Wendy Sloan


Then came the year you kept repeating "Wendy"
till you had but a single greeting, "Wendy."

Your world reduced to just one proper noun
for anyone you chanced on meeting, "Wendy."

Each thing you saw, each thing you touched
for every phrase you were completing: "Wendy"

Though I was pleased that you still knew my name
alone, this soon proved self-defeating, "Wendy"

being the only way you had of naming,
being, that is, a form of cheating Wendy

and everyone else to get by, all day
your sole response, incessant bleating, "Wendy."

And once you stopped, you'd no more names at all.
Now I could shake you, plead, entreating, Wendy!



He's unable to speak now, and his bed is pushed up against mine, the rail on his lowered.

Most recently your habit is to sprawl
out horizontally across your bed
and onto mine. At night, I feel you crawl
still closer, and I stroke your curly head.
And when we're half-awake, you take my hand
and hold it tight a minute in your own.
I wonder, do you even understand?
This is the most affection that I've known
these five long years. I know that I am more
to you than keeper of the time you steal.
It's decades, darling, decades long before
your illness, that we put the fatal seal
upon our pact. Yes, show me you're still there,
and in what mind is left to you, you care.


All lies! Last night you took my hand, alright—
to shove it off—away from you. Last night
you shoved my hand abruptly, when it lay
on yours. You pushed it, hard, as if to say,
"Did you forget, baby, how much
I've changed? How I detest the slightest touch?"
And you recoiled from mine. I know you're ill.
You can't control the damage to your brain
though you could compensate, in part, and will
attempt to (temporarily) retrain.
Still, as I kiss your lips goodnight, you rise
to meet mine, and you look me in the eye.
And on my life, I'd swear that kiss is true.
But nobody can say, not even you.

March 2, 2020

Park Avenue South, New York, N.Y.

Wine tasting lunch today? Sure, here's my glass.
Who knows when I'll be able to come back.
I rarely drink, but why give this a pass?

They say prepare to quarantine. Alas!
What's left to buy? There isn't much we lack.
Wine tasting lunch today. Please, here's my glass.

I'll pack my pad with Clorox, cans, and grass
and hope my kid's boss won't give him the sack.
Another? Sure, who's giving this a pass?

One more, and I'll be tossed out on my ass.
The room is spinning, but I've got a knack
for this wine tasting thing, and here's my glass.

White table cloths and all, this joint's got class.
And this here wine will help me stay on track.
I rarely drink, but who'd give this a pass?

I think this lunch has reached critical mass.
But, what the hell, I'll give it one more crack.
Wine tasting lunch today. Fill up my glass!
I sure as hell ain't giving this a pass.


It's like being in prison, I am trapped.
No space to call my own, I share this cell
with you—a madman. I can't stand this hell,
this hell in which my every nerve is sapped
of all remaining strength till I go mad
myself. And now I know: I can't go on.
It was some fine illusion I once had,
that we could somehow run the marathon
of your last years. I thought I'd make it through
and I'd have done the best I could for you.
How wrong I was. I've got to let you go
before we're both caught in the undertow,
before, in desperation, as you drown
you drag us both, inexorably, down.

My Ulysses is Departing on His Second Voyage

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce."
Karl Marx

Yeah right. Ok. I get it. The guy thing.
The searching, risking, going, and the sting
of ever-present danger goads you on.
So, let me guess: you're sailing with the dawn
while I stay put. I take my risks at home.
Bearing another child is risk enough
for me. No, I am disinclined to roam
and you and I are made of—different stuff.
I won't be waiting this time. There's a point
beyond which even true love cannot go.
You've got your band of buddies to anoint
your head and make burnt offerings. We both know
there's little of our marriage left to parse
and, like they say, the second time is farce.

On First Looking into Recent Bloodwork

The good news: I've got antibodies. Yay!
The bad news: I had Covid. What the hell?
How did I even get it? Hard to tell,
until mid-March I went out every day.
Was it the mailman with the hacking cough?
That grocery clerk? She seemed a little off.
Some elevator button my hand touched
despite the plastic gloves? That guy who clutched
his phone, with sneezes no mask could deter?
I guess I'll never really know for sure.
I wonder, too, how much am I protected?
Some experts say I could get reinfected.
And one weird complication makes me pout:
I've noticed that my hair is falling out.


Wendy Sloan practiced labor and civil rights law with the firm of Hall & Sloan before returning to poetry. Her first collection is Sunday Mornings at the Caffe Mediterraneum (Kelsay Books, 2016). Sloan’s poems and Italian translations have appeared in many journals including Big City Lit, Blue Unicorn, Light, Measure, Mezzo Cammin, The Orchard, Think, and Umbrella, and in the anthologies The Able Muse Translation Issue, The Best of the Raintown Review, Extreme Sonnets, The Great American Wise-Ass Poetry Anthology, Love Affairs at the Villa Nelle, and Poems for a Liminal Age, benefiting Medecins San Frontieres, UK. She has been a finalist in the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award Competition, and several of her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Sloan lives in New York City, where she hosts the Carmine Street Metrics poetry reading series.

32 Poems
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