I started writing poetry in 2014. Since then, I’ve been published in Blackbird, Little Patuxent Review, Rattle, The Delmarva Review, Summerset Review, MUSE/A Journal, and Blue River Review. My poems have won the Pat Nielsen Poetry Prize twice (2015, 2017), and have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 

Broad Cove, Maine

Broad Cove, Maine

Blackbird, Fall 2018

Civil Twilight

When the blue heron
is onyx etched
upon blown-glass water,
one foot poised,
dripping, his stillness
is its own term of art.
Were he flawed—
his bill less than stiletto,
his neck a ruined column—
how could we know
in this moment
of edge and silhouette,
when the horizon
has claimed the sun
and the winterbone trees
scratch the chiseled moon?
Chase your foolish bright sunsets
contingent as they are
upon ceremony and awe,
gaudy spectacle clattering
across the atmosphere,
shouting the obvious
as if it were mystery.
Give me this twilight,
this kingdom of almost,
of echo,
of uncertain

wendy mitman clarke still water bending foreman's branch bird observatory rattle

Fledgling bobwhite quail, Chester River Field Research Station

Rattle #55, Spring 2017


Still Life With Birds, Extinct

The Carolina parakeet would not be the first
species to gather at its dead. They say elephants
do this too, and dolphins, who will stay for days
with a dead infant, pushing its body to the surface
to breathe. Inside the museum no living birds
attended the still life of their brethren rendered
so bright and busy among the cockleburs—
one scratching its cheek with a pointed talon,
two others seeming to croon parakeet
love songs to one another—although
the sound of that song, we can't know.
There were, however, the six dead birds
displayed beside Audubon's painting, mute
as dust, specimens the artist modeled
to create his masterpiece. I could have cupped
one in my hands, but the glass held
them all captive—the colorful painted birds
cavorting, their template kin lifeless
as an old woman's misplaced gloves—
no air in either universe.
Still life, the exhibit notes said, is generally an act
of intimacy, so why shouldn't I have stopped
beneath the familiar tree outside the museum
to reach among the homesick leaves
and hold the smooth round comfort
of the chestnut in my palm,
where I would have held
the gathered dead birds if I could,
where I would have held you.

trash Jumentos.JPG

A beach in the Jimentos Cays, southern Bahamas.

Little Patuxent Review, Winter 2018

Read The Little Patuxent Review's "Meet Our Contributors" about this poem.


The United Nations Environmental Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic [causing] the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.


On the fine white beach
     wandering, wading,
          we find priceless treasure—
               nerites, frog shells, blue sea glass
wandering, wading,
     washing in with the tide,
          nerites, frog shells, blue sea glass
               pulled by the moon
washing in with the tide,
     razors, balloons, water bottles
          pulled by the moon,
               baggies, microbeads, toothbrushes
razors, balloons, water bottles
     carried by the waves,
          baggies, microbeads, water bottles
               drifting, floating
carried by the waves,
     sea turtle, albatross
          drifting, floating
               bellies bloated
                    sea turtle, albatross.
We find priceless treasure—
     bellies bloated
          on the fine white beach.

Sand and water, Exumas, Bahamas

Sand and water, Exumas, Bahamas

The Summerset Review, Summer 2018

“Read After the Cold Front” and “My Father’s Pipe” in The Summerset Review


It fell on the desk there,
quiet and surprised
when I tipped the shell dusting
and inevitably rummaging

to find a particular netted olive
or banded tulip, wandering
through a thousand distant
footsteps in the sand

that sifted there suddenly
on the desk, a displaced drift
of pink and white grit,  
some grey made infinite

by the endless grinding waves
and the sharp beaks of parrot fish
that transform the reef as rain
carves the mountain, rendering stone.

Where things fit, do the most good,
could be called home,
which would explain why
I brushed the grains back

into the shell’s upturned cup,
made sure none fell on the floor,
where the Oreck might trap them,
or the dogs’ reckless paws,

or any number of fates
almost as bad as the one I’d already
consigned us to, there on the desk
lost in a shell, listening for the sea.



Harvest from my garden, Eastern Shore, Maryland.

