Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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, October 07, 2011


by Susan Gabrielle

Which do you think would be cooler:
fighting a war in the desert, or fighting a war in the jungle?

Slack-jawed I stare at him, unable to answer back at first
Who is this 12-year-old in my kitchen, eating my food, wiping the milky mustache with the back of his hand like some Cro-Magnon?
Is this really as far as we’ve come after all our time on earth, with our upright-walking, our fire-taming, our tool-making skills?  Ah, tool making.
My mind runs over the list of where I might have gone wrong in my parenting:

no violent TV shows – check
no realistic toy guns – check
no video games glorifying war – check
no plastic Army guys (Although my ex slipped him a few cowboys and Indians when I wasn’t looking.  Could that be the cause?)

I never thought a library card would become my worst enemy
A military parade of books – tanks, Vietnam War, aircraft carriers, weapons of destruction, Navy SEALs, attack helicopters – the selection is good there
What happened to Dr. Seuss, what happened to toy trains, what happened?

Fighting in the desert must be pretty hot, I finally say
a joke that isn’t funny, to keep the conversation light when it weighs heavy
Mom, he says, with the eye-roll
Voice calm, I remind myself.  Don’t panic.
He’s just asking.
War isn’t cool, honey
People die in wars, whole families are lost

But he’s gone already, out to watch for Charlie
Wood scraps transformed into an M16, or maybe a SAW
Dressed in green, since I won’t buy him camo gear.  Gotta blend in, he tells me.
His buddy comes over to help patrol, their conversations low and secretive, hushed further when I’m near
Still, I catch: pretend you get shot in the leg, you’re surrounded, use the tree fort as your lookout base, here’s a pine cone for a hand grenade, pull the pin and pitch it

He checks the paper daily for the latest skirmishes in Tikrit, in Kabul
Checks the statistics there along with the scores of his favorite baseball teams
The Padres won, so did the Phillies
followed by
I wonder what a suicide bomber looks like when he explodes
I wonder, too, but don’t have any answers to this
I don’t have answers to a lot of things these days, these years of war

I threaten (in my mind) to have a full evening of violence, of blood, of pain, show him the true glories of war
Full Metal Jacket followed by Saving Private Ryan followed by The Deer Hunter followed by
On and on this way until he’s crying, until he gets it
Maybe then, maybe just then

But what if he doesn’t get it?
And what if the only one in the room crying is me?
What then?

Susan Gabrielle is an adjunct writing instructor at a university, and obtained her MFA from University of San Francisco.  She has had work published in the The Christian Science Monitor, TheBatShat, and local publications.  Susan is currently at work on a poetry chapbook, War Games.