Wendy Vardaman


Wendy Vardaman, Madison, WI, has a Ph.D. in English from University of Pennsylvania and a B.S. in Engineering from Cornell University. Her poems, reviews, and interviews have appeared in a variety of anthologies and journals, includingBreathe: 101 Contemporary Odes, Riffing on Strings: Creative Writing Inspired by String Theory, Letters to the World, Poet Lore, qarrtsiluni, Nerve Cowboy, Wisconsin People & Ideas, Women’s Review of Books, Rain Taxi Review, Rattle, andPortland Review. Her work has received several Pushcart Prize nominations and was runner-up in 2004 for the Council for Wisconsin Writers’ Lorine Niedecker Award. A former university English teacher, she works for the children’s theater company, The Young Shakespeare Players. She co-edits with Sarah Busse Wisconsin’s only all-poetry journal, Free Verse. Her first collection of poetry is Obstructed View (Fireweed Press, 2009).

Obstructed View, Fireweed Press, 2009


Mother Contemplates the Apocalypse

Some days are like that—everything
means something:
two parallel pits in fresh snow, filled with black
ice and surrounded by sediment, by rock
in eruption; a perpendicularly driven bread
truck gliding down the road’s middle
while traffic in each direction scatters; four dark contrabasses scuttling
up slick stairs
without a missed beat; little knots
of black-shelled figures
at every corner waiting with the same expectant faces,
each gaze pinned
on the horizon, with a regularly-timed
pulse of eye
to wrist to road in the measure of one hardly-noticeable sigh;
the bus that never arrives; the runaway dog;
the lengthening knives hanging from every roof’s edge.

St. Catherine of Siena’s Day

Fifty daffodils, one hundred
last fall produce
only a handful of half-way resurrections: 
limp wings on weak
necks emerging from a cracked
tomb—the wrong
soil and a long
winter of low
temperatures without insulating snow.

Content yourself with this:
a few lines, less
than you conceived
by the time they arrived—
scribbled on the back of something else; almost forgotten
between their thought and the interruption
of children, practice,
questions of dinner and the day, cookies
for tomorrow, the last
burned inedible—
and their retrieval;

or with dandelions—too many
to count—bright as any
daffodil but longer lasting, cheerful,
less temperamental,
and a neighbor’s sign: Free
Daylilies, already
tall, fresh-dug, ready to return
to bad soil like saints to heaven.