Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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, December 10, 2014


by Jonathan Travelstead

In-processing. Sunnyside High School, Tucson

The square-jawed sergeant snatches my orders.
Nothing that matters burns in the desert. Congratulations,
Airman First Class- You’re a medic. Shunts me
to a female private beneath the basketball hoop who,
with an IV and an orange bruised soft as skin,
instructs me with lessons on the military’s care towards aliens.
Cups my orange-clasped hand in hers. Finds the sweet spot
in four or less punctures. Suddenly it’s my lone hand

which holds the fruit. My hand puncturing its rind
with eighteen gauge holes like pinpoint windows
I imagine unlatch from the inside. Because the only beliefs
that matter in battle are attendance, minutes later
I find myself burdened beneath kevlar, a helmet
two wars old and missing its lining. Topographic maps
of dusty cattle-roads (useless after the first washout)
winged under one arm. Under the other, orders amended

with signatures validating my crude proficiency in Tex-Mex,
the Law of Armed Conflict, rules of engagement
briefings, and a crash course in medical training
to include intubation on all things American. America.
Where the line items that qualify for participation include
1) Warm Body, and 2) Able to throw a loaded die.
Just then the barefaced, double butterbar lieutenant
marches from the bivouac of a coach’s office

to a know-nothing airman planted at attention
beneath the free throw line. The way he exchanges salutes
of diplomatic importance, recites phonetically, de rigueur
from an index card as if each word were a sharp-edged stone
tumbled, slicing at the thin flesh in his mouth:
Como fway to entry nameento? It’s not me there at all,
but a boy, or a body-double who does not hesitate, says Si
just as the keys to a medic’s humvee and all its bastard

line-and-tackle plop into his outstretched hand. Tylenol.
Cases of Gatorade’s yellow electrolyte gruel
we dare not ask whose hands on what assembly line
in which Latin-speaking country have filled and capped.
A backboard projecting from the canvas window,
and he- newly-christened honorary phd in guardship,
Grand Poo-bah of Sonora’s mesas - is the one charged
with stitching together all the dotted lines.

Jonathan Travelstead served in the Air Force National Guard for six years as a firefighter and currently works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro. Having finished his MFA at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, he now works on an old dirt-bike he hopes will one day get him to the salt flats of Bolivia. He has published work in The Iowa Review and on among others, and his first collection How We Bury Our Dead by Cobalt/Thumbnail Press is forthcoming in February, 2015.