Bio Note: I'm a retired university teacher of creative writing and literature. Although poetry remains my first love, I also write nonfiction and the more occasional short story. My fifth book of poetry, Groaning and Singing comes out from FutureCycle Press in February, 2022. My most recent publication is a villanelle, "Re-Entry Student, Intro to Lit, Week 10," in Pratik: The Ghosts of Paradise—Special Los Angeles Double Issue (Summer/Fall 2021), edited by Yuyutsu Sharma and Tony Barnstone; I'm honored to be included with so many marvelous LA poets.
At the YW Indoor Spa
Like a dog with a warm tongue, the water licks their toes. Chrysoprase green, semi-opaque, it laves their swollen feet. It bobbles zipper scars on knees as they descend— sideways sometimes, clinging to the rail, leaving behind walkers and canes. Rising higher, it willingly embraces their billowy waists, their spines, and they sigh, and briefly close their eyes. Lily leans into the walking breast-stroke with which they begin—nippleless in her maillot, cropped hair glistening. From Janet’s upper arms raised high depends an eagle cape of thick loose flesh—soft as feathers, mottled, dimpled, swaying. Carol’s loose suit greyed with use reveals a swath of pendulous white belly or pale groin as she swings her leg open, closed, open, closed, knee bent, in the “creaky gate.” On the deck, one of their granddaughters idles, sliding down in her chair, the air practicing caresses as she stretches out her gold limbs, the hollow of her throat filling with invisible nectar. The women in the spa in their little purdah of no care—salty as their own blood—cruise, they ski (cross-country), they rock like the nursery horses of their childhoods, they laugh about who’s been bumped on Dancing with the Stars.
Originally published in the anthology Weatherings (FutureCycle Press, 2015).
Heads thrown back after one bubbly sip—the young in soft drink commercials seem as lavishly happy as lottery winners. They look the way we imagine ourselves on the stages of our dreams—glamorous, anointed, spotlit—our luck about to spill into graciousness. And even in ads for walk-in bathtubs, incontinence pull-ups, stair chairs, dementia care, the actors don’t merely grin and bear it, but almost chortle, like Cheshire cats who just swallowed these amazing canaries, though the old they represent are more like expiring birds. But the worst soft pitch: these “personal” Christmas pictures I’m looking at again, taken years ago in the dementia wing of my father’s “retirement home.” In another life, his face would say This is ridiculous, even if he played along, sat in the appointed armchair by the tree, and hugged the enormous white teddy bear prop, as instructed. But he is in this current life and guilelessly presses his warm cheek against the bear’s fuzzy one and stabilizes the bear’s plump feet with his free hand, as if they were a child’s.
Originally published in New Ohio Review 25 (Spring, 2019)
©2021 Judy Kronenfeld
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