Brooklyn Poetry Feature: Madeleine French

The following appeared in the Feb. 8, 2024 print edition of the newspaper:

This week, we feature the talents of poet Madeleine French:

“Geode”

As we reached Tompkins Avenue, a Dave Brubeck tune tinkled from a restaurant,

while a little further down a breeze unfurled yellow, orange and blue

embroidered skirts on the sidewalk outside a vintage shop.

Our restaurant patio shone with subdued light through an opaque white roof.

Even the butter lettuce gave a side eye to our muted words, as if it could tell

a melancholy errand brought us here. And our smiles might have been

a little stilted, until the gelato melted in our mouths and made them real.

Home now, I’m not summoning up the charming little bookstore,

with its colorful titles lined up on shelves and tables.

(New and used together, just as you’d have arranged them)

Or remembering the bass beat blasting from a block party’s speakers

as we walked by, vibrating with the breath in my chest.

I’m not picturing the toddler in pink tulle, holding her daddy’s hand,

reflecting the uncertainty of each hesitant step in her comical frown—

exactly as you once did.

Instead, I’m thinking of the shimmering quartz you parked on

your new white windowsill, just until you find the right place for it,

sparkling silvery diamond white next to your African violet.

Something beautiful in you might just be breaking open, too.

Art photography by Christine Stoddard.

“On Brooklyn Bridge”

Look at us, dressed for two different days

as if we’d watched dueling forecasts

I’m in a quilted jacket with jeans

while your flannel shirt

flaps in the breeze

over your tee and shorts

Puffy clouds cover the sky

like some preschooler went rogue

with the Elmer’s and cotton balls

Whatever, it all works

—even if no one can make you as mad

as I can—

Just keep walking over these wooden slats

as the bridge slopes toward South Street

the dark river glittering in the gaps

where the sun pokes its fingers

Art photography by Christine Stoddard.

“Your Heart, Across Prospect Park”

Pondering

blush-orange clouds

crackled over Sarasota Bay,

Maybe

I met six-thirty

from the wrong side.

In this dreamlight, I see you

Tramping

your sidewalk’s crusted slush

in Brooklyn,

Maybe

you’ve just set off

(chin tucked,

black hood bobbing)

Bearing

your battered heart

across Prospect Park.

Maybe

it’s a matter of timing

that’s all—right now, it’s

neither wrong, nor right

Crossing

Seventh, wrinkling your nose

at exhaust fumes   

Maybe

you’ll lift your eyes

when my rosy clouds paint

your rooftops

Living

a movie, as a new dawn

slaps your cheek:

“Snap out of it!”

Maybe

you’ll see it’s day breaking,

flushed and undone

Not

your heart.    

Art photography by Christine Stoddard.

Madeleine French lives in Florida and Virginia with her husband. A Best of the Net nominee, her work appears in ONE ART, Dust Poetry Magazine, West Trade Review, Roi Faineant Press, Door Is A Jar, and elsewhere. She is working on a full-length poetry collection.

Brooklyn Poetry Feature: Charles Elliott, Ann Bar-Dov & Jacob R. Moses

The following appeared in the Feb. 1, 2024 print issue:

In December 2023, the New York Times Magazine announced that it was ending its poetry feature after nine years. We asked Brooklynites to submit their poems to be published here. Due to the popularity of this feature, the series has been extended from its original January 2024 dates. Want to see your words on these pages? Make haste and send your submissions to [email protected]. This series will run as long as interest in it remains. Submission of poetry  does not guarantee publication. All accepted poems will be formatted in a way that best aligns with our newspaper layout.

This week’s featured poets are Charles Elliott, Ann Bar-Dov, and Jacob R. Moses.

“Born at Bushwick Hospital”

By Charles Elliott

January 12, 1946 was the day I was born

at Bushwick Hospital in Brooklyn – a charity

hospital not taking cleanliness seriously.

The place where my mother contracted

an infection then called “lying-in sickness.”

