Series Editor - Jim Bennett for The Poetry Kit - www.poetrykit.org

Submissions for this series of Featured poets is open, please see instruction in afterword at the foot of this mail.



We climbed the Spanish iron stairs

up the side of the building

behind Eduardo in moonlight      above

white-washed houses and bars     

and the one remaining synagogue

we trailed his white linen trousers      

a beacon for Maria Teresa Jorge Alfonse and me


                 from  Rooftops of Cordoba  by Madeleine Beckman 






Philly Automat


Szymborska Says…


Witch Sky

Rooftops of Cordoba

Achill Rhythm

After Anna Swir

Air We share

Only Game in Town




1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Madeleine Beckman


Madeleine Beckman is a poet, fiction, and nonfiction writer. She is the recipient of awards and grants from, among other places, Poetry Society of America, New York Foundation for the Arts, Heinrich Böll Cottage (Achill, IE); Fundación Valparaíso (Spain); and Zvona i Nari (Croatia).


Her poetry collections include Hyacinths from the Wreckage (Serving House Books), No Roadmap, No Brakes (Redbird Chapbooks), and Dead Boyfriends (Linear Arts Press). Her work has been published in journals, anthologies, and online.


Madeleine is Contributing Reviewer for the Bellevue Literary Review and Agora: Literature and Arts Journal (both NYU School of Medicine). She teaches Narrative and Reflective Writing at NYU School of Medicine in the Division of Medical Humanities.


Madeleine Beckman's poems of love and loss, of journeys, destinations and departures, are written with a passionate energy that is a constant pleasure to encounter. They are tender, amusing, often moving and always vividly alive.


-- James Lasdun, Novelist, Poet, Journalist









Philly Automat


You’ve got to live, she told my sisters and me

as we dressed in crisp taffeta dresses

and Capezio black velvet shoes

embroidered with pink rosebuds

bought with money from my grandparents

who probably thought my mother bought bread

and eggs - not fancy shoes, but

she had her priorities        and one

was to treat her children to lunch

at Horn & Hardart’s on Chestnut Street.


I’d approach the glass windows

with fists full of nickels and dimes, plunge

coins into slots; watch the doors pop open

to BLT sandwiches, macaroni & cheese

coconut custard pie, rice pudding.


Year after year, my mother sat

like a 1940s film star

her coffee without sugar, her ebony hair

pulled back tight in a shoulder-length ponytail

a black pique dress and marquisette initial pin

placed high on one shoulder.


She never ate during these lunches

(though she tasted from our plates)

and then, when ready, she’d open her purse

remove the gold lipstick brush

and redraw her lips in Spanish red

without a mirror, but with a steady hand.





No clothes is how we like each other best

slight of hip, swish of curve.


Hey girl, bring your body over here

sit on my lap the way you never did

way back when. Sit here, right here

& ride me       ride me wild, through cotton

lace & flesh       through creaking & shifting

through noises filling the air shaft, sweet

as your fingertips to my mouth.


Gallop girl     under full moon rising     

rising     in a country of our creation

our mountains, our rivers.

Sit high, ride me low          ride me deep

through fears & years       through, Hey

no way!

through love & anger & the subtle task

of learning how to take our separate journeys

do the things we need to do, because

we believe in transformation, believe

that maybe, we'll get it going, get it together

get it.


And still, we know there's no settling

we're nomads following our senses

and a chorus         only the angels can hear.




Szymborska Says…


Don’t feel guilty says Szymborska

snakes and alligators and condors

don’t feel guilty for attacking

for severing the vocal cords    or

removing the hearts from their prey.

It’s part of their nature, part of the game plan

created long before they hatched from their shells.

Go, says Szymborska, go and become

whom you were meant to become; go

persevere – follow your pulse      and

the reason you’re on this earth.






A wreath of skulls      followed her

around       a halo of death       

multitudes of grief

a gift               to remember

not to forget

the dodged bullets

bits of good fortune

jewels of days      

dusks     dawns        


       still to kiss




Witch Sky


Three fresh grilled sardines fill the glazed clay plate

one for each of us       a treat at 6 p.m.

when Andalucía’s sky whispers what tomorrow might bring.   

We wait          to learn the prediction: stars yes, rain maybe

moon no.


We eat around the spines, leave the heads      intact      

eyes staring at no one    nothing.      

We wash down our tapas with tough red wine

feel the wind change direction     away

from the plaza           still higher

to el Castillo

           in this steep terraced town.


It was impossible to reach Mojácar even on horseback

or so 12th-century history goes       yet        

the women still climb surefooted    carrying water

home to cook another meal, alchemists    mixing        

wise as the dark witch sky

            and as mysterious.


Rooftops of Cordoba


After the gypsy singers and flamenco dancers

packed up their shoes and castanets     and left

we poured sherry dark as earth from the bota

followed Eduardo through tiled courtyards

past clay jugs used by Greeks to transport

all they called their own but wasn’t.


We climbed the Spanish iron stairs

up the side of the building

behind Eduardo in moonlight      above

white-washed houses and bars     

and the one remaining synagogue

we trailed his white linen trousers      

a beacon for Maria Teresa Jorge Alfonse and me.


