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Wendy McVicker

Wendy McVicker: I am the current poet laureate of Athens, Ohio, and a longtime teaching artist. My chapbooks include The Dancer’s Notes and Sliced Dark, and the forthcoming Zero, a Door. I live in Athens with my husband (still married after a year of pandemic!) and a Hemingway cat named Dora.

The Green Dress

When was the last time you wore that dress, the green one that swirled, cool, around your hips
and ankles? It had criss-crossing ribbons down the back, and skinny shoulder straps. Sometimes
you wore a t-shirt under it; sometimes, in summer heat, it was all you wore. You could swim, a
lithe narrow fish, all grace and sheer intention, through any room; and the others, with their
assessing ice-chip eyes, blurred into waterplants, parting as you passed. Voices clicked and
soughed, tried to catch you with their little hooks. But you swam on, untouched, untouchable.
Once, on the other side of a great room, an ocean of a room, you saw a wall of glass, and beyond
that, sky, and clouds — the great silence you longed to enter.

That dress saw you through move after move, one apartment, one party, then another. Gradually
you slowed down, stopped moving. Your feet grew roots, or suckers, that held you to the ground.
Even the winds could barely move you. One day you realized that the dress was gone — not
even a rag remained, to wipe fog from the bathroom mirror. But it didn’t matter, did it? That sky,
those rooms — so far away, now. All those voices, stilled. You no longer need to keep
swimming just to stay alive.

When I was alone

the clouds breathed

the leaves in the trees
I dreamed beneath

the small grass
and the pebbles
in the stream

and the mica-flecked

they all breathed
with me
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