That day, the Brooklyn Eagle reported (on page 4)

that J. Edgar Hoover, even then the long-serving

director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),

had endorsed 1946 Youth Week, sponsored

by the United Christian Youth Movement to promote

religious education. Hoover warned that churches

were reaching too few young people with their

indoctrinations and “this failure to make contact

with the citizens of tomorrow is producing

a fertile field for future crime. Youths too young

to vote accounted for 21.4 percent of the arrests

last year. Unless a concerted effort is made now

through the media of the church and the home,

these same juvenile delinquents may be

the hardened criminals of tomorrow.”

We lived in a third-floor walkup apartment at 472

Bainbridge Street until I was six years old.

Attended Bedford Central Presbyterian Church,

enjoyed the music of its beautiful big organ

(now wonderfully restored) until we joined

the White Flight to Levittown. My parents,

evangelical Christians, took me to church

in Brooklyn and elsewhere four times

each week for many years. But I was never

more embarrassed before my friends than

when my mother forced me to ride on a float

in the annual Sunday School parade

through our Brooklyn neighborhood. My parents

did everything they could to set me on the right path,

including shoving me into the aisle during

an altar call at a Baptist church, to make sure

I got “properly baptized.”

And yet, in 1971, I was the young journalist

(but no delinquent) who investigated J. Edgar

Hoover for columnist Jack Anderson. Rummaged

in Hoover’s trash at his home in Georgetown

(then no crime), staked out his house, interviewed

his neighbors and drew a scowl of disapproving

recognition from Hoover as he and Clyde Tolson

lunched at the Rib Room of the Mayflower Hotel

up on Connecticut in D.C.

The historic Bushwick Hospital building of my advent

still stands. At 41 Howard Avenue, the structure,

in an Italian Renaissance revival style, now

re-tasked to a purpose that some might suggest

is appropriate to my birthplace, re Hoover’s

remarks. By the time New York State acquired

it in 1968, the failed hospital was gone.

The building born again as the Bushwick

Nursing Home. But after that, according to

an October 29, 2014 news report: “It’s now

a placement center for juvenile delinquents.”

That mission renewed, continues. Now

a Youth Bureaus facility – the Ella McQueen

Reception Center for Boys and Girls.

My proud birthplace.

Charles Elliott’s poetry has appeared most recently in Synkroniciti Magazine and the American Poetry Journal. his work also has been featured in the Paris-based journal Levure littéraire, Chiron Review, Potomac Review, Aethlon, the New York Times, and two anthologies. Elliott reads his poems at https://www.youtube.com/user/beautyseer and administers https://www.facebook.com/The.Poetry.Cabin and a related Twitter account, @ThePoetryCabin. Elliott also has published three history books on Southern California topics and won awards for poetry, journalism, and fine art photography.

 

“Sheepshead Bay, 1976”

By Ann Bar-Dov

Sheepshead Bay, eight p.m.

Evening fog comes drifting in.

Familiar streets and houses, lost in a cloud…

Hoot of a foghorn, screaming gulls,

dirty green waves slapping at fishing boat hulls,

shouts of the fishermen echo across the water.

Old frame houses facing the bay

slide a little more sideways every day.

Screen doors and shutters creaking in the wind…

Sidewalk’s broken and buckled. Weeds grow in the cracks.

There’s sand in the gutters, and empty six-packs.

Someone’s old Chevy’s rusting by the side of the road.

I’d spend my days knocking ‘round Manhattan,

pushing and being pushed around.

Then I’d take that long train ride back to Sheepshead Bay,

walk around the streets and feel myself calm down.

Sheepshead Bay, eight p.m.

Evening fog comes drifting in.

Familiar streets and houses, lost in a cloud….

Sheepshead Bay, lost in a cloud.

Originally from Brooklyn, Ann Bar-Dov has lived in Israel since 1976 and in the Galilee since 1983. After 38 years spent teaching everything from kindergarten to yoga to Public Health, she has finally retired and can devote real time to writing.

 

“Sheepshead Bay, 2020”

By Jacob R. Moses

Took the Q train to

Roll-N-Roaster just so I

could get lemonade

Jacob R. Moses is a poet and spoken word artist from Staten Island, NY. Publications featuring his work span 18 countries. He is the author of the full-length poetry book, Grimoire (iiPublishing, 2021). Jacob is a recent graduate from Southern New Hampshire University with an MA in English and Creative Writing.

