Ann-Marie Madden Irwin is getting back to submitting work, revising work and living life. A poet, photographer and unabashed omnivore, she was an adjunct professor teaching freshman composition in San Antonio (and loving it) until being diagnosed with stage 3B rectal cancer. She’s lived in NYC, Ridgefield, Conn., Portsmouth, R.I., and Fall River and Boston, Mass. Now she lives in Austin, Texas with her bass player husband. She is the founder of AMMI Collaborative, a series of poetry retreat workshops. Ann-Marie has been a coordinator for the Joiner Center’s Writers’ Workshop at the University of Massachusetts Boston, has taught poetry in after-school programs, and was a visiting artist in local high schools.
She was recently published in The Warwick Review (England) as well as the May 2012 issue of Chest magazine. Her work has appeared in California Quarterly, Terminus, Potomac Review, The Café Review and Larcom Review. Six of her poems were included in the anthology Women Prayers (Harpers/San Francisco). Among her awards are the American Academy of Poetry Prize, the Marcia Keach Prize, and grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the New England Artists Trust.
If I tell you I was gazing at stars
would you listen? Do you hear
the wicker flaking red paint sigh
to give my scapula the cushion
allow for time to sip
and soak the distant fires,
the night- blue descending
my lap and breast flesh out –
to take in the world’s offering
I say yes. Yes. Again and again,
to the illuminated air – I will
carry them for some body must.
She wanted to die at home on the couch
where she’d watch Serenity on the flat screen
how her father set up the surround sound.
Around two in the morning, her mother –
my sister – we ate fried egg sandwiches
and compared the sleeping girl’s profile
to our grandmother’s. We licked
the fatty yolk from our fingers.
Eight hours slipped by as paroxysms
of sleep and anxiety, exertions of prayer
for an end or begged for a beginning;
to our own gods and aggravated angels
for relief from the agelong days.
Somewhere from my childhood
Catholicism I heard merciful death
and gagged. I watched her sleep
as if an infant, the way life is a wonder.
She was home. She was
a college kid home – what
mother does not love this.