Delmarva Review: Tidepool Strata Near Half Moon Bay by Judith McCombs

Tidepool Strata Near Half Moon Bay

I was there at first light, in the minus tide,
picking my way across weed-strewn strata
risen from sea. Wave crests, far out;
white gulls at the edge of a bay revealed,
shore beyond shore. A grey shape lifted
from hidden fissures, heron, great blue,
pterodactyl beak gliding and stabbing.

Fault lines of granite angled me out:
at my feet a skittery n
ew-winged cloud
of insects risen from chasm. I saw
how barren the channels where alien landwater
ran undersea; how fierce with life
the crevices, hollows, inlets where waves
surged and withdrew, flotsam and foam.

I stepped between weed-mounds, myriad black snails
coiled in their pearl, small anemones shut
to the air, fisting their grit-studded muscle.
I bent to the tidepools where sculpin hovered,
the sidelong hermit put forth its black limbs,
and the great anemones opened their ancient
animal flowering, corolla and mouth.

I gave thanks for the ancestors, foam cell and breath,
for the bones and the softness; for the deep flood-tides
of the young, the slowing blood-tides of the old.
For the lessons of stone, breaking down, and of water,
flowing on. For the unseen life that feeds,
and the seeing. For the great primordial light
that pulls the tilting earth; for the lesser
light pulling and heaping the seas. For all this,
and the salt in my mouth, the sea in my hands.

By Judith McCombs

Maryland poet Judith McCombs has been published in numerous literary journals. Her fifth book is The Habit of Fire: Poems Selected & New. She has held NEH and Canadian Senior Fellowships and won the Maryland State Arts Council’s highest Individual Artist Award for poetry, in 2009. She teaches at The Writer’s Center.

The Spy is pleased to reprint Ms. McCombs poetry from The Delmarva Review, Volume 8 (2015). The literary journal is published by the Eastern Shore Writers Association with additional support from private contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council. Print and digital editions are available from libraries, local bookstores, and For information, visit:

Delmarva Review: A Conversation With Lars By Rose Strode

The year of my divorce I taught Sunday school in a room the size of a large walk-in closet: a windowless, cramped pen in the gymnasium basement of a cinderblock building. At the end of every class, my four-year-old students burst forth like starlings out of a tree: chattering, swirling, looping around the gym in pandemonium. I loved to watch and to think about how good it feels to burst out of a too-small place, even if it’s a place one loves. I worked hard to make the cell assigned to me a haven, and I knew I succeeded because my old students sometimes migrated back. My most frequent visitor was Lars.

I met Lars the year before, at Sunday school “summer camp,” and we bonded. Lars was a skinny seven-year-old whose gray eyes, blond hair, and translucently pale skin reminded me of a watercolor left out in the rain. Lanky and twitchy, he stood in the doorway so those going out had to push past him. That was Lars: the kid who somehow could not figure out how to join the ever-moving flock.

I once asked him why he stood there, and he told me, “I like to watch the little kids.” Lars sometimes confided in me: why his Halloween costume had been a flop; his doubts about Santa; and his parents’ refusal to get him a kitten. All of his stories involved thwarted plans, and he seemed to brood over a worry he could not yet articulate as he watched the other children from the safety of the classroom that once had been his.

One day, as I folded a tablecloth Lars piped up: “Rose, which kids are your kids?”

I didn’t understand him at first. “I teach the four-year-olds,” I reminded him. From my classroom’s open door we could see the gym, and I pointed at my students as they raced by: “There go Jessie and Tamsin; there’s Diego on the table.”

“No, I mean, which ones are your kids,” he said, pointing right at my stomach.

“Oh,” I said. “None of those kids are mine.”

His eyes got big. “None of them?” he asked.

“Not a single, solitary one, Lars,” I replied, and tossed the tablecloth at the shelf. It missed.

“Where are they?” Lars peeked into the big carpetbag where I keep my toys, as if maybe my children hid inside. “Did your kids stay at home today?”

As I retrieved the tablecloth, I drew one of those deep breaths I find necessary before explaining something complicated to a child. “There are no children at my house,” I told him. “Even though I am the same age as a mom, I’m not a mom.” I put the tablecloth on the shelf and began picking up puppets. I paused when I realized he wasn’t moving.

“If you’re not a mom,” he said, “what are you?”