Brooklyn Poetry Feature: Miranda Dennis, Emily Hockaday & Jiwon Choi

This was originally printed in the Jan. 25, 2024 edition of the newspaper.

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

In December 2023, the New York Times Magazine announced that it was ending its poetry feature after nine years. We asked Brooklynites to submit their poems to be published here. This week’s poets are Miranda Dennis and Emily Hockaday. This is the last installment in this series.

“The Lights Under Essex Street”

By Miranda Dennis

At the mouth of the sky

now that the trolleys are dead

each bulb a constant star

a forest of light

a low hum

  lulled by

the cost of doing business

fixed parameters:

a city growing taller

but not always braver

a skyline made of glass

and steel

  the sand that makes both

a full moon hangs low

its ear to the ground

for the secrets you are thinking

quietly, or so you think:

the tropes of married men

or gas rumbling low in your belly

your tender eyes unblinking

to the shifting light

I hold a space for you

it attracts moths furious

banging their soft heads

 

“Olivia Benson”

By Miranda Dennis

Cool cop I love you / mythic, a sainted nun in a cellar / a burnt down house brittle on the lips of a politician / I’m alive at dawn and grateful / I’m collared and treated gingerly and grateful / I toast my bread but suffer for it / and must I now lay my head across cool tile floor / and must I now stoke this fever and be dragged over my own coals / here in the flickering box that media built / here we are intermediaries with plummy bruised lips / and cool cop give me the icebox to curl into / and your jaw is a mountain range scalable as a defense / but you, too, are softer than this / you trim my nails when I cannot even read my own palm / you give me grace / you give me calm

Miranda Dennis’s previous work includes essays published in Granta, Witness Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, and Hypertext Magazine, with a short story recently out in Allium. Her poetry has been previously published in storySouth, the Hollins Critic, Meridian, Cold Mountain Review, and others, with poetry reviews in the Hollins Critic and Quail Bell Magazine. She lives in Park Slope with an ancient, immortal cat.

Photo by Christine Stoddard.

“Live in this Body”

By Emily Hockaday

It was my mother who spotted the nighthawk

perched on the rail. A sort of hawk, she said.

Dark wings and sharp beak stood out

against the rushes and reeds. Even in the face

of bitter wind, I didn’t want to leave: the Sun

lit the hills of tall grass a flashy pink; the clouds

gathered at the edges of the day; nighthawks

were waking. Beyond this former landfill,

Brooklyn rose in sandstone peaks and glittering

glass windows. I have seen something ugly

transformed by beauty. I don’t know how many batteries

lie below the surface, left to leach into the bay

and surrounding vegetation. A city’s worth?

For now, I live in this body and try to forget

the destruction we wreak on this one, unlucky

ecosphere. How the lines of clouds light up

different colors. How the wind shakes the dry stalks

and moves ripples through the bay. How predators

take to the sky in the early winter dusk, unaware

of the land’s history.

Emily Hockaday’s latest collection, In a Body, was published by Harbor Editions in October 2023. She writes about ecology, chronic illness, parenthood, grief, and the urban environment. She’s on the web at www.emilyhockaday.com.

 

“I Am the Robot of the Situation”

By Jiwon Choi

Inside the coldest supermarket on Fifth Avenue

next door to the Spanish language daycare

brown mouse in-a-beret decal ambassador on the door

that is now the electric bike shop

is where you tell me how ready you are to hear all the answers

to the inquiring questions you are ready to ask

is it so easy to trust me in front of this bin of shiitake

mushrooms? Because who wouldn’t trust somebody ready

to plunge their hand into a gomorrha of fungi, but I am only good

at saying things you don’t want to hear:

marriages end in divorce or when one of us dies

veggie hot dogs are really 1000 pencil erasers hammered together

plastic roses are bad for the environment

no, I don’t want to visit your parents over Christmas

and though my advice will sound like a reckoning, consider:

if there’s a two-for-one sale on deli meats, just say no.

Jiwon Choi is the author of One Daughter is Worth Ten Sons and I Used To Be Korean. Choi’s third poetry collection, A Temporary Dwelling, will be forthcoming in June 2024.  She started her community garden’s first poetry reading series, Poets Read in the Garden, to support local writers. You can find out more about her at iusedtobekorean.com.

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