Creative Arts

Monica Wendel’s “Blue”: Winner, Poetry in Women in Water Writing Contest


First place in our Women in Water writing contest for poetry goes to Monica Wendel, for her poem “Blue.” She also shared: “Zona Rosa.”



Billy Joel plays at the diner where the waitresses wear their hair swooped up, swirl

whipped cream atop hot cocoa – outside, fall rain shakes the last red leaves from tree

branches and rustles ghosts out of sleep – only two months ago cars lined up to

wash in the open fire hydrant, little kids with plastic buckets dammed the gutter –

last night, I dreamt that Chris and I rowed through New York Harbor at night, as we

did the sea expanded until the harbor became a great lake became an ocean – the

waitress stirs creamer into coffee, a single revolution of the spoon – puts it in the bus

bin – now it’s the dishwasher’s problem – this rain, will it overflow the system, will

sewage drain into the East River – in the bottom silt, divers found the gun used to

murder a cop in East Harlem – lights of police boats lined both shores, Bronx and

Manhattan – the Narrows, where water whirlpools, sucks boats into ghosts – my

father told me how he leant out his hammer to a diver who dropped it near some

retaining wall – my father told me that Battery Park shouldn’t be there, the land just

fill from subway tunnels – in my dream, the wind, cold, blew across the harbor and I

found a blanket and curled under it – I woke, cold, curled under a blanket – in the

dream, it was others who were rowing, we weren’t – from the top deck of the ferry

ghosts lit candles on shores that pulled away from us like a canal opening its locks –

in our wake, kayakers crossed – the waitress stirs the coffee, again – a new spoon –

all this, just once – the dream just once, the rain just once, my father sketching

blueprints in the basement – we wrapped Christmas presents in the discarded papers

– cities planned and never realized – perfect angles – nothing like these shores –

shellfish filter the water, still, sewage spills – I woke just this once – I woke to stir to

stir coffee to sit in traffic to watch the river turn red with siren lights with brake

lights – I woke to remember my father – the tilt of his drafting board – when we

were good we were allowed to do our homework there – borrow his pencils – what

city floats in dream – I am beneath the dock – I swim from one harbor to the next –

I burn in sun – I burn tongue – I rake up the shark washed up on sand and bury it –

rowers cut across the wake – harbor full of ghosts – whose


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Zona Rosa

The scent of carnations is too heady

and none of the houses have fences,

though they should. Mexico City

looks different than the last time

I was here – it’s the houses, bare

without barriers – and a river runs

behind them, deep blue. I should

have known then that it was a dream,

but instead of lingering by the flowers

I rushed to the Amtrak station – had planned

on taking a train to a plane to LaGuardia –

and there my friends had a hotel room.

I stripped off my soiled shirt,

bathed in the hot tub, water streaming

from all sides. I knew them

and didn’t know them. I saw the train

traveling by the river and when I closed

my eyes the brocaded carpet

was a network of roots, the dream-

friends and real ones talking

above my naked head, making plans

that could never be realized, unless

they are realized, without me, in this city

where there is no one who can tell me how to return.


Other Women in Water contest winners:

Sophie Berti’s “Waterlogged”: Nonfiction First Prize Winner

Starre Vartan is founder and editor-in-chief of and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life. She's also a freelance science and environment writer who has published in National Geographic, CNN, Scientific American, Mental Floss, Pacific Standard, the NRDC, and many more. She lives on an island in Puget Sound with her partner and black cat. She was a geologist in her first career, and still picks up rocks wherever she goes.