Of course I already knew that I was the only teacher in the school that was not also a mother, just as I knew all the mothers spent time together socially, but not with me. Yet I’d never wondered what conclusions their children, my students, might draw.

“I’m not sure how to answer that,” I said. “I’m just me, like you are just you. I’m the same as other people in some ways, and different in others. One difference is: I don’t have kids.”

“But,” said Lars, “I thought you liked kids.”

“Of course I like kids,” I said. “I like elephants too, but I don’t have any of those running around at my house.” I thought about that. “You know, I’m not sure how I’d even get an elephant up the stairs.”

Lars laughed, and I could have made my verbal escape by embellishing on the elephant story. But I didn’t. Part of the reason was I hated the idea he thought I was some sort of aberration because I had not reproduced. I was also motivated by Lars’s vulnerability and my hope that if I modeled sharing my feelings, he might find a way to speak of his own. I had this notion that he was like a well of clear water under the ground, which with effort might come sparkling to the surface.

But when I look back, I realize I had a third reason I did not recognize at the time, which would not allow me to turn the moment into a joke.

So instead of gliding to a safer topic, I told him: “I did want to be a mom, Lars, but it just didn’t work out that way.”

Lars handed me a rabbit puppet. “If you like kids, why don’t you just have them?”

I looked down at the puppet in my hands. “Did you ever imagine something special happening, like your birthday party you waited a long, long time for? But then when it happened, it didn’t look like the picture in your head, and even though the party was still good, you were a little disappointed?”
Lars nodded, leaning back against the wall.

“Well,” I said, “that’s what happened to me. I wanted a family with children in it. But it didn’t happen the way I thought it would. I can’t tell you all the reasons, because those are private; but the important thing is, my real life is different from the picture in my head.” I rearranged the puppets in my bag, tucking them in. “If I worry too much about the old picture, I can’t think about what new picture I might make. And I can’t enjoy the real kids already in my life, like you, if I’m always thinking about imaginary kids I don’t have.” I waited a moment to make certain he was looking at me. “I love kids, I just don’t have kids.”

“That’s sad,” said Lars, picking at a rough patch on the wall and swinging his leg.

When an adult tells me my lack of offspring is sad, it is often a kind of judgment disguised as sympathy. I braced myself. “Why is that sad, Lars?”

He shrugged, not looking at me. “Because I wanted to be friends with your kid.”

Before I could respond, he added:

“Your kid would be my best friend.”
I swallowed twice before I answered. “You would be a good best friend, Lars.”

He smiled at me. “So, when will you have some kids?” he asked. “Because I want to be their best friend.”

Would we ever run out of monkeys in this barrel? “Lars, in the new picture of my life, I am a teacher, not a mom.”

I saw Lars open his mouth. “Let me explain it this way,” I said, holding up my hand. “The other teachers have kids, and when their classes are over, they go home and are moms. But the kids in my classroom are the only kids I get. So I am a teacher all the time. It’s what I’m doing right now.”

He smiled and wound his arms around my waist. “You’re a good teacher,” he said, his voice muffled against my stomach.

I pitched my voice low so it would not shake. “Thank you, dear,” I said. My hands caressed his head as it lay against my belly. It was, I realized, the same protective, possessive caress made by pregnant women.

After a long moment, Lars leaned back to look up at me. “I still wish I could be friends with your kid,” he said.

“You had a picture in your mind that you and my child would play together,” I told him. “It’s a good picture, even if it can’t happen for real.”

“But, still,” he said.

I closed my eyes. “Yeah, I know. But, still.”

We were silent together. He did not let go, so I didn’t, either. Then he whispered, “I wish there was some real magic, like in the stories.”

When a child pines for magic, often what he’s longing for is hope. “I’ll tell you something magic, Lars,” I said. “When we are in this classroom, the children are sort of like my children. Not for real, of course, but close enough that if you want to be a friend with a child of mine, make friends with any child in the school.”

Lars’s face tightened, and his thin body tensed. Sudden trepidation flickered over me like a shadow.

He whispered, “How?”

And that was it: the question that he’d been waiting to find the words, or the courage, to ask. It was the question that summed up Lars.

I paused to think. “There are lots of ways to meet a friend,” I said at last. “But the easiest way is to find someone who needs your help. Sometimes you have to help a lot of different people before one of them becomes a friend,” I cautioned him. “But you’ll know you’ve made a friend if that person likes to help you, too.”

