Sheila-Na-Gig online


Judy Kronenfeld

Judy Kronenfeld’s fifth book of poetry, Groaning and Singing (FutureCycle) came out in February, 2022. Previous collections include Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017) and Shimmer (WordTech, 2012). Her poems have appeared in over three dozen anthologies and in such journals as Cider Press Review, Gyroscope Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, New Ohio Review, Offcourse, One, Rattle, Sheila-Na-Gig, Slant, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verdad, and Your Daily Poem. Judy is Lecturer Emerita, Department of Creative Writing, UC Riverside, and an Associate Editor of Poemeleon. She lives in Riverside, California.

Ownership of the Past

Once in a long while, before he died,
and for some time after, I would run into
one of the women I know by sight,
who live on the steep hill my widower dad
used to walk, borrowing our dog
(who wriggled under a gap in our fence
into his yard early mornings
when he softly clicked, my husband
and I still wrapped in sleep).
Each of these ladies wanted to tell me
how much she loved my dad—this portly
man with his old world accent—how
friendly he was, how he lit their mornings
as they toiled in their gardens,
or saw their children off to school.
I loved the little circle of warmth
we stood in, at the supermarket,
or at the park, thinking of him,
or reminiscing.

One woman I didn’t even know existed
recognized me at the neighborhood
pool. Apparently, he’d enjoyed coffee
she’d prepared for him at her home—
with scalded milk—the old country way
he preferred. She had her own pet
name for him, which her daughter used,
too, as if he were her dad,
and her daughter’s grandpa—
PopPop, or Plumpy, something awful
like that. I couldn’t get away from her
fast enough.

But, shivering today, in a brisk wind,
as I walked back to my house after a swim,
hair wet, damp towel around my shoulders,
long after Dad’s death, I thought
how lonely he probably had been, in spite of
the dog, and our nightly dinners.
The grandkids who drew him and Mom
to our opposite coast were grown;
there must have been a great nothingness
where Mom, who always remembered
everything he forgot, once was.
And my heart grieved for begrudging
him—those many years ago—
that little unfamiliar familiarity,
offered by a different family.

%d bloggers like this: