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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 11: January 2022
Poem: 104 words [R]
By Madeline Artenberg

Soft Hand

Mother calls for me in skipping tones; 
her legs do not support rising. 
She sits shrinking on a bedroom chair, 
can’t bear the touch of help. 

I encircle her thin, spotted hand—
the softness startles—
I do not remember softness. 

	Her flying nails had raked skin raw, 
	she wielded wire hangers, 
	I hid under tables. 
	She caught me by the hair 
	pulling it along half a house length. 

Now her eggshell hand tugs at my skirt. 
She cannot poke her bird head 
through the sweater neck. 
Rivulets of wrinkles run down her breasts, 
the nipples bite her belly—
my hard heart shatters. 

—Published previously in Artenberg’s book Awakened (Rogue Scholars Press, 2006); appears here with her permission

Madeline Artenberg
Issue 11, January 2022

Before falling for poetry, Madeline Artenberg was a press-pass-carrying photojournalist and street-theatre performer. She has been co-producing the Alternative New Year’s Day Poetry Extravaganza in New York City since 2002.

Her work has been published in, among others: Rattle, Mudfish, theravensperch, The POET, Caprice, Literature Today International Journal, Absinthe Literary Review, Skidrow Penthouse, Pudding House, Salonika, Vernacular, and Ducts.

Her awards and prizes include:

  • Mudfish poetry prize: finalist (2020)

  • Best of the Net: poem nominated by Poets Wear Prada (2020)

  • Highland Park Poetry Challenge: honorable mention (2017)

  • Margie, The American Journal of Poetry contest: semi-finalist (2005)

  • Poetry Forum contest: 1st prize (2003)

  • nycbigcitylit/Lyric Recovery contest: semi-finalist (2001)

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