Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


by Stefanie Botelho

They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried. -Tim O’Brien

The Things We Said
The last phone call
Before your deployment
To Afghanistan
I could only imagine
Sand, fatigues, the void
Of you gone
You kept our goodbye
Neat, short

This was the first time I
Mean the phrase
I love you
As a shield, a warm blanket
Saying them again
So they would cover you
Over ocean, desert
I suck on my cigarette
As the words surface
Will the smoke
To absorb my tears

The Things We Hid:
In letters
Fears entrenched
In spaces between words
The first reports of gun fire exchanged
Delivered in muted tones on AM radio
Our mother clenched my hand
Her pinched face
Framed in the car window
A portrait
Of nausea gauging my insides
Of reality railroading to tragedy

Your letters home
Indecipherably cheery
Only good news
Amusing tidbits
The ego trip
Of chocolate eyed
Kandahari women
Treating you
Like a superhero
Kids slipping you
Mild 88 cigarettes, illegal whiskey

I’ll learn later
You lost a Corporal in your battalion
2nd L.A.R., Bravo Company, 3rd Platoon
To enemy fire at an observation post
My ears covered to this loss
Amidst your chaos
You refused to give
More reasons
For me to worry

The Things They Said:
Sitting next to you
After the welcome home parade
At our nicked dining room table
Listening to the reporter from
The Danbury News-Times
Fire question after question
Barely taking time to reload
He shoots,
You kill anybody over there?

You shift in the padded chair
Your gaze splicing
Between the reporter
And me
Your little sister
Holding in my breath
For the answer
Your hesitation
Already gave
Your head drops
Raising your eyes to him,
Do you really have to print that?

The Things That Remain:
The armor of I love you.
We don’t talk about it as
Much as I’ve read we should
The relief of having you home
Relinquishing the need
To revisit what you left behind
After we’ve both had a few beers
I tiptoe around questions
About your nightmares
Your memory lapses
Your souvenir photos of bodies
Limbs strewn around corpses
Like confetti
At a birthday party
In Hell
The things we carry
Too heavy
For us to begin to unravel

Stefanie Botelho, self-described book dork and devoted follower of the written word, recently graduated with a B.A. in English from Southern Connecticut State University, and was inducted into Sigma Tau Delta (The International English Honor Society) before graduation.