Judy Kronenfeld

Vestigial Mom

They are international, polyglot:
between them speaking
Russian, Latvian, Arabic, French,
German, and a little Farsi and Slovak.
They travel or live abroad
for work, and count among their intimate
friends: Georgians, Kenyans,
Palestinians, Syrians, Kazakhs, Tajiks,
Lebanese, Turks. But I sometimes want
to tuck them in, to safety pin them
home like mittens to sleeves, to create
years for them like the Advent
calendars of my childhood Catholic friends,
with good surprises behind each little

               because seventy-seven years ago,
not too long before “Juden, ‘Raus!,”
my father escaped, leaving behind the cousins
I never met, who look at me
out of the old photos, with my eyes,

               because an Arab host rising
against his oppressor could denounce
my Jewish daughter—”American
Satan!”—or worse,
or Netanyahu bomb his city
while she is there,

               because the “frozen
conflicts” in the lands of the former
U.S.S.R. could thaw and my son
be caught in a flood of ethnic blood.

I want to close the book again
on The Wild Things gleaming
their fierce teeth, to pretend
I’m a cloud pursuing The Runaway Bunny
turned cloud, to gather my children
into the primal room
of Goodnight Moon, brilliant red
and green, warm as a lair
hung with animal fur, against
the arctic out-of-doors.

I want to rush out, as if onto
the street below my window
when I hear the squalls
of a sibling fight,
and bribe the Israelis
and Palestinians, the Chechnyans
and Russians, the Kyrgyz and
Uzbeks, the Sunnis and Shiites,
with whatever it takes: ice cream
and cake, video games, Disneyland.


La Place de la cathédrale

How present, how bountiful
and complete the cathedral
in its square onto which
our small hotel’s windows
gave, around which we made
our daily promenade, in view of which
we drank our café crème. The school girls
on spring vacation sunned and giggled
under the stone harpstrings,
and knots of tourists closed and opened
like sea anemones, their cameras flashing
in the dusk like falling stars. And the bells
tolled the bright and the lightless
hours, their quarters, their halves,
their three-quarters…

Too many days, perhaps, but boredom
pleasant, and to consider reduced
choices—the black or blue
sweater, the grey or brown
pants, petit déjeuner next door,
or a few doors down, where I studied
the elegant French hound leashed
to a lamppost, head on his paws, meditating
on Nothing, and imagined cultivating
an animal calm.

A sabbath of dedicated
space. Emotions unclotted.
Simpler blood ran
in the arteries, unimpeded by the silt
of years. And the failing
body stopped
failing for an instant,
as if it could keep gliding
in the dark, the bells guiding us
like bell buoys in the voyages
of our sleep.


“La Place de la cathédrale” first appeared in Adanna.
“Vestigial Mom” appeared online in Adanna’s Featured Poets Page.

Judy Kronenfeld’s most recent collections of poetry are Shimmer (WordTech Editions, 2012) and the second edition of Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths, winner of The Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize for 2007 (Antrim House, 2012). Recent anthology appearances include Before There Is Nowhere to Stand: Palestine/Israel: Poets Respond to the Struggle (Lost Horse Press, 2012) and Love over 60: An Anthology of Women’s Poems (Mayapple Press, 2010). Her poems—as well as the more occasional story, essay and review—have appeared in many print and online journals such as Adanna, Calyx, Cimarron Review, The American Poetry Journal, Fox Chase Review, Natural Bridge, The Hiram Poetry Review, Poetry International, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Stirring, The Women’s Review of Books and The Pedestal. She is Lecturer Emerita, Creative Writing Department, UC Riverside, after twenty-five years teaching there and has lived in Riverside since 1969.