an Aotearoa poetry journal | ISSN 2744-3248

Poems by Madeleine Lifsey

Te Paki sand dunes

Madeleine Lifsey

Published on
page 15 of Tarot #3
(Dec 2021)

i don’t believe you have to scale the Grand Canyon
to write poetry, or touch the Berlin Wall
or smell the first cup of chai
brewed in the pre-sun fog over Mother Ganga

i don’t believe you have to have
an English degree or know
what a past participle is
if you are able simply to notice

the way the sand splits in jagged chunks
as the rivulet runs through, as if
it had been carved that way
a thousand years ago but melts
like a drive-through soft-serve cone
at the slightest touch of your fingertip

if you can still be startled
by the way the ground billows under
each cautious step
into a peculiarly solid mound
and relaxes
gently back
into the stream
as soon as your toes
move on

abecedarian in sleet

Madeleine Lifsey

Published on
page 56 of Tarot #3
(Dec 2021)

Massachusetts, December 2014

around town, they have hung
brilliant, twinkling
cells, pulsing lights like jellyfish who don’t know they are

every endless night an itch, and my
father calls me up first time this decade to know if I’ve been a
good girl.

haiku hangover mourning after midterms:

brain fog happening
sentences not happening
synapses in mud

invisibility: my latest superpower when you enter to say

kidding again

looking at everyone but me. we were a cryptic
myth when we began, but such a good one, the kind you’d want
        to swallow whole, and hot.

no longer a story,
only floating characters, we shiver on
pieces of once
quilted promises, cloaked in ripped sheets, we taste stained, nearly

sweaty pits, streaks of grey sun,
the kind of beauty that stings.
under the only lights, fluorescent (those
violet cells still beating), gutters still fill with grimy
white diamonds. still unsure if it’s me or you or your new
Xanax pills building the clear quicksand wall between, except then
you tell me you think maybe
zoos aren’t so bad, not really like prisons, except for the metal, and when their
        heads hit the concrete—


Madeleine Lifsey

Published on
page 60 of Tarot #3
(Dec 2021)

withered scarlet
of the bag
of the woman
standing in line
in front of

as the blood
by your bellows

just before

snapped, skin
s t r e t c h e d,
sent away to
be sold:

limo seats, sticky
couches, chequebook

(toes, hair, bones, eyes
neatly, conveniently detached)

red is the rouge
on the cheekbones
of this


what she is sure
is her