Author & Writing Instructor

Selected Works

Short Narratives

"Writers On The Job" series at Web del Sol, 2008 - Smoke and Mirrors 

Ilanot Review, Vol. 6, 2013 - Black Tears


A collection of Madeleine's poems from various publications.

City Island Seafood

this is for you, with your toothless smile
sucking-in oysters, clams, mussels;
cracking claws of unfortunate lobsters,
shells for the screaming bi-lingual sea gulls, who
know how to attack the inside of a mollusk
the way a flamenco dancer knows how to strike
his or her shoe against the yielding planks.
this is for you in a house-dress, a garment you'd never
be caught dead in around the house, or anywhere else
and yet, you're here wearing it outside on an icey January day
because nothing else is comfortable, everything hurts, except
the Latino kids screaming to our left and their granny
in turquoise hair rollers wearing her house-dress
being wheeled around in her wheel chair (like you, only
without rollers, too much of your hair has fallen out, or
been torn from its root).

this is for you, this drive from Jerome Avenue, away
from the elevated trains, out through the Bronx to
City Island, almost an oasis, if you don't look too close,
but you can't--what with how your eyes have failed--
the diabetes and all--the all being having to see
for so long. Who wouldn't pray for clouded vision?

this is for you, this approach down the pot-hole drag, past
Italian restaurants, ship yards, crumbling Victorian homes,
condominiums going up
on yet another spit of "waterfront property."
My husband is a saint. There are many things he's not, but
saint is not one of them. He will chauffer you anywhere:
the cemetery to visit your family, shopping, for an ice-cream;
he will talk to you at any pitch to assure you hear,
he will take you to whatever restaurant, wearing whatever
we happen to get you to put on. I am not a saint.
You would like Lutece, le Cirque; we go to City Island,
a perfect place, and considering the fog in your head,
the haze over your eyes, this could be Spain, or
a Caribbean island you knew so well,
at another time, saronged in silk,
hiked up revealing calves, thighs
that always sent your husband reeling, or
snapping yet more photos.

this is for you, in diapers, black hair pulled back
in a cheap pearl barrette, (I wear while washing dishes)
stretch slippers, their gold thread comforting swollen feet, and
god help us, that dress, so ordinary, so un-you.
But it's your birthday and despite the condition you're in
or how they've screwed up your medicines or all the neglect
which no one will admit to--or take responsibility for,
you were happy and most important, alive
sitting in the front seat of the car excited, really excited, about
seafood and the illusion of luxury at the beach in the Bronx,
so far from Philadelphia, so far from lunches at Nan Duskin
(wearing well-tailored gray and plum)
eating Poire Belle Helene or supine in a nightie on the couch
downing escargot at midnight watching Johnny Carson.

this is for you, we told the young man behind the counter
(the one with the tattoos and piercings) that it was your 70th
and could he make a really special dish, even though
none of the plates included every species from scallop
to shrimp; we didn't say you probably wouldn't live to eat dessert,
and well, despite the restaurant being a sort of seafood Taco Bell,
he had a heart or maybe a mother and said sure, why not,
he'd do it for the extra money.

Money, was never a problem--and always a problem
and with it one could get and do anything, the same as without it.
That's what you and he taught us, and oh yes
how to really suck out the insides of a lobster, until
not even the gulls can find what had been the essence
of a creature who lives without yielding, until
yielding is not a question; an organism no different from
any one of us because we are all stomping, click-clacking our heels
dancers proud and strong and really, just sucking on each other,
releasing one another and ourselves from pain,
trying to miss the potholes, to see how long we can keep
from leaning (against our wills) until finally, we must yield--
to a stranger, a friend, a French fry fork full of cole-slaw
from a paper plate in winter.

this is for you, to that long descent
which was the end
of pain, but possibly, hopefully, lulled
filled with sea soaked penetrating pleasure.

Barrow St. Vol. 2; #1, Fall 1999

Sunday with Akhmatova

Standing in your dark study, floors creak, echo
your unfathomable ache      the years.
The ceiling light flickers beneath frosted glass, desk
chair, pens - pieces of your heart - remain. Here

above the street, I look beyond the window at fresh snow.
It's quiet - like quiet that hints something to come -
like hunger or war, the loss of a child     muffled words.
But you can't quell the wind, redirect the rain.

I want to know how you persisted?
What thoughts ravaged your mind?
Didn't make it to paper? Disappeared
like red leaves in autumn as if they never were.

Your long, slender fingers Modigliani painted,
the sex and sweat that filled these rooms, permeate
the halls, walls plastered with newspaper, headlines -
as if the voices, cries     could emerge from print.

Sepia framed photographs on your desk
or hung with twine around this sad place stare back
stopped in time. The silence is strong - like song
each caesura     a promise.

SPAR, 2019; St. Petersburg, RU

Moon Over Ližnjan

Ližnjan has been inhabited since prehistoric times. An ancient settlement has revealed that man lived here 7000 years ago.
During World War II, residents of Ližnjan and nearby areas participated in the anti-fascist struggle and added Ližnjan to the former Yugoslavia.

There's a full moon over Ližnjan
over the Adriatic, the vineyards
& pomegranate trees over rocky cliffs     to the sea
and bicyclists     despite unlit roads
and hills.

A full moon over Italians, French
and let's not forget      Croatians.
Over old women dressed in black
talking outside the bakery     closed
though the ovens continue.
Over wild boar searching in the night -
as we're all searching.

There's a full moon over Ližnjan
over pink, orange & blue houses
rich ox-blood soil, cormorants & egrets
over chapels & churches, preserved
brush strokes, frescos, stained glass
tiny monuments in the crooks of lethal roads
over grief & mourning you can read like words
in the mist in the morning, at dusk.

There's a full moon over Ližnjan
over those who remember     and those
who don't remember      and those
who don't want to remember
over all the scents & sounds that resonate
flourish -     despite wars, tears
& serpentine tales      despite family feuds
barbed wire & horror.

There's a full moon over Ližnjan
& music for the moment.

The Blu Nib, 2019

Take Out

My name's Whip
Miguel gave it to me
'cause I'm so fast with the mayo and American
slapped like a gimme five handshake
between two white slices.
"Honky bread," yells James from the back
flippin' sunny sides up
fast as the English somersault out
to be buttered.
Tony fills cups with ice, soda
snaps lids on, adds a straw
and passes the whole business down the line
to my man Miguel the bagger
on to sweet Louise workin' the register
playin' with our hearts between orders.

Confrontation; #39/40, Fall 1989

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