A sudden light filled Lars’s face. “Yeah,” he said, as if amazed. “I could do that.”

“Good,” I replied. Before he could ask me any more questions, I added, “You know, I think I saw they have cake in the gym. You’d better go get some before the other kids eat it all up.”

He dashed away without saying good-bye.

I glanced around the room. There was nothing left to put away, so I hauled my carpetbag over my shoulder and stepped through the doorway of my classroom.

Out in the gym, the parents stood facing in toward each other in little groups, their backs to me as they discussed soccer camps and parent-teacher meetings: difficult conversations for a divorced, childless woman to wedge into. Directly outside my classroom, a six-year-old girl jumped up and down, trying to reach the water fountain. Let her be, I thought. Don’t help her solve a problem she can fix on her own, just to make yourself feel necessary.

Then I saw Lars, rushing against the tide of children. His face glowed pink. In his hands he gripped the small, grubby plastic step we kept in the bathroom so kids could reach the sink. He held it over his head, like the Olympic torch. He dashed past me to the side of the girl by the water fountain.

“Here!” he crowed. “Let me help you!”

He stopped in front of the startled girl and placed the step before her. She advanced toward him then stopped, her dark eyes uncertain. Lars awkwardly held out his hand, focused as only a lonely kid can be. He was being weird again, acting out the part of a Disney prince in front of the water fountain; yet he had the intent look of a person trying to coax a young, wild animal from the shelter of the trees. Perhaps this is why the girl put her brown hand in his and stepped up to the fountain.

Lars stood frozen for an instant, then collected himself and pressed down on the lever: the silver water arced up, the girl pushed back her hair with both hands and bent her face to drink.

Then I saw Lars’s mother close beside me. She, too, noticed Lars and began to move suddenly toward the water fountain. I stuck my hand in her way and whispered, “Wait.”

“But,” she said, then stopped and whispered: “But…they need help.”

“Seems to me they’re doing fine,” I replied. “Watch.”

The girl slipped away during this exchange, but three more children arrived: Tamsin, Jessie, and a chubby toddler with fragments of Cheerios stuck to the drool on his face. Lars helped each child, and each scampered away after drinking. Lars stood alone again. One corner of his mouth drooped, his narrow shoulders slumped, and the glow in his face diminished.

Then the girl seemed to flit out of the doorway of my empty classroom. Her hand flashed out to press down the lever for the water. It leapt up, sparkling. Lars turned toward her. I could no longer see his face. He bent his head to drink, and when he finished he wiped his mouth on his wrist, sprang down, and together the two children galloped away.

Beside me Lars’s mother stared. I bent my mouth into a smile shape: I hoped it looked kind, but I was so tired I was no longer sure. “Sometimes it’s good to let the kids solve problems together,” I explained. “That’s the first step toward becoming friends.”

Lars’ mother gave me a look of admiration. “What a shame you’re not a mom,” she said.

I knew she was trying to be friendly. But still. “I’m a teacher,” I said, turning toward the door.

“Oh, but it’s just not the same,” she said, turning with me. I was afraid she’d try to put her arm around my shoulders. “There’s a bond between a parent and a child you can’t understand unless you’re a parent yourself.”

Since when, I wondered, do experiences have to be identical to be equally precious? I sped up, but Lars’s mother kept stride.

“This is such a waste of your talents,” she added, shaking her head. “You must become a mother before it is too late.”

I don’t remember what, if anything, I said in reply.

Somehow I crossed the room and left the building, climbing the concrete stairs with the rusted pipe bannister to the street. A cold, damp wind shook the flagpole lanyard so its clips clanged, metal on metal.

“Lars won’t be back,” I thought to myself. “That’s sad.” And I laughed, remembering him saying the same thing, and how it hadn’t meant what I expected.

Suddenly I wasn’t laughing. I hung onto the bannister, pulling the cool air into my lungs with deep breaths. Something seemed to be physically crushing me, and though I knew it was not real, I felt that if I let go of the bannister I would be pressed to the ground. I couldn’t seem to draw enough air into my lungs, as if the weight was squashing them closed.

“Stop it,” I thought to myself. “This is ridiculous.” But my body was not listening; my lungs were not listening. I was opening and closing my mouth like a bird stunned after flying into a window that looked like open sky.