We laughed at Eduardo’s harmless jokes

quieted to the sounds of guitar in doorways

moved within the evening until we stood tight

against each other’s hips       swaying        

to Eduardo’s singing and clapping    despite

rain turning everything slippery, dangerous      

concealing Borges’ moon.


My soaked silk dress hugged my flesh

beneath rhythms deep      beyond

fright or falling –

       limitations long gone.




Achill Rhythm


Mornings, I take breakfast outside     watch

shell seekers wrapped in slickers

in June walking along Golden Strand Beach   

while birds fly and dive above the rocky Irish coast.


Inside, I wash dishes, sweep turf ashes

from the fireplace, consider dinner

the seven-mile bike ride to the market

and back up the hill again.


Outside, fuchsia surrounds my porch

grows thick and fragrant      shielding me

from the road and uninvited visitors

(pink red purple primrose keeps my cottage hidden

sweet like a lover’s promise).


Mid-day clouds      black as volcanic sand

consume a slice of sun       bring on

thunderous rain.

Goat and sheep      their neon-branded rumps

head for home; horses speed their gallop.


After the deluge, double rainbows crown the Irish Sea;

I return laundry to the line, watch Mount Slievemore

emerge through the shifting mist.


Evening, I put up water for potatoes    wash

the shells of duck eggs, slather butter on soda bread

listen to the tide pick up     her infinite rhythm.



After Anna Swir


I lie with my husband in bed.

Can I touch it? he asks.

He means my firm, round belly

the hidden child      growing

in my flesh.


He moves his hand towards me

as if approaching a Ouija board

he’d like a message; he’d like hope.


It’s another summer morning

near the sea    without humidity

a light breeze pushes past the pines

slipping through the screen

of the little rental cottage     perfect

as the white miniature roses I planted

pure as the child growing inside me.


In the morning shower I bend my head

towards my belly; I’m agile

can still do this    no problem.
I sing, cup my full breasts in my hands

while my husband shaves.

We go through our rituals

none strong enough to heal

    what’s to come.




Air We Share


Your masked face is just hours old.

My voice cannot reach you.

I hope       beyond mechanical breaths

that the strands of your absence

don’t take hold.

I want you                    not to be still.


Your obsidian eyes

descend into a lake I cannot enter

while the depths swallow my light

illuminate        fear I didn’t know

before this hour.

I want you                     not to be still.


Amongst the lines and tubes

barely covered by curtains

with nothing left to shield

in this room      its acrid odor

the hushed tones       screaming

I want you                     not to be still.


I imagine your soul       soaring

endlessly           infinite breaths


yet your organs       your tissue

betray you       battle against hope

and holding on     

I want you                  not to be still.


I imagine all the machines


          still your chest rises


          rises like my own heart        

as I listen to the clash of silence

secrets lost in your tiny galaxy. 

I want you                  not to be still.


Lost in your resounding departure

feeling the gravity of your listlessness

I make bargains for your return

to know your imagination      your laughter.

Air surrounds us        feeds neither.

I want you                not to be still. 




Only Game In Town

Don't look around at what you don't have

look and see what you've got;

be happy you've a seat on the ferry boat

be happy you don't have to stand...

— Paul Beckman



My father is a survivor, partly because

when he's got a dollar, he knows how to enjoy it.

He loves poetry too. Our conversations range from Nicaragua

to gays, to Jackson Pollack's discipline and Faulkner's drinking.


In Mississippi everyone lived in a haze of inebriation

even the beautiful genteel women, he says,

having been stationed with the Air Force down south.

Then he talks about Bill Irwin. He's a genius.

My father's impressed by genius, others’ and his own.

He's been blessed with a positive eye on life, despite

the blows the years dish out. And his humor, even

in the bleakest times, rises with a brilliance, emitting light

when there is none.

His motto when feeling hopeless is

Get lost in your work, you must get lost.


We talk about Mondrian and his pain.

We both know we're alike—our soaring highs

and plummeting lows.


When he almost died and lay in Intensive Care,

his pale calves and thighs showing

from beneath the hospital gown

I was embarrassed - he'd never have wanted me to see

how fragile and helpless even he could become.

You've got to keep going, it's the only game in town

this belief and a fierce determination keeps him alive

after anyone else would have given up.




Some poems in this feature were previously published.


Philly Automat from Hyacinths from the Wreckage

Girl from Hyacinths from the Wreckage

Szymborska Says…  Hinchas de Poesia

Witch Sky  from Hyacinths from the Wreckage

Rooftops of Cordoba  from Hyacinths from the Wreckage

Achill Rhythm   from Hyacinths from the Wreckage

After Anna Swir  from Hyacinths from the Wreckage

Only Game In Town   from Hyacinths from the Wreckage


4 - Afterword

Email Poetry Kit - info@poetrykit.org    - if you would like to tell us what you think. 

We are looking for other poets to feature in this series, and are open to submissions.  Please send one poem and a short bio to - info@poetrykit.org

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