“Letter to the Ministry of Loneliness” by Judy Kronenfeld

Judy Kronenfeld


I take round trips on the Tube
during morning rush hour. I stand up,
for maximum contact—for the warmth
and pressure of other bodies—
and inhale the steam
of coffee-and-cigarette-breaths.

I offer to walk my busy neighbor’s kids
to school. Their brittle voices ring
in the icy air, as if belonging
to another universe.

I try to strike up conversations
at the market where I buy
a single item daily, a bun
or tart. I stick to apolitical
topics: the BMW’s windscreen smashed
by a flying cabbage, Saddam Hussein’s
romantic novel.

Then I am home alone again.
I put on the kettle for a cuppa.
But the quiet is not lovely.
Nor the enclosure
of my own body. Everything’s
supposed to be relative—
unless one’s loneliness
is absolute.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018


Judy Kronenfeld: “I write poems because I am moved by poems, because the lines of other poets sing in my mind and comfort and awe me with their beauty and truth—reaching across generations and places. I love the process of listening to myself and the world, catching the stray impulse, letting it develop, and then, most of the time, revising with all the intuitive and more conscious understandings I have, so that my poem might move others. And I love the process in spite of the fact that there are days when listening is dampened by some kind of fog, all signals are weak, and getting the poem halfway right is torturous. The impulse for this poem came from a Los Angeles Times article concerning a ‘new ministerial portfolio’ in the British Cabinet: ‘combating loneliness.’ The idea of a Minister of Loneliness was immediately attractive and compelled me, right after reading the newspaper at breakfast, into a quick first draft in which the Ministry gives advice. But the irony of my approach felt too tight-lipped, so I found myself changing strategy and letting my speaker, in extremis, be the voice of the poem. I spent a few more hours tightening and sharpening the poem’s language, and, rather unusually, I was done.” (web)

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