—my mother balanced
on a honeymoon hayrick with my father,
his palm sweeping her face towards his
for a kiss, a white hibiscus flower blowing
in her black, black hair.

The bodies of our fathers, flat-bellied
in their crisp-pressed uniforms,
standing near the wings
of the Flying Fortress, on the deck
of the Massachusetts. My father grins
at a monkey on his lifted arm,
on a tiny island purpose-built
refueling stop. All those
kept safe for us by luck.

Time startled and lurching forward,
we still carry them:

The bodies of our mothers rocking
with ours, groaning with us
when we are ill—the smell,
still in my nose, of my mother’s
richly metallic fertile blood
on the Kotex in the bathroom,
the carving out of her womb,
and so many others’—the decades
beating furiously away,
the long a-a-h of their sighs,
as they settle into our warm cars
to be taken to the doctor’s.

The bodies of our fathers, their huge hands
under our backs as they teach us
how to float, their sturdy shoulders
we ride into the breakers—
my father’s arms cradling
my four-year-old body zonked on
the cherries I stole from a tray
of Manhattans at an aunt’s wedding,
home we go, home, on the subway—
the careless crowding generations,
the cracking of their chests,
their plaintive reedy cheeps, But I enjoy it,
when we urge them not to eat fast-food.

We carry them—their years fanned out
again, unshelved—as we are carried towards
the indignities of our own bodies;
we are together: undone by time/
about to be undone; undone/
about to be undone by the bodies
that carry us. And in me my authors dream
again, as I dream—imagining my progeny
re-birthing me in all my hope—
a lustrous dream of being carried
forward.
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