Ingrid Wendt is the author of five full-length books of poems, one chapbook, two anthologies, a book-length teaching guide, numerous articles and reviews, and more than 200 individual poems in such magazines and anthologies as Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Antioch Review, Northwest Review, Ms., and No More Masks! An Anthology of 20th Century American Women Poets. Among her many honors, she was the "Featured Poet" in the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review.
As flocks of birds from the depths of the field rise
in unison, arc and wheel and dip
with no one bird in the lead
and settle again into land
As fish in their silent schools flash
pivot and pivot again on the same
When the music begins and we, in our separate
that inner, ever-
present mental chatter and join
Together in song, again I forget
that in the last election
soprano next to me almost certainly voted wrong
That in tomorrow’s headlines the next
suicide bomber will take away more
lives than any one
heart can mourn. That in the next
Town a friend lies dying, that global
warming tomorrow will give us
yet one more
Flood waters rising will threaten
and is not scorned or shunned.
Anger on the horizon crashes and rolls,
breaks without mercy
over our heads and no
harm is done.
What is sacred space if not this shelter of song?
What is prayer if not these measures
in which the heart
can pour itself out, out, out, and the notes
Will catch it, help bear it along? Moments in which
each wounded and fragmented self
abides again in the wonder of wholeness.
Here. In this place. This home.
Published in GSU Review
On the Nature of Touch
My daughter's cat in the morning, before he'll eat,
needs to be picked up and petted, cradled (as I used to
carry my daughter) on one hip from pantry to counter
and back to the dish of food that was fresh the first
time he sniffed it, but not good enough.
This cat can be roaming all night, returning ravenous.
This cat can be let outside at first light and stand, moon-
patient, at the door, in rain, until we rise again. His fur
can be six soggy layers of needles and moss on the floor of the Oregon
coast range and still the Salmon Supreme we spoon into his dish
holds that scrupulous tongue only an instant before his voice
stalks our slippers, our wonder again at such
hunger for touch that goes beyond all bodily need.
So we stroke him between the ears, stirring up the same food.
And we rub his nose just over the spot where the whiskers sprout,
run our hands repeatedly down the long rapids of his spine
until dander and fur rise like spume, drift in the imperceptible
breath of the furnace, saying Good cat, Good Pillow, Eat.
And my daughter, who hardly could wait to be out on her own,
phones from her student apartment once, maybe twice a day, to ask for my
stroganoff recipe, or if vinegar will, in the absence of cleanser,
clean a greasy sink. She reads me the funnies.
Will I give her a ride to the store? Each day, this
delicate sniffing the ground called home; the words we speak
a ritual independent of meaning: thin fingers sifting the rich
humus of memory: bright
splashes of hair dye she left behind
on the downstairs hall carpet, each color a different
year of her life: stones scattered by Gretel to find the way back.
There is no returning to where she has been. How can I
not cradle her; each time she calls, one more blessed
delay on the long, slow road from touching each of us took
for granted those years I held her in my arms at least once a day
and she held me in a gaze that knew nothing but trust: water
disappearing through cracks in my fingers I myself tried, as a child,
over and over to cup and drink clear in my small, close hands.
Published in Ms. magazine
Prayer smoke that curls
Ash on the altar
Sand garden to rake
Hands that press skyward the rockface to climb.
What man makes in the sun
What he's made of the Earth.
The animals we are is a law stuck in nature.
Visages savaged by beadcarving, bloodcut,
And maskrutÑmaps of how we got this far.
In a lit circle, drums lead us to trance
To stare at the navel.
That's not what a monkey watches in the green leaves.
The mind goes up like a kite. In the air we drift,
Enchanted by such a grand station. Hands extended,
We seek piously, fervently
as a tank's roving gun
That stops on the man by the town fountain. One good
Kill among many. Another body to trash while the living
Take to the streets, each faced with learning, back to the wall,
Mouths floodlit and railing.
I heard you call my name years after
we parted. Summer in the mountains,
I looked up from weeding and saw only
a crow. That said, your dying began,
stopped, and commenced again. The year spent,
black boat with its red sail set in motion.
It was quiet the day I heard you,
nobody there but that solitary bird.
Some years start in black and white,
and by October scarlet enters in.
Leaf and sky were the shades I learned
with you. Now I keep a place in the pines
for the sun to slip through.
Why did we settle, uneasy, rock-heavy,
but not of rock?
At dawn, deer snort outside the bedroom window,
and half asleep I say, Oh hush, as if to a child.
Brain filled with morning air, my metabolizing
old organ awakes to scold again, demanding
even of these deer.