Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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

Saturday, April 21, 2012


by Carol Alexander

We do it, but with less fanfare.
Where once a crowd in Sunday best,
munching chestnuts, held children up
to watch the jittery gallows dance,
we lay out sterile needles on the tray,
needles that betray the raging blood
short-circuiting riotous artery and vein.

Now rewind to the indelible frame:
the mother with her smoking pipe
attacks the rain upon the screen,
while children braided to a fault
anatomize the foul and flooding street.

Rough justice from the fraying rope
should bitterly appall the novice heart;
yet somehow thorns grow up around that heart.
Children of the pipe and drain, relentless,
stream into the city’s maw, tattooed and torn.
The rows of workers sit, unhinged,
uneasy buttocks on the varnished bench.

Such stories of the skin and knife,
such bitters left from judge’s glass of gin.

How should we plead in that great skein
that tangles knife and wound?
What sentiment should be crushed out
so that the bright annealing fire
burns the dross but spares the suspect gold?

In the strong cage of the city
in the stench of cells
the guards walk up and down.
A pack of smokes, a whispered curse,
the young girls weeping in their lace:
the judge instructs us
these are not our load, but rest upon
the burden or the flim flam of the state.

Once, twice, we sat on that same dreary bench,
a pulsing in our own precarious veins.
We could not help but look, to hold the eyes
of that young man, so unremarkable a child,
quartered here, soon to be drawn.

Blind justice, flakes of tobacco in its robe,
left us in a double blind, set upon,
smelling our way to Dover.

A writer for trade and educational publishing, Carol Alexander has authored numerous children’s books, served as a ghostwriter for radio and trade publishing, and taught at colleges around the metropolitan area. In 2011-2012, her poetry appears—or is scheduled to appear-- in literary journals and anthologies published by Avocet, Boyne Berries (UK), Chiron Review, Cave Moon Press, The Canary, Danse Macabre, Earthspeak, Eunoia Review, Fade Poetry Journal (UK), Fat Daddy’s Farm Press, Fried Chicken and Coffee, The Mad Hatter’s Review, Mobius, Numinous, OVS, Red Poppy Review, Red River Review, River Poets Journal, Sleeping Cat Books, The Whistling Fire, and Write Wing Publishing.