Stephanie Madan – Three Poems


A History of Affection

it is no small thing to rise in the morning
to the grins of cheerful dogs
anticipating joy
flinging themselves jubilant into its path

                                                                        (some doubt the connection between
                                                                        dogs and joy – I weep for them)

a calmer joy in me considers and marvels
at such magnificent luck in life
To possess not just their good will
and extravagant admiration

                                                            (they mistake me for a hunter stalking
                                                            the wild daily for dog kibble)

but to have as well a partner fine and near
sharing a history of comfortable affection
This seems unreasonably fortunate

                                                            (we have survived various falterings
                                                            a time or two of careless cruelty)
I trust so little
if in these moments
of rising I find we are both awake
each perceiving gladness
in the other’s regard

well that is no small thing either


Yesterday I dandled a child on my knee
an honor I had not asked for
but its mother insisted so
I dandled the child awhile
the child and I both perplexed
as to what we ought to feel
but disinclined to discuss it

the child regarded me much
as one of my dogs long gone did
with a mixture of horror and hope

the dog was never quite resigned
when I approached him
on bath day with towels in hand
he could only hope to impress
on me his truth – a bit of matted fur
a slight smell of sweaty dog
need not result in the despised bath

that dog was eloquent in his own way
there were times I agreed
bestowed a treat, deferred the bath
both relieved detente had been achieved

I viewed again the child’s gaze
I ended the dandling
retrieved the snack-size candy bar
I had been reserving for an emergency
from its spot in my pencil-cup
presented it to the child
who scrambled down as relieved as I
we had completed the dance
required of us  – without delight
yet also without damage

Coming Home

I hold close this calm quiet
this gentle glad prelude
knowing you are where you are –
on your way home to me

we’ll greet in simple ways
at ease in a comfortable love
shooting stars unrequired
fresh-baked bread will be
my warm whisper you are dear
your kiss on my nose a love song

bills will not pay themselves
fireworks will not startle
the sky in celebration
the future with its lost dreams
its unexpected endings
will not be deflected

but right now is enough
this quiet gentle moment
knowing you are where you are –
on your way home to me 


Author’s Statement on Beauty

It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? Once, as a child, a two-scoop peppermint ice-cream cone swept me away with its speckled beauty. I recognized a) it was all mine and b) how quickly it would be sullied, eroded by my slurps. No stranger to sacrifice myself, having the week before been forced to share a two-scoop chocolate cone with an unpleasant cousin (why did she get to choose the flavor?), I appreciated my frozen victim’s attractive appearance just as much as I savored its destruction.

As a young professional, I swooned at beauty in the guise of projects well-conceived and executed, delighted in the beauty of statistics and organization charts as easily as in a painting, a song, a short story, a poem. The wobbly congruity of imposed order presented as a sort of Cubist defiant art, beauty on its own terms.

Time passes. People disappoint. Filters are recalibrated. The understanding that life is really and truly not forever, that all must end, arrives and revises my focus. I experience the present with nostalgia even as it occurs.

My dog dashes about in pursuit of a lizard and is, as always, outsmarted. I cheer for the lizard and realize the moment with my dog – short and stocky, cheerful and optimistic – is shadowed beauty, beauty perceived through a lens tinted with anticipated grief. I strive to capture the sheer loveliness, hold it fast. No luck, of course.

I’ve come to discover beauty in the everyday. In that lumpy heirloom tomato, the fresh shiny ebony paint on the stair rail, the gleam of slanted sunlight ricocheting off a silver vase – beauty valuable in its tiny moments, deflecting, sometimes, the ugliness we endure these days in our wide world. It has to be enough.


Stephanie Madan’s fiction, essays and poems on wide-ranging subjects such as murder, good dogs and speculations regarding the afterlife have been published in print anthologies and online. She also wrote the column “Just Desserts” in print magazine My Table for five years.