Rose Strode, from Virginia, received a 2014 Undiscovered Voices Fellowship from The Writer’s Center, in Bethesda, MD, where she has been a student. Her personal essays have appeared in The Gettysburg Review and The Little Patuxent Review. She also studies acting at The Studio Theatre in Washington, DC.

Spy Publications is pleased to reprint Ms. Strode’s personal essay from The Delmarva Review, Volume 8 (2015). The literary journal is published by the Eastern Shore Writers Association with additional support from private contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council. Print and digital editions are available from libraries, local bookstores, and For information, visit:

Delmarva Review: On the Third Shelf of My Aunt’s Library by Rosanne Singer

On the Third Shelf of My Aunt’s Library
Picture the inch-thick phonebook of a small city,
the single-line entries, the almost-transparent pages.
Is it a myth that a great actor can make you cry
just by reciting names, addresses and numbers?
Now imagine that same book with names and birthdates only.
No one is returning home, no one will make a phone call.
This is the book of my grandmother and her small city
with its clinical name—Convoy 55, June 23, 1943.
Can there be this many pages, this many names?
She is on page 132. I want the tiny type of her name
to be raised, to feel something of someone I could never call.
Instead I read it aloud for the first time. No actor necessary.

By Rosanne Singer

Rosanne Singer is a teaching artist with the Maryland State Arts Council and part of small arts teams working with pediatric patients at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC and with military families at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda. She has been published in numerous literary journals.

The Spy is pleased to reprint Ms. Singer’s poetry from The Delmarva Review,
Volume 8 (2015). The literary journal is published by the Eastern Shore Writers Association with additional support from private contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council. Print and digital editions are available from libraries, bookstores, For information, visit:

Delmarva Review: Connected By Shawna Ervin

“Tell him your name,” the woman holding the horse’s reins said again. She looked down and twisted the toe of her boot in the dirt.

I stood several steps away from the horse and said nothing. It was morning, the shade long from the barn to the corral, reaching mud puddles lying by the fence. After a week of heavy rain, the July heat pressed on my back. Flies buzzes around me, the horses, the mud. A trickle of sweat ran from the brim of my stiff, new sun hat, along my hairline in front of my ear. I brushed it away, then rubbed the back of my hand on my jeans.

“Go ahead, tell him who you are.” The woman shifted the reins from one hand to the other and patted Cisco gently on the side of his neck.

I didn’t know what to say. I had learned of the workshop through WINGS, a nonprofit for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and had received a scholarship. Was I merely a survivor? Was I limited by other parts of my identity? Did I still harbor the little girl who liked horses and watching my dad groom them?

I considered giving a false name, maybe Gretchen or Zoe, something so unlike my given name that I could be someone with a very different past and not need the workshop at all. I stepped forward and brushed my fingers down a strip of white hair on horse’s nose.

“Hi, Cisco. I’m Shawna,” I muttered, running the syllables together. The other participant, a woman brimming with confidence and horse knowledge, boldly introduced herself to a white horse. I shuffled beside Cisco, shoved my fingers through the handle of a blue jelly brush, and hoped someone would issue a set of instructions I could master. It was quiet.

The workshop was called Horse Ibachakali, ibachakali meaning “connection” in Choctaw. The Choctaw language has several words for connection; ibachakali is the type of connection aspen trees have. On the surface each tree appears to be independent, but underground the trees belong to one large, intricate root system that holds the trees together as one, strengthening them individually and collectively. We were going to learn how to be a part of a reciprocal relationship with a horse, the instructor said.

No, I thought. I can’t. I am a liability in relationships due to the damage I’ve sustained. I will hurt the horse if I get close. I might break myself. I can’t afford closeness or connection. No.

I placed the brush tentatively on Cisco’s reddish-orange back, brushing slowly in small strokes along the side of his spine. Around me I noticed splinters in the rotting picnic table, the changing shapes of wispy clouds over me, where the paint had chipped off the metal fence. There were crops of dandelions by several fence posts, the dirt was a pale brown, more dust than dirt.

“Look at the horse,” the instructor said.

As I brushed, his hair rose and fell in tiny waves, leaving thin tracks. I followed the brush lightly with my left hand and rubbed my fingers together. They were greasy.


