Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


by John E. Simonds

A generation only cares so much
for those who’ve passed
and shuffled to the door.
Courtly courtesies and step asides
give way in time to retro scorn
for things the elders left undone,
failed to do enough about,
didn’t see as problems—
asbestos, landfills, toxic waste,
tobacco, landmines, poison sprays,
abattoirs, unequal pay in tropic lands,
children tricking tourists to survive,
neighbors butchered for their faith or looks,
prisons, mental bins some states ran like zoos,
park creatures warming on sidewalk grates
blood past dried before we knew it spilled.

I don’t think we realized…
Actually, it was the law…

What choice did we have?

People seemed to like living with their own…

(inside the red-lined blocks
where banks wouldn’t lend and

Realtors kept the market in their lock box…)

Women don’t need to make as much because

(a) they’re single (b) their husbands work…
Migrants, happy to be getting paid at all…

The barbed wire protected both sides…

We tore down all those trees to print your books…

We got more done with the doors closed…

If the hammer hits them right, the cattle never feel a thing…
That’s humane slaughter;
our oxymoron wasn’t gored...
It was stuff we sprayed to get rid of the leaves…

Always done that way, but it could never happen now…

Following orders led us to believe…Who knew?

Our bads, results of well-meant tries
that read today as compromise and later, lies,
on tomorrow’s courtroom screen,
as cascading bones and socketed skulls
plowed on the blades
of war-crime excavators
unearthing evidence, Exhibits A through Z,
in bulldozed piles of horror.

Initial frowning doubts (you knew about this, right?)
sour to annoyed (how could you let it happen?)
as the past becomes a body count
of benign neglect morphing to atrocities,
then atro-states and atro-nations of the planet,
places where we red-lined our misgivings
but waited for the world to change us...
waited for the law to make the changing safe.

John Simonds is a retired Honolulu daily newspaper editor and former mainland journalist who has lived in Hawaii since the 1970s.