Wendy McVicker 


Listening to Peonies

Splitting, spilling
drops of sticky
nectar that ants
particularly like, so that
as a child I walked fast
past the line of shivering
bushes, green and pink
and white, along the driveway.
Peonies, flowers that reach
out to you even as you
are repelled by their
blowsiness, their rash
exaggerations, those ants.
Still, just before they bloom,
sometimes you can hear,
in the evening, a shifting
inside, a rustling, or a slow
hum, the mainspring
of the world, coiled
and ready


“Bat out of hell”

my mother said, each time
he roared up our street
on his shiny black Harley.

Blonde hair whipping
in tangled cords, his
blunt body leaning

into the wind, carving
his shape on the air.
Hot summer. I was painting

an old bookcase, and stood
on the driveway, rocked
in his wake, white paint

dripping down my legs.
A bookcase to hold
all the adventure

I could handle. He
came from battlefields
too real to imagine, a world

of burning grease, torn metal,
jungle trees ripped apart
by men’s machines.

And before that, the once–green
ravaged hills.
He was running

hard, as far
and as fast as he could,
running until he ran out 

of running  — later
I heard he was killed
on that motorcycle —

running out of the hell
he came from, right off
the earth —


“Rivers carry things away”

The river, a thick rope pulling —

branches spinning 
like broken spokes, then
piling against the bridge.

A wooden chair, once,
its cane seat unraveling.

That woman in her red coat,
who jumped into the rushing
water when her husband 
reached to grab her, his voice
a jagged roughness
on the air.

Grass, weeds, an empty
gray shirt, its arms 
spread wide.

Today I hear of a friend’s suicide.

Rivers carry things away
and today, even memory
is yanked into that current,
twisted, its fibers grating.

Words drained
of meaning lie gasping
on the bank. 

The river, its sedimentary
pull, sucks down all 
we thought we knew —

carries all things away —


Wendy McVicker has been writing all of her life, first in eastern Pennsylvania, and for the last quarter century in southeastern Ohio. She holds a degree in Philosophy and a fourth degree black belt in Shotokan karate. She has been a visiting poet in the schools since the mid 1980s, for the past 11 years with the Ohio Arts Council’s Arts Learning program. Reading, writing, spreading the word(s): after raising two sons, she can’t imagine more engaging work. She performs with musician Emily Prince under the name another language altogether