Musical Girl

By Wendy Vardaman 

As soon as the lights go down and the conductor lowers the baton, her tear ducts open. Boyfriend offers one Kleenex, then another. She soaks them with salt water like a soldier shot in the heart soaks torn shirtsleeves. After the first box, Boyfriend gives up. She leans on his shoulder, drenches his only suit coat, his tie. People nearby have to lift their feet into their seats by the sixth song, and toward the end of Act I, there’s a steady drip to the balcony underneath. The people below don’t notice the rain at first, because of the pain swelling in their own empty hearts, filling their own sad, sad eyes.

Her row wades out at break, and the ushers come through with wet vacs and rubber boots. Phone the house manager when it’s ok to start. Break out the emergency drainage system for Act II to prevent the whole hall’s collapse.

But Musical Girl’s no ordinary sobber, and when she returns, eyes swimming in tears, telltale ripples boiling near their beaches, any island child could tell you that the tsunami has already started, the walls of water pushed up from her bottomless depths unstoppable.

Wendy Vardaman is the author of Obstructed View (Fireweed Press), co-editor/webmaster of Verse Wisconsin, and co-founder/co-editor of Cowfeather Press. She is one of Madison, Wisconsin’s two Poets Laureate (2012-2015) and co-editor of the 2013 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar and a forthcoming anthology, Echolocations, Poets Map Madison. In addition to poetry, she writes essays and interviews, which have appeared in Poetry Daily, Women’s Review of Books,, and other venues. She has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania. With husband, Thomas DuBois, she has three children and does not own a car.


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