My dad’s hands were callused and strong. He wrapped them around my slight child’s body and held on. The calluses snagged on my skirts, the seat of my pants, nightgowns. His body was thin, his nearly six feet hunched forward, as if saying he wasn’t sure of something. Strength erupted from him with rage or desire, his frame stretching until his arms reached around me and held on like tentacles. When I moved, they squeezed tighter. It was love that I wanted.

“You’re getting so big,” he said pulling me close, looking from my hips to my chest where small bumps had appeared and were growing despite my hatred of them. “You’re so pretty.” The snaps on his Western shirts cut into my chest, the love between his legs and mine lumpy and swollen. I left my body there a series of limp limbs and escaped into fantasies in my head, focused on seams between the wood paneling and etchings in the plaster. I didn’t feel the pain when I bit my lip to keep from crying.


“Let go of any judgments, memories, or thoughts,” the workshop instructor said. “Focus on your breath and the present moment.”

I gasped a breath in and held it. With a long brush stroke, I let the breath out in a big huff, then struggled to inhale again. My eyes widened and I stepped back from the horse. Liability, I thought. The instructor walked toward me. Her shirt was green plaid, the snaps the same pearl my dad would have worn.

“Just think about your breath.” I copied her raspy, deep breaths. Inhale. Brush stroke. Exhale. Brush stroke. Inhale. Exhale. I closed my eyes and smelled manure, fresh hay, mud, dust.


“Take this one,” my dad had said when I was twelve. He quickly slipped a harness on a white horse. “Go wait up by the street. Don’t let him eat leaves or weeds.” He dropped the rope in my hand and busied himself harnessing another horse.

I longed for the privilege of going with my dad to the neighbor’s barn to groom and exercise their horses. I hadn’t been allowed to go before. That day was special; I was special too. When he leaned against the frame of my door and nonchalantly mentioned I had been good enough or was old enough to go, I crammed my feet in my shoes and scampered down the street with him.

In the barn he moved confidently, his long arms gracefully reaching for blankets, harnesses, and tightening buckles. He spun on the toes of his boots, stepping over piles of hay and sinking into soft dust. His arms and legs worked like a team, his power matching that of the horses, their partnership formed without language. My dad pressed on a horse’s shoulder; the horse moved. The horse stamped its foot; my dad shook a blanket. He pulled out a burr, held it up to the horse’s eyes, then tossed it in a trash can. From outside the barn I admired the elegant pas de deux; through the afternoon sun, dust floated gently over them like Nutcracker snowflakes.

“Almost there,” my dad said. The muscles in the horses’ backs twitched against flies.

I held the white horse’s lead rope tight under a cottonwood tree to keep the horse from eating. My knuckles were white; the frayed threads dug into my hand. The horse jerked its head toward the leaves.

“Hold that horse away from the leaves!” My dad clipped a lead rope to the other horse’s harness and started out of the barn. “Remember, you’re in control!”

I jerked the horse and saw his eyes blink.

“That’s the way.” My dad leaned forward into his steps, walking up a small hill.

My stomach burned with the shame of failure. I wanted to be special to him, worth the privilege of time with him and the confidence he had in me. His love was something to earn, something given, something I could lose even more easily if I reached for it.

I was no match for the horse’s strength. It nuzzled its nose and mouth against my arm, flared its lips, and bit. I saw the pink tissue inside my arm, then blood filling the wound in my triceps, saw my arm jerk away, as if it was someone else’s arm, as if my body was no longer mine.

My dad stretched his lips wide, flared his nose. “I told you to hold him away from the leaves!”

I waited for tears, but none came.


At the workshop it was time to try putting a harness on a horse, then walk around the corral. I lifted the harness, then stopped.

“Where does this part go?”

“Right here.” The instructor patted a spot behind the horse’s ears.

My breath sped up. I had forgotten or didn’t know how to harness a horse. My only option was to fail, I thought. Not even halfway through the workshop, I faced failing the leaders of the workshop, the horse, myself. I can’t do this.
My water bottle and keys were close. I considered silently walking away. My reasons for registering for the workshop—to reconcile who I tried to be vs who
I was meant to be—felt ridiculous in that moment. It was easier to hate my dad, every part of him, even the parts we had shared. I wanted to wipe him from my DNA, wipe away who I had been before his tenderness had transformed special into shame. To accept myself, I had to accept our shared love for horses, and let myself enjoy a connection with a horse both with and without my dad’s DNA. I had to love the pieces of my dad that were part of me. I had to love myself and learn how to connect.

