Feature Poet:
Madeline Artenberg



In the Land of the Snows

Since 1950, the Chinese occupation of Tibet has caused a loss of one-sixth of the population. The number of Giant Panda, indigenous to both countries, is down to one thousand. These figures reflect the situation as of 1993.

Bound by bamboo to shroud mist mount,
you haunch-sit hungry in your tree den
like a distraught Buddha.

Two blank eyes seize yours -
you sit up, neck strong
stare down, rocks shift -
a monk's ripped body rolls,
his eyes close.

You slump safe against a shrub
on a rug of damp skin,
hook with your forefoot pads
hollow two-foot shoots,
grown through the holes
in the monk's pierced chest.
You-chew-from-end-to-blood-fed-end,
eat-ing-bam-boo-eat-ing-bam-boo...


Chosen Seats

His nose was a curved pot-bellied stove.
Grandpa was a six-foot two episode
in my land of five footers.
We'd quietly walk along Bay Parkway, stopping when
I pointed at jujubes or Superman comic books.
When he caught my finger in the foam half
of his evening's Rheingold,
he poured me my own in a jelly glass.
It's good, it's medicine, he said.

Grandpa rode his wooden rocking chair
in front of the bedroom window
like an Orthodox Jewish cowboy.
Traditional leather straps wrapped around his arms
fluttered as if fringes on a suede jacket,
greying sacred cloth showed below his vested sweaters.
I'd perch backwards in the window seat between
the frame and the bowed grill rail,
watching him with the straps, the shawl, and reciting
from thick and thin tomes,
edges curled like appendages.

When I read out loud from library books,
he'd point to letters.
On the next visit to the candy store,
we bought a black and white notebook,
mottled like a cow's hide.
He practiced abc's in capitals and lower case;
I could not break his habit of writing from right to left.

Once he took me by the hand
down the Parkway to his synagogue,
up a staircase to the second floor,
filled only with women and girls.
Grandpa let go my hand and reappeared downstairs
among hundreds of men wearing caps like his, swaying, praying, buzzing like bees.

He wet his fingertips to turn the page.
I leaned over the balcony screaming, Grandpa,
don't leave me up here, I'm not like them –
I'm your English teacher, I'm your Rheingold girl.

Madeline Artenberg was born in Brooklyn. She comes to us from a visual and theatre background, having been a photojournalist for 8 years and a street theatre performer for 4. You don't have to look far to see these influences in her poetry.

In the 8 years that Madeline has been writing, she has studied at the Writer's Voice, NYU, with Harry Ellison's Poets' Corner, and with the Hudson Pier Poets group.

Madeline is known for her pieces about her family, especially her mother, and for her socially relevant themes. She's been working with Nelson Alexander for several years, an original guitarist who is well known to the New York poetry circuit.. She has performed at community street fairs, has appeared on cable TV and on radio, on WNYE's Teachers' and Writers' Collaborative, at the JVC Music Festival, etc. Her poetry has appeared in magazines and journals like Caprice and Medicinal Purposes. She has won three Lyric Recovery performance poetry awards in the last few years and has just published a chapbook of poems, To the Surface. She's also a staff member of Poet to Poet
. You can reach her at madderpoet@erols.com.

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Veins

On a fall afternoon,
a leaf from my plant lands
on the kitchen table as if
the rules applied inside here.

I touch its curled parchment flesh
with discolored veins lumped
like on mother's legs,
run fingers along my right calf,
checking the small varicosity.

Pushing away the leaf, I straighten
shoulders, align neck, suck in stomach
and remember staring at her legs,
my legs, but shorter,
as she lay dying.

I feel them now as I trace
the bone of my knee
and the length of my thigh
with her impossibly long arms.

I will make love tonight,
drive her away with cries.
I smile not full yet;
mother's brittle grip
loosening each year.


Fingers

The front door slam releases my breath.
I listen for mother's sudden return
before approaching the knob to her bedroom.

My heart leaps over a ballerina lamp
into dresser drawers,
my fingers swarm over her peach silk panties,
I tickle my nose with a few blonde curls
found wrapped in tissue paper,
fight three hooks on one of the brassieres,
tie the cups over my teddy bear top
measuring their pointed emptiness,
crawl arms through a lacy gown's thin straps,
jump into the closet next
to the tweed coat with collar
trimmed by a long-nosed animal
head and three tails,

finger the fur paths
up and down again, again
across my eyelids I slide a fluffed tail,
opening them to stare
at raisin bead eyes;
thighs press silk,
silk sirens wool,
the closet shivers hard...