Blue River Review, Vol. 2, Issue 1, Fall 2017

Download the issue

Listen to "August," starting at 8:46


Let me just say: I know
I’m supposed to be loyal.
I planted these seeds, didn’t I?
Every day hope unfurling—
the feathery tops of carrots,
the red vein of beets—
until now, deep August,
the eggplants worn
as an immigrant’s suitcase,
the tomatoes wild and rotting
on the vine. You know
something about desperation.
I should love you for that
but your requirements for tending
exhaust me.
Squash bugs, aphids,
cutworms, late blight.
Fight your own battles.
Leave me to fight mine.
Maybe then we can agree
the weight we bear for this
dissembling bed
of vegetation is worth it—
blue riot of morning glories
warping the empty pea trellis,
finches bending spent sunflowers,
bouncing lightly, ardent gymnasts of seed.

wendy mitman clarke still water bending kuna yala panama cruising world

Kuna Yala, Panama

The Delmarva Review, Vol. 8, No. 3, November 2015

Palm Tree, Nassau” Winslow Homer (1898)

Palm trees are meant to bend this way.
Spindled and full of give,
their leaves clatter before the battering wind
that always finds them.
Their trunks don't aspire
to the rigid pillar of the lighthouse
preaching its pallid human truth to the clouds.
They bow to the changeable blue
and feather the sky
while the red flag snaps
like a sergeant marshaling the waves
that patrol the ironshore.
When the hurricane comes
and the waves hurl rocks
that shatter the lighthouse glass,
and the flag shreds into memory,
the palm trees will bend to the wind-stripped ground
and I will learn how to forgive
what I am not.

wendy mitman clarke still water bending foremans branch bird observatory

Summer sunrise at the Chester River Field Station, Eastern Shore, Maryland.

The Delmarva Review, Vol. 8, No. 3, November 2015


At dawn in the meadow
the pine-split sunlight divides the mist
into limbs of shadow and light.

Dew-soaked, my boots wade
through the grass and find a patch that's flattened
into a shallow bed,

a haven under the arc of stars
and the liquid eyes of the doe. Her fine sharp hooves
cut these cups in the grass

where she stood, watchful,
as her fawn slept in the restless night,
and a memory of coyotes roamed like shadow.

All I know is what is left—
the imprint
of the watch-bound night, empty

before the day burns off mist and dew
and the place looks like any other in this meadow
where the grass climbs wildly to seed.

wendy mitman clarke still water bending beach art bahamas cruising world

Wind writing, Bahamas.

The Delmarva Review, Vol. 8, No. 3, November 2015


At night in the meadow
we lay the blanket down and fall back
to watch the stars in their endless migration
find the unyielding geometry of distance.

The tall grass of autumn
does not tease our faces,
nor does the dew wet our skin.
Out here, we remain untouched, you and I,

wheeling in our own orbits
of intractable light years
and the lambent echoes of stars long dead
that burned and burned, like we did.

There should be comfort in the gravity
that pins me to this blanket
like a butterfly, wings ashen under
the airless glass of this hurtling universe;

there should be comfort in knowing
I don’t have to hold on.

wendy mitman clarke still water bending cruising world bahamas sailing

S/V Celilo, bound for Great Exuma, Bahamas, at sunset.

The Delmarva Review, Vol. 8, No. 3, November 2015


The waves were not big that day
as the children slewed through the surf on their bellies and you
fixed yourself another drink and baited up,
grinning when you caught a fish that glistened
like the blued barrel of a gun
on your first cast. Nothing
ominous offshore, no lowering sky,
just the sun grinning over the good times
in the People's Republic of Gin
and Tonic. You dragged
your shimmering victim from the surf
and dangled it for a photo,
the last I have of you.

Beginner’s luck, you could say of that fish,
too innocent to be eaten by one such as you,
so you tossed it back into the sea
where the children glittered in the waves,
and the undertow in its collusion sucked sand and shell and bone,
the tumbling sea-wrecked wrack of you
spattered across the grass in the back yard
where I guess you finally understood
the Darwinian failure—
that stupid fish,
the one you threw back into the sea to live
when you knew even then
there was nothing left to do but die.

—For Tim

wendy mitman clarke the kiss delmarva review

Alfred Eisenstaedt, Times Square V-J Day

The Delmarva Review, Vol. 8, No. 3, November 2015

The Kiss

V-J Day, Times Square
August 14, 1945

When I am kissed,
I want to be kissed this way,
kissed like war is over.

I want to drop my thin body
arched like a dancer and falling
into the unknown soldier’s arms.

I want my mouth open
to the ravaged prayer
of the survivor.

When I am kissed
I want one knee folding,
forgetting all it has carried

on sensible, weary heels.
I want my eyes closed
to the bomb-lit ruins of innocence,

the revelers in the street
who stagger and dance and cry.
When I am kissed

I want to be kissed this way,
so that for a moment at least
we yield to the wreckage of peace.