Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


by Buff Whitman-Bradley

                                                                        -- for Thomas Evans of  Nanwalek

The man tells us he came to the annual meeting from his tiny seaside village in Alaska to explain to the shareholders and executives that by dumping toxic chemicals into the water they are killing his people.

The man tells us he expected that once the shareholders and executives understood this they would put a stop to the dumping.

The man says that when the shareholders and executives dismissed what he told them with the wave of a hand, he realized that they had no intention of making things right.

The man speaks what is sacred. The shareholders and executives listen only to what is profane.

The man speaks in whales and eagles, in walruses and salmon and bears.  The shareholders and executives do not understand him.  The shareholders and executives listen only to money.

The man speaks in family and community and ancestors, in dignity and decency and tradition. The shareholders and executives do not understand him.  They listen only to money and corpses. The crisp snap of $10,000 bills.  The dull thud of the bodies of the poor and powerless as they are stacked on top of each other like barrels of oil to be turned into cash.

The shareholders and executives have themselves become corpses, barbered and manicured cadavers in expensive silk suits. The man assumed he would be meeting with living human beings, not with the living dead. He was not prepared for the absence in their eyes.  He was not prepared to see that the lives of his people mean less than nothing to the shareholders and executives who wield such great power.

As the man from the tiny seaside village in Alaska speaks of this, we think, He must be very angry.  But he is not angry.  We watch him weep.  We have never seen sorrow so pure and entire, like the very last sadness at the end of the world. We are watching his heart break right in front of us and all the cameras.  We don’t know what to do except to say that we are sorry.

Inside the corporate palazzo, the hollow oligarchs wrap up their annual meeting, patting each others' lifeless backs, shaking each others' lifeless hands, congratulating themselves on another profitable year.

Buff Whitman-Bradley's poetry has appeared in many print and online journals.  With his wife Cynthia he is co-producer/director of the award-winning documentary film, Outside In,  and co-editor of the forthcoming book About Face: GI Resisters Turn Against War (PM Press, 2011).  He is also co-producer/director of the documentary Por Que Venimos.