Wendy Vardaman

I've always been contrary, and poetry is the heart of disobedience. It troubles the market at the same time that it troubles identity. Poetry demands that we slow down and move at a different pace than our jobs and other routines want from us. It requires us to notice what we otherwise wouldn’t--what the world wants hidden--and to witness our struggle.


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Family Day at the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery

“Guys, Guys, Guys, it says no touching—”
         “You didn’t do that on purpose, did you?”

                 Please Do/Not Play in/ Water/ Fountains.
                                    Don’t touch the water.
                           Please Do/Not Play

“That’s probably why they say don’t play in it”
                “Hey. Hey. Hey David!”
          “Girls, it says not to play in the water fountain”

                    At 11:30 there will be a jam in the Forum.
                                          Just a reminder it’s 11:45.
                                 At 11:50 there will be a parade around the Town Center

          Parade through
                              puddles    the children made

when they were supposed
                     to make musical instruments
            out of paper towel tubes

                     out of pom poms & pipe cleaners
                               out of shoeboxes & rubberbands
           out of paper plates & macaroni out of bubblewrap & LED

these are the shiny floors and glass walls of creativity
                    where a stand of trees grows (do not climb the trees) next to the flat
           rimless (do not play in the water) fountain that wants hands & feet

where the puddles on the (slippery when wet) floor under the Please do not sign causes fall     fall
                where an African drummer leads the parade at exactly 11:50
          followed by hip-twitching parents on paths

                   past the fountains trailing merchildren
                                       who dip their hands in the fountains
                           while the grownups pack boxes

          at 12 noon sharp and remove
                           the do not signs by the fountains
                  & the poles where they hang


Wendy Vardaman (wendyvardaman.com, @wendylvardaman) is the author of Reliquary of Debt (LitFest Press 2015) and Obstructed View, co-editor of Local Ground(s)--Midwest Poetics and Echolocations, Poets Map Madison, and founding co-editor of Cowfeather Press (cowfeatherpress.org). She is one of Madison, Wisconsin's two Poets Laureate (2012-2015). She blogs occasionally at live art(s) art live(s), wvardaman.tumblr.com