Wendy Vardaman


Ave Maria: the Invocation


Three babies don’t
make me a poet
of childbirth: let someone else imagine
how it’s done
and bring forth suitable symbol and metaphor.
After the first, my father
proclaimed, It didn’t hurt. Should I have said

it’s similar to being dead?
So I shrugged and looked away
instead. He doesn’t know, and mother couldn’t say,
numb waist-down twice,
which must feel like rising out of ice.
My husband’s mother and his dad
slept through the six boys they had.

Ours woke me spinning in the night,
made me turn on every light:
washing dishes, sweeping floors,
righting asymmetric pillows—between contractions on all fours—
as if I always did nocturnal chores. Wringing
hands, until everything
disappeared and became dark matter: small,
singular, and dense to survive at all,
I sealed my eyes and ears up tight,
against the whirring chorus and intruding light.

What’s it like—the pain?
Like leaving, and coming back again—
did the same:
the body, the brain,
the spirit sags—
like overused diapers unfit for rags.  


Wendy Vardaman, Madison, WI, has a Ph.D. in English from University of Pennsylvania. Her poems, reviews, and interviews have appeared in various journals, including Poet Lore, Poemeleon, Main Street Rag, Nerve Cowboy, qarrtsiluni, Free Verse, Pivot, Wisconsin People & Ideas, Women’s Review of Books and Portland Review. She also has work forthcoming in the anthologies Riffing On Strings (Scriblerus Press) and Letters to the World (Red Hen Press).
E-mail: wvardaman at hotmail dot com


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