Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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

Friday, February 20, 2009


By Bradley McIlwain

You know I don’t believe what they say, that dead men
Tell no tales – I have heard their stories at fruit stands
And checkouts across America, those who are missing
In action or just returned from war – and I have seen
Their pictures in the morning paper, carefully inserted –
Each face is personal. I have stood among their graves
And wept, too many countless dead – know one really
Knows how many. The other day I visited the grave of
The American Soldier known only to God, the site of
Arlington’s Unknowns – whose sealed bones cry out
For identification, visited daily by thousands of tourists –
Just like the liberty bell. But there are no bells here, only
Tears – and there are no sounds but guns – twenty-one
Of them angry, pointed at heaven. The bullets pierce my
Heart. I have recently spoken with a soldier’s widow
And a mother, who has seen both below the ground
Before their time. She asks me when they’ll end the war.
I tell her soon – in reality I don’t know, none of us do.
I continue reading the editorials of the ones we’ve lost, of
The ones gone missing – still waiting to be returned. The
Women down the street have started a church group, and
There are frequent candle light vigils for a safe return.
They sing Hosanna in the Highest – their echoes reach
My windowsill at night, and I think about how quickly
Their songs become elegies. I drown in them nightly,
Hoping that someone will hear. Sometimes I think about
Whitman, and hear the sad songs of America stretch
Across the countryside at night – can you hear them
Whitman? These are the songs of change. In the morning
I will read the columns again that once more give faces
To the dead, to those returned from war or those who are
Missing in action – but maybe soon the war will end.
Maybe soon it’ll all be over. I have heard on the news they
Will shut down Guantanamo Bay. Maybe these are the
Songs of change.

Bradley McIlwain is a Canadian based writer and poet. He is currently finishing his undergraduate education in English Literature, and is working on his first chapbook. His work has been published in Wanderings Magazine and others.