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Wendy McVicker

Wendy McVicker is the 2020-2022 Poet Laureate of Athens, Ohio. She began writing poetry as a child, took a long break, and then wrote again in secret for many years before being drawn out of the closet by the friendly writing community in her new hometown. Her chapbooks are the dancer’s notes, Sliced Dark, and Zero, a Door. Her poems have appeared in anthologies, most recently in I thought I heard a Cardinal Sing; and in journals including Still: the Journal, Pudding Magazine, and Sheila-Na-Gig online. She is grateful to be living and writing in the green hills of Appalachia.

The Scariest Story

She spun in her sequined satin gown
to music we could not hear. We tried.

We tried to dance to her tune, dizzied
as we were by Shalimar and smoke,

by her spinning like a record pinned
on the spindle. She twirled us round,

tiny planets orbiting her sun,
craving her light.

She spun herself sick, and then
she turned on the gas

and spun away.

Negative Space


The painter draws
shapes of air, sketches

shadow. She talks about
negative space.

view white space

as water, with volume —
how it presses against

the letters, lifts and fills
them. See how they float

on that sea of white,
how the tidal margin

defines their shore


These days, when I take
your hands and look

into your eyes, you
aren’t there. What

do you want
to say? Is it

in words, or
in the space between

words? The weight
of letters, or the buoyancy

of silence that holds
us up? Some inner tide

has caught and carried you
far from shore, a riptide

you could not escape.
I scan the horizon,

blurred with mist.
What is left when you

are taken away?


I row into the silence.
I remember the swish

of oars through water, dip
and lift, droplets spattering

the green. Alone,
now. Your ghost

sits beside me, guides
my hands.

You have become
silence, white space,

the white space I lean
against, pulling.

Later, I know,
your words —

the ones you lost,
near the end —

will rise like bright
bubbles in my mind,

and I will sing them,
sing myself

to sleep.

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