Tamara Madison

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I Want to Apologize to Her Face

My neighbor crosses the street
in a purple sweatshirt and leggings.
I recognize her by that brown topknot.
I can't see her face and I'm relieved.
Whenever I see her from the front,
I feel so sorry for that face.
It can't be more than forty, but
I can see that it's been through a lot.

You see lips like hers on certain
bottom-feeding fish. There's an odd
look to the rest of it; it's a face
too familiar with knives. Her nose
looks like it's been chiseled away
by an over-zealous sculptor.
Whenever I see it, I want to cradle
that face which must mourn
the parts that are missing. And then

there are her breasts. They rise
behind the thin spandex of her bikini
as though they would want to break free
if only they had not been turned
to stone. What will become
of those lips, that nose, those puffed-up
cheeks? One thing is sure:

those river-rock breasts will stay true
to her, long after gravity has pulled
the rest earthward. I want to apologize
to her breasts, to her face, but I know
it isn't her face or breasts that need
apology and anyway, it isn't mine to give.

Mother Always Went for the Ribs.

She’d start with Sylvia, at twelve
already taller than her but meek
by nature; lying down, she was fair game. 
We welcomed these playful affections
at first. As soon as my sister
had dissolved into giggles, Mother
would go for me, taking turns
to keep the hysteria spiking.
When she’d brought us to a place
where we couldn’t stop laughing,
she’d double down, tickling us
until our giggles became wheezing,
crying, begging her to stop
but she’d keep on spider-legging
her bony, work-worn fingers
until our laughter and sobbing were one
and we’d pee our Fruit-of-the-Looms.
Then she’d kiss us good night and leave
to face whatever it was that awaited her
on the other side of the bedroom door.



Great Aunt Molly turned down surgery
for her aneurism, thinking it a quick
and tidy way to exit the world.
No heroic measures for her!
When it burst, she assembled her papers,
called the paramedics, and lay down.
When she woke a week later, I feared
she’d be angry that she hadn’t made
that graceful exit. Instead, she told
fantastic stories – she’d been
to Switzerland! There was snow
all over, and helpers wearing red
Swiss crosses. She wasn’t angry at all.
She was happy to be here; now
she’d get to see what happened next.



I’m tired, so tired
my eyes ache, my mind’s numb
and there’s a spear stuck in my head.
I’m so tired, you’ll never know how tired I am.
I’m more tired than you’ve ever been
just like I was sicker than you ever were
my back hurts more than yours ever could
and my job! So much harder
than yours could possibly be.

I’m tired of this constant battle,
tired of always winning the fight.
It’s not a fun war.
I’m over it.
And I’m tired of the same bird singing every day
Tired of the wind chime’s constant chatter
Tired of the sun making its endless laps around the earth
Tired of not understanding astronomy.

I’m tired of spring and all that frantic budding
Tired of night always telling me what to do.
Tired of being too tired to even sleep.
I'm even tired of winning this war we're in.
That’s how tired I am.


Tamara Madison is a retired educator living in Southern California. To find out more fascinating details about her and her poetry, check her out at www.tamaramadisonpoetry.com