Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


by Janice D. Soderling

Here I am, back home in the land of the free and the brave
where fewer are free and many required to have courage.
A rainy morning, the bus backs out from its slot,
the driver honks like a steamship captain leaving the dock.
Across the aisle is a thirty-something pretending to be a kid,
his belly hanging over red bermuda shorts, his dirty red
dunks on the seat. He swerves through excuses. "Forget it,"
he says, "forget it." Every politico wears a flag pin and the Court
says corporations are persons, and the war on poverty mystically
became a war on the poor. The trendiest Wall is domestic.
A red state is not a reference to Russia, but to a Republican bastion.
When the wall fell in Berlin, protest poetry plunged out of fashion.
That was way back in 1986, Sandinista, Khomeini, arms for hostages,
Ollie the supporting actor, Ron the Baddest crying in the backwaters,
preparing the political way. That was the year of Iran-Contra.
Who remembers? Who these days can find Nicaragua
on the map let alone spell it? Can that fat man-boy, barking
into his cell phone at his mom? That selfsame year Mr. Gorbachev
released Irina Ratushinskaya from a long prison sentence
handed down for poetry-writing addiction. Who remembers?
In prison Irina suffered multiple concussions and US poets took notice.
Now jail concussions are as commonplace as tear gas and tasers.
Who remembers that the Court declared abortion was a fundamental right
Martin Luther King got a federal holiday
Who will rescue the dignity of snitched autopsy reports declaimed as poetry
at academic forums? I am home again, home again, where something honestly
important has been forgotten, torn down, jettisoned, jerry-built,
abandoned, collapsing around our ears. The bus enters the freeway:
again so much hate in the air, the American nightmare, waves of banker gain,
and marginal difference between tabloid TV and election campaigns
because bad cooks are spaciously in control and the biggest political party
these days is the party of non-voters. Who reads poetry anyway,
and what was that black woman's name, the one found dead in her cell,
that Illinois academic pulled over in Texas for an improper lane change?

Janice D. Soderling is a frequent contributor to The New Verse News.