“It’s OK to bend his ears. It won’t hurt him.” The instructor reached over his head and helped me put the rope harness in the correct spot. I tied a knot by the side of the horse’s face, then patted him.
“Ready to take him for a walk?”

I nodded as if following an order and took a step. Slowly the horse followed me. Inhale. Exhale. I watched my feet, thinking not of where I was going, but of where I had been. The horse pulled me toward by a patch of weeds. Oh no, I thought. I tried to pull him back gently without letting the workshop leaders see; too gently. He chewed.

“Come on,” I begged. “You can have a snack in a little bit.”

I worked hard to breathe, to tell myself that moment didn’t define me. I didn’t believe myself, my breath, anything there. I wanted to shout, stomp, and scream until my throat was raw. I wanted to run into the field past the fence and sit alone in the tall grass. I give up, I thought. I quit. I can’t connect with a person, a horse, anything. I have earned the sting of solitude.

“Keep breathing,” I heard. My breath was shallow and fast. I clenched my eyes tight and rolled my feet in my boots. My feet felt heavy. I tapped my fingers against my thigh and bit my tongue.

I’m here, I thought to the horse. We’re here. Please, tell me who I really am. Please tell me I’m OK.

The rope rested loose in my hand. Step. Inhale. Step, step, step, Exhale. Cisco’s nose flickered, his tail swished. I walked and breathed until I found a rhythm, felt and heard only the sound of my boots and Cisco’s feet. Breathe. Step. Breathe.

“Look,” the instructor whispered. Cisco and I walked in perfect rhythm. Inhale. Step. Exhale. Step. Step. I placed my free hand on the side of Cisco’s neck, expecting to pat an acknowledgement of our connection. He blinked, hung his head low in relaxation, and kept walking. I left my hand on his neck.
The instructor held a dirty thumb up and smiled. I smiled too. Ibachakali.

Cisco and I had connected. I was a part of the underground root system.
I longed to rest my head against Cisco’s neck, to feel his breath and mine together, to feel his hair on my cheek. I wanted to be close in a way that allowed me to let sadness and anger out, let tears run down his hair and fall into dots in the dirt. I wanted to say thank you in a way he’d understand, in a way that reached past words. There was no need to explain what I felt, what I had known, who I knew I was. All I needed to do was breathe.

Shawna Ervin’s nonfiction essay “Connected” was published in Volume 8 of The Delmarva Review and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Ms. Erwin is a member of Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, Colorado. She is writing a memoir about adopting her kids and what it means to belong to a family. Recent publications include poetry in Forge, and prose in The Diverse Arts Project and Sliver of Stone.

The Delmarva Review, Vol. 8, contains original prose and poetry by 35 authors, including regional writers. The literary journal is published by the Eastern Shore Writers Association with additional support from the Talbot County Arts Council and private contributions. Volume 9 will be published in November. For more information, see the website:

Delmarva Review: Romeo and Juliet, Horseshoe Crabs, May, Pickering Beach by Catherine Carter

Horseshoe crabs, May, Pickering Beach

Juliet’s helmet is clogged with eggs
like slate-blue shot (most, red knot bait.)
This is the night. She cannot wait.

Romeo is a third her size,
his head (which is his back) studded with eyes.
Sooner than unclasp, he’d die,

as many do. Along the wrackbreak lines
are strewn the corpses, hinged on the tail-spikes
that tried to thrust them free, turn them upright.

Sand-smothered, Juliet lived through
the sucked-back tide, the sunken moon,
her Romeo buried with her in the tomb,

and who among us can guess what it’s like
when, dug out, she can scrabble toward the tide,
with Romeo still clinging for dear life?

—dear life. It’s what the clawed, the mailed—the bugs,
the aliens—throw on the sand, when their cold blue blood
beats to the tides, the moon, and love.
Catherine Carter’s poem is reprinted from The Delmarva Review, Volume 8 (2015). Ms. Carter was raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and now is associate professor of English at Western Carolina University, in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Her poetry collections include The Swamp Monster at Home (LSU, 2012) and The Memory of Gills (LSU, 2006).

