Christina Askounis: “The Novice”

From the Fall 2005 issue of Image, this restrained, lyrical story traces the bittersweet spiritual awakening of a middle-aged bachelor whose adopted daughter has decided to join a convent:

IT WAS Catherine’s last night. Lawson suggested they have dinner at her favorite restaurant, a resolutely untrendy bistro where the aged waiters knew them both by name. “Since it’s your last night,” he’d said, conscious of the theatrical cast the words seemed to give the evening. Still, it was no more than the truth. Catherine, who tonight looked so lovely, so finished in her black sleeveless dress—Catherine was leaving him. Not the right way to put it, of course. But ever since that long-ago afternoon when she had been eleven and he twenty-eight—only twenty eight!—scarcely older than she was now—he had felt she did belong to him in a way, that they belonged to each other, and now she was going, never to return.

Read the whole story here.

Judy Kronenfeld: “Spaghetti Straps”

On my campus walk a spring effusion
of spaghetti straps, and—Madonna’s
legacy—the inside outed, too delicate
for the name of straps, tender, silky
bra linguine, tomato-red, celery-green,
slipping off creamy shoulders, or
tangling fetchingly with those spaghetti
straps my daughter informs me, I,
as an older woman, can not wear. 

                              Once, unwittingly,
I draped my navy blazer on
the chairback in my class; two
pale pink shoulder pads plopped
up like obscene pincushions
from the costumer’s shop, abruptly
spotlit. The student they tickled
apologized, but couldn’t stop laughing
each time he looked. Now
I pull my jacket
around me, though it’s hot,
                              thinking suddenly
of Madame Goldfarb’s Foundation,
Lingerie and Prosthesis Shoppe,
where my mother bought her ordinary
bras, and how the saleswoman—
discussing shoulder
welts, back strain—lifted
her breast into the cup the way
the technician lifts mine onto the plate
for my mammogram, or the butcher
cups the roast he’s about to weigh,
                              thinking of how
my mother’s hidden back and breasts
even into her ninth decade—
compared with her wizened arms
and face—were shockingly alluring,
olive smooth, unblemished, as I helped her
into the hospital gown.

Originally published in The Evansville Review, this poem was included in Judy Kronenfeld’s chapbook Ghost Nurseries (Finishing Line Press, 2005) and will appear in her full-length collection Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths, which won the 2007 Litchfield Review Annual Book Contest and will be published next year.