Spring night—almost asleep:
a crane fly flutters its transparent wings
against my cheek like a ghost flower,
like a memory visiting
and gone, a dream immediately
without buzz, without sting.
Number and Weight
The number of stars in the universe may be 300 sextillion. Or perhaps only 100 sextillion. Subtract 200 incalculables. The mind yaws. Closes off. This is not like clinking change from the vending machine—sturdy quarters, slim dimes, chunky nickels. The multiplication table collapses, befuddled by zeros, spilling whatever was on it. O.K. Let’s say the number of stars is equal to the number of cells in all the bodies on earth, as we’ve read somewhere or other. Is that more comfortable? Not really? Naturalized, but still uncanny. And on a small planet circling an average star in a middleweight galaxy only 100,000 light-years across, a group of blinded Kurds poisoned by Saddam’s sarin lash themselves together and move into the wind. Merely a light year’s worth of pain? Who’s counting? Is anyone counting? The Hutus arrive singing and whistling for the day’s killing in the marshes where the Tutsis hide among the papyrus, drinking the muddy water tinged with blood when they can’t stand their thirst. A Brazilian rubber company finishes off the Indian “parasites” in an Amazonian village by dropping dynamite from a plane; they return for the survivors, shoot off the head of a nursing baby, hang her upside down. The perfect children asphyxiated by Assad’s chemical weapons lie neatly on the ground in their white shrouds, the foam wiped from their lips, their hair beautifully trimmed. Try to encompass history’s pain in your mind for the mathematical challenge, or like some old god counting up suffering points for heaven. It boggles like the stars. Flood, cyclone, Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung, Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook. Though a woman in a fitting-room falls on her knees, Thank you Jesus for this dress. Hitler, Mao, earthquake, tsunami, Hiroshima, Vietnam, Mount Sinjar, the Bataclan. Though those Alzheimer’s patients break out in song. The Crusades, plague, smallpox, Armenia, Biafra, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, Iraq, Syria, the displaced and slain to come… The incandescently unimaginable sum? When one destroyed weightless soul is an entire world of lost light?
Judy Kronenfeld’s fourth full-length collection of poetry, Bird Flying through the Banquet, was published by FutureCycle Press in March, 2017. Her most recent prior books of poetry are Shimmer (WordTech Editions, 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 Avatar, American Poetry Journal, Calyx, Cider Press Review, Cimarron Review, DMQ Review, Hiram Poetry Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Louisville Review, Natural Bridge, The Pedestal, Portland Review, Sequestrum, Spoon River Poetry Review, Stirring, Valparaiso Poetry Review and other print and online journals, and in twenty anthologies. She is Lecturer Emerita, Creative Writing Department, University of California, Riverside, and an Associate Editor of the online poetry journal, Poemeleon. For more information, please see her website, Judy Kronenfeld