by Judy Kronenfeld

It’s 3:30 on a gray afternoon
late in November.
Winter is homicidal in the air,
a knife-blade at my cheek.
At the apartment door I reach
for the key-string on my neck
and know at once it’s gone.
I frisk my school-books, my gym clothes,
my shoes, imagining luck
tricky as an acrobat’s timing.
My memory interrogates the day
like a white light in an empty
white room, but won’t surprise me
with the key, asleep
in a forgotten pocket. What I recall,
like pictures of the dead,
is the knot,
only double-tied.

There is nothing to do
but sit in the dingy hall, lost
in reverie over the key. It lay
like a talisman on my chest bone,
where I am hollow now. I would give
anything for its good weight.
There is nothing to do but think
of past joy. Cannily
it slipped into the lock,
and was made for the lock;
beautifully the tumblers turned,
the bolt obeyed.

Originally published in Riverside Quarterly 8, No. 3 July, 1990.

Photo credit: Heightsre.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem came out of remembering the experience of arriving at my family’s apartment door after school (probably junior high), and discovering I had somehow lost the key that hung on a string around my neck. I was left out in the fifth floor hall of my fairly sad apartment building, separated from my warm little home just on the other side of the door until my mother came home from work, and I was filled with longing to be inside, and a little guilt about my presumed carelessness. The difference between outside and inside was enormous and painful. I was delighted when, in the process of developing the poem, the situation became a metaphor for something even more than being locked out.

judy k

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Judy Kronenfeld is the author of four books of poetry and two chapbooks. Her most recent full-length collections are Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017) and Shimmer (WordTech, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Cimarron Review, New Ohio Review, Natural Bridge, One (Jacar Press), Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and other journals, and in two dozen anthologies. She is Lecturer Emerita, Creative Writing Department, University of California, Riverside, and an Associate Editor of Poemeleon.