Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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, November 20, 2013


by Penelope Scambly Schott

Do I need to say I was twenty-one, my boy just four months,
my breasts still tight with milk,

my bare feet unwrinkled, and even the part in my hair
was sad?

The apartment got smaller, the kitchen table uglier,
the window gray with fog,

and all I could breathe was diaper pail deodorant
and my husband’s indifferent tobacco.

My one comfort was the warm gust from the floor vent
ballooning my white flannel nightgown.

I had thought carefully about this whole situation
and because I did want to be a good mother,

I had decided I couldn’t proceed to poison myself
without suffocating my baby first.

Then the phone rang and somebody I barely knew
said, The President has been shot.

My tiny kitchen filled up with ambulances, black limos,
the book depository, the grassy knoll,

until the moment when Kennedy was pronounced dead,
and I stood there shocked and frozen,

and then, suddenly, it came to me that maybe,
just maybe, I didn’t need to kill us,

and as I stood there holding my jolly baby,
I breathed out from healthy young lungs

the waxy gardenias of the dead.

Penelope Scambly Schott’s newest books are Lovesong for Dufur and Lillie Was a Goddess, Lillie Was a Whore.   She lives in Portland and Dufur, Oregon.