by Judy Kronenfeld
Featured Art: Unfinished Monster – Hugh Laidman

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: the “personal” Christmas
pictures taken 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,
and 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.

Judy Kronenfeld is the author of four full-length collections and two chapbooks of poetry, including Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017), Shimmer (WordTech, 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 Cider Press Review, Cimarron Review, Natural Bridge, Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and other journals, and in more than twenty anthologies. She is Lecturer Emerita, Creative Writing Department, University of California, Riverside, and Associate Editor of the online poetry journal, Poemeleon.

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