My fourth full-length collection of poems, Bird Flying through the Banquet, came out from FutureCycle Press in March, and I’m just delighted to have been able to work with editor Diane Kistner, who is, simply put, a peach. Retired from teaching in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside, I volunteer for a local literary arts nonprofit, help edit the online magazine, Poemeleon, and write poems, nonfiction and the occasional story. I have lived with my husband in Riverside since 1969 (in a now long-emptied nest), but my Wordsworthian place will always be the New York City of my childhood and teenage years. For more information, and a selection of my poems and prose, please see http://judykronenfeld.com.
Ahead of me, on line in the jammed
food-court, where salt and oil rub shoulders
on the air, a boy almost too big
for a man’s arms—maybe three
or four—caresses the man’s cheeks
with both slow, soft hands, whispering
worshipping words, as if he were kneeling
before an icon in church. The holiness
is almost embarrassing; there’s something
pleading and beyond his age, something designed
in the boy’s repetitive petting, as if he were
pressing the man into place. And the man
accepts the adoration as coolly as a saint.
How early we learn touch is love: when I held
my two-year-old granddaughter in my arms
to say good-bye for a long time and whispered
“I love you,” she stroked my breast twice,
her eyes filling with prescient light.
But this boy—is he trying to bribe
his dad, or step-dad, out of sheer
need, willing him to love him,
or to stay, the way kids bend their parents
at the elbows, hips and knees in the doll houses
of their minds, so no matter how much
the two hate each other, they sit arm-in-arm?
Almost my turn at the counter now;
the man has set the child
down, and he monkey-wraps
around a stalwart jean-clad calf.
I force my eyes away.
Originally published in Avatar Review 17 (2015).
© 2017 Judy Kronenfeld
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