The Delmarva Review publishes literary fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction annually, in print and digital editions. Published by the Eastern Shore Writers Association, it welcomes outstanding submissions from all writers, regardless of residence (see the website for information: 

Delmarva Review: Gravity by Wendy Mitman Clarke

By Wendy Mitman Clarke
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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 8.05.09 AMWendy Mitman Clarke, of Centreville, Maryland, has published nonfiction in River Teeth, Smithsonian, Preservation, and National Parks. She’s the former executive editor of Chesapeake Bay Magazine, and her book of essays Window on the Chesapeake: The Bay, Its People and Places was published in 2002 (Howell Press and The Mariners’ Museum). The Delmarva Review published her first poems in its current edition (Vol. 8).

The Delmarva Review’s eighth annual issue contains original prose and poetry of 35 authors from the region and beyond. The literary journal is published by the Eastern Shore Writers Association with additional support from the Talbot County Arts Council and private contributions. For information about availability and submissions, see the website:

Delmarva Review: The Vision By Catherine Carter

The Vision
By Catherine Carter

In a rainy April evening you come into a town
you used to know. The town has changed,
just enough the same to be disturbing,
upsetting, and enough changed
to remind you that you don’t know this town
after all, not now. The rain running down
the streets blurs the lines, you can’t tell
which lane you’re in; the water makes rings
and little crowns on the black asphalt,
deeps and illusions from surfaces,
veils between trees. The traffic moves
too fast. You keep up, heading for a house
you think you could never forget
while the mind lasts; your hands know
what your mind fumbles, the sudden strange
turn at the end of a blind
curve. Your old house isn’t there, then
it is, once you realize that you’re on
the wrong part of the street, there
isn’t the right there, you’ve forgotten
after all. It’s just enough
the same to be upsetting, neither the town
you knew nor any strange
town free of associations. The rain tumbles
and drums; you’ve had dreams
like this, everything you remember lost,
and kids the age you were then
passing you like a ghost, though
you’re still alive, for now, and you’re awake.

Catherine Carter was raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She teaches at Western Carolina University Her collections of poetry include The Swamp Monster at Home  and The Memory of Gills. In addition to The Delmarva Review, her work has appeared in Best American Poetry 2009, Orion, Poetry, and Ploughshares, among others.

Her poem, “The Vision,” is reprinted from The Delmarva Review’s eighth annual issue (2015), which contains original prose and poetry of 35 authors from the region and beyond. The literary journal is published by the Eastern Shore Writers Association with additional support from the Talbot County Arts Council and private contributions. For information about availability and submissions, see the website


Delmarva Review: A Day of Firsts By Jane C. Elkin

We walked hand in hand in New Hampshire’s late summer chill, me in my checkerboard dress and my mother in her eternal Madras shorts. A fine mist bathed our legs, but I was enamored of the hand-me-down that looked most like the school clothes in the Sears catalog, and so I trusted in the sun.

Haven Elementary was three blocks from home but new to me⎯a Federal era brick box with a double-wide iron gate, like the orphanage on the edge of town. I was relieved when we used the side entrance.

Pushing our four hands hard against the massive door, nubbly as broken safety glass from decades of painting, we stepped into a vestibule paneled in mahogany wainscoting puritanical in its beauty. My nostrils flared against the smells of disinfectant, paint, paste, and dust. Cracked slate boards and desks with empty inkwells summoned the ghosts of five generations whose Buster Browns ruts warped the glossy wood floors.

We stood in line, strangers amid friends, until it was my turn to shine. I knew kindergarten admission would be easy, even though I was only four. I could see every E on the eye chart, knew my colors and the alphabet, could count all my fingers and toes, and knew that people liked me. School was going to be great. There were more toys than I knew existed, even a toy sink that squirted real water.

After free play came the medical exam at a table in the back corner, remote but in no way private. The doctor was cheerless, with wiry hair, a white lab coat, and pale women’s hands.

He weighed and measured me, pressing too hard on my head, then told me to sit on the table. He glanced at my file, nodding and grunting. His eyes said he owned me and my mother.

He pinched my ear, turning me this way and that to peer into my head. He tapped my knees with a hammer but made no jokes about my kicker as a good doctor should. He grabbed my feet and turned them till my legs hurt. He made me feel more like a doll than a person. Then he plugged a ticker-teller in his ears and told me to take off my dress.

I looked to my mother for help, speechless.

He looked at her with impatience.

She repeated his instructions, unzipping me.

I couldn’t believe what was happening. How could she expect me to undress here, for this cold man with the grabby hands? She, who had taught me to always cover up, even at home, especially in front of my father and brothers.

I panicked. “No. Don’t.”

She shushed me. “Behave.”

“NO,” I shrieked, trying to climb down, but she was too fast and strong. Off came the dress and white slip in a blur, the pastel flowers of my panties wilting in the light of day. Gulping back tears of shame, I surrendered.

It was a long walk home. My mother said she’d never been so embarrassed. “How could you behave that way?” she scolded.

I wondered the same about her.
Jane C. Elkin is the founder of The Broadneck Writers’ Workshop and author of World Class: Poem Inspired by the ESL Classroom (Apprentice House 2014). Her poetry and prose appear domestically and abroad in The Delmarva Review, Kestrel, Angle, and Steam Ticket, as well as in anthologies by Ducts, the Harvard Bookstore, and River Run Books. A graduate of Bates College, Southern Connecticut State University, and the Defense Language Institute, she is a language teacher, singer, and theater critic.

Ms. Elkin’s memoir “A Day of Firsts” was selected for The Delmarva Review’s current edition (Vol. 8), containing original prose and poetry of 35 authors from the region and beyond. The literary journal is published by the Eastern Shore Writers Association with additional support from the Talbot County Arts Council and private contributions. For information about availability and submissions, see the website:


Delmarva Review: Cold By Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll

By Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll

Late March, I pull on my skates,
venture onto the river’s ice;
slicks pool its face
but I skate the breadth,
titter at a man on shore
who kneels by a rowboat
sanding its hull—
suddenly my foot
breaks through, bitter water
sluices my boot, at once
I’m up to my waist,
hanging on to the hole, trying
to climb out, chest-deep,
I scream at the man on shore,
he only glances up, crouches deeper
against his boat, rubs the sandpaper
back and forth— I’m going to drown, there’s
no help coming from the man on shore—yet somehow
I haul myself out, crawl up the bank,
weep with anger and love.

Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll’s book Grace Only Follows won the 2010 National Federation of Press Women Contest and was a finalist for Drake University’s 2012 Emerging Writer Prize. In addition to The Delmarva Review, her poems have appeared in Naugatuck River Review, Passager, Caesura, Controlled Burn, Broadkill Review, and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is a retired piano teacher and lives in Newark, Delaware.

Ms. Ingersoll poem, “Cold,” was selected for the 2015 edition (Vol. 7) of The Delmarva Review. The new edition contains the original literary work of 35 authors, selected from more than a thousand submissions. For more information about The Delmarva Review, including submissions, see the website:


Delmarva Review: Looking Back by Helen Wickes

Looking Back
Sometimes it’s good to leave home if only
to remember who made you, where you’re from,
how you carry the scent of geranium and saddle soap,
hoof trimmings and mock orange—unbidden—as you slide
through another country, with its noises and flavors,
its precisions about gesture, what pasta tonight,
what subjunctive right now—essential encounters—

all astonishing, until missing my own people
avalanches down with a roar, grief burning to sorrow,
the days carry on, if you call it that, what remains—
sharp tang of small moments—how delicately she
eased her old dog out the door, how he wiped his face,
stomping snow from his shoes, out of hundreds
of unknowable people, lazily streaming all this Sunday
through Bologna’s huge piazza, it’s you we miss.

Ms. Wickes current poem, “Looking Back,” is one of three of her new poems selected for the 2015 edition (Vol. 8) of The Delmarva Review. The new edition contains the original literary work of 35 authors, selected from more than a thousand submissions. For more information about The Delmarva Review, including submissions, see the website:

Helen Wickes grew up in Chester County, Pennsylvania and now lives in Oakland, California. With a Ph.D. in psychology, she worked for many years as a psychotherapist. In 2002 she received an M.F.A. from Bennington College. Her first of four collections of poems, In Search of Landscape, was published in 2007 by Sixteen Rivers Press. In addition to the Delmarva Review,


Help the Spy keep Spying in Talbot County

Please support the educational mission of the non-profit Talbot Spy with a modest contribution per month to help us continue our local coverage of Talbot County’s public affairs, arts and regional culture.

Click Here to Chip In