At The Mime Party

Madeline Vardell


Loudest in the room of muted dusks and

monochromes, she is very self-conscious

about her dress. A splash of grape juice,

spilled jelly against the tablecloth’s snow.


With nude lips, sealed and straining, she pretends

it’s a costume. She mimes her best Brigitte Bardot.

None of the other mimes will show her their acts

or give her flowers around the punchbowl.


And you have taken it upon yourself to freeze

in motion, a small crowd gathering to the left

of your elbow. I suppose you are performance

art. And I suppose she is abandonment.

first draft // Wallflowering at the Mime Party

I am very self-conscious     about my costume

my tail’s scales keep talking OUTLOUD. None of the mimes will

show me their acts or give me flowers around the punchbowl.

So I drag my tail to the aquarium in the corner. It is  filled with fish.

Ugly fish. Dogfish, foamy mouthed and yellow-eyed. My scales!

Begin humming, Hound Dog while the fish mime for me: take a hike.

Instead I dance. I yank a skinny mime by the

turtleneck. I am both Elvis and a Vegas showgirl. My

tail is pumping.

I keep dancing. The mimes are unsure about the unscripted.

I am still unsure about       the kittenfish.


Madeline's Commentary


“Wallflowering at the Mime Party” began as single poem in a sequence of poems; I think the third or fourth. I had just read Alice Notley’s Culture of One, was fascinated by her writing process, and trying it out for myself. To my understanding, Notley didn’t painstakingly revise individual poems in this book, but would make concessions, have the speaker change her mind, and so forth in later poems. For instance, a character might be introduced as a cousin, and in a later poem be reintroduced as a niece. That is, instead of revising the first poem, all changes occur in future poems.

I wrote a series of poems, attempting to use this process of revision, but I am no Alice Notley, and I soon left this process behind.

“At the Mime Party” attempts to do some of the work that the surrounding poems from my original sequence did. And it’s clearly revised. This version pays more attention to line breaks, sound, and form. The content of the poem itself is, perhaps, odd, so my revision here attempts to give the poem structure in its quatrains and controlled line breaks. I chose to abandon the caesuras and other ruptures that made the world of the poem unstable. And I am uncomfortable saying that this version is finished; I’m one of those people who thinks a poem is never quite done, or I have yet to ever write one.

Madeline Vardell is a MFA candidate at New Mexico State University. Her poems have appeared in The Cleveland Review, and  in Rhino[PANK], & Whiskey Island.She lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico.