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Monday, September 24, 2012


by Judy Kronenfeld

after the national political conventions
An early September Monday: we drove on impulse
to a beach in Orange County, away from the viscous,
sulfurous air of our inland valley, smelling of rotten fish—
it turned out—churned up by a storm system
sweeping over the Salton Sea. We tossed into our ’97
mini-van (dents, chipped paint, tattered Obama stickers)
a beach umbrella inherited from my parents
(its two poles still bearing the scotch-tape
of my father’s useless fix) and a couple of new
easy-fold canvas chairs. When we arrived,
thin cloud wisps seemed to stretch
their arms out, respiring; the blue air
was a gift again.  

On one of many streets filled with well-kept
houses, neck-on-neck, that didn’t shout
their hefty worth, a lucky parking spot,
steps from the steep path to the sand
blessed our impetuous decision. The shine
of breeze-swept light recalled the luxe gloss
of the blond college students it had seemed
to blend with, decades before,
when I’d taught, temporarily,
at an O.C. school—a privileged opposite-

But there were people of color in the surf,
some older folks like ourselves in street clothes,
slipping off outer shirts and shoes, as well
as young girls in bikinis—fat and thin.

We read with the concentration of time out
from time for a few hours in the rigged
umbrella’s shade, were soothed by the rhythmic chords
and melodic backwash of the sea, freed a little,
until the sun grew fierce and we plodded
up the slope—then—uh-oh—plucked a note
that had been stuck under our windshield wiper:

I felt a chill, as if I were a suddenly
feverish child with sunburn she didn’t know
she had, after a morning of careless play.
I looked up at the nearest house and this time
saw infinity pool, wine cellar, subterranean
seven-car garage

And—Ph.D. or not—I was—my immigrant
parents, shlepping a vinyl hamper of salami
on rye and hard-boiled eggs on a day trip
to Bronx-on-the-sea Far Rockaway—
only this was more like they’d taken
a wrong turn to the Hamptons; I belonged again
to people for whom a “beach house”
meant two rented rooms in a ramschackle Victorian
the summers they could afford them,
and grey-faced Daddy taking the train out
Fridays after work for a weekend of luft.

My husband, furious, undoubtedly thinking
bitter white guy, rich, or even poor,

scrambled for a pen, and scrawled
under the block letters, nearly breaking its tip:

Now what? Run to a Xerox
and pamphlet the neighborhood?
We stood with the helpless paper
in his hands. He folded it up
and pushed it into a crevice
on the sidewalk. And we drove

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 have appeared in many print and online journals such as Adanna, Calyx, Cimarron Review, The American Poetry Journal, Fox Chase Review, The Hiram Poetry Review, Natural Bridge, New Verse News, The Pedestal, Poetry International, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Stirring, and The Women’s Review of Books.