Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Monday, January 09, 2006


by Martin Ott

War has a mind of its own even as your officers
believe they are in the driver’s seat of a lumbering

mechanical beast. War never sleeps, melting gold
harps from sacked halls, ravishing fertile vines,

tossing children like porcelain dolls in a sandlot,
abandoned or worse. War is a bully you cannot

trust to return to the leash. In your dreams,
it tightens your neck in the collar and yanks

you along elephant boneyards, sunken ships,
coliseum ruins, prayer beads and wailing walls.

War is a prankster, lord of the jammed rifle,
smart bomb turned dumb in mothers’ bosoms,

land mines poised with potty mouths, a salute
with no arms. War is laughter from someone

you love to hate, a well with no bottom
but the missing, a button that causes you

to fumble in breathless youth and old age.
War will wound you whether you believe

it or not, pull the trigger or not, capture it
by the balls or feed it from your plate.

Look war in the eyes. Gauge its will.
Know it is you on any day you choose.

A Russian linguist and military interrogator during the Cold War, Martin Ott currently works as a writer and editor in Los Angeles. He has published stories in over a dozen magazines and has optioned three screenplays. A finalist for the Bluestem Poetry Award, the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry and the Carnegie Mellon University Press (Open Reading), Ott’s poetry appears in over fifty magazines and anthologies. His chapbook Misery Loves was published by Red Dancefloor Press.