Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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, September 04, 2015


by Llyn Clague

Cagle Cartoons via The Tennessean


My heart leaps up and clangs
against a ceramic roof curved like the sky
and chunks fall down with loud bangs
when I read about the anti-’s willing to use any factoid or lie
as artillery, to shoot down
Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

I too was, and still am, at heart an anti-
a gunner aiming at high-flying authority
since early childhood, when images of ack-ack against the bombers
flaking in the night sky
burned on my memory.  I became
an outright oppo, sometimes even frantic
over power, ever suspicious of the Bargain
made over my head, by Them, with muscularity.

But one thing my anti- was, and is – is
implacably (if belligerently) anti-war – is
never against reaching across the divide
to try, however hard, to make peace with the Enemy –
Communist or Cong, Chinese or Cheney –
who was, and is, also, always, inside.

In my heart as well (if paradoxically) I yearned,
and still yearn, to find
that, in the Other, beyond No –
a possible basis
for a collaborative Yes.


Tricky Dick to Beijing, Sunny Ronnie with Moscow,
but it’s Nervous Neville to Prague
that gives the anti’s their analogue.
The Iranians just might lie and cheat
like Hitler.

With their history    
of subterfuge about centrifuges,
of hiding and deceit,
I must admit
the obvious: not all pacts work out.

Adamantly I am anti- those anti-’s
from the know-nothing yahoo
to mad Netanyahu
to the more reasoned (if political) oppo’s and sidewalk vigilantes –
who bluster, better no deal than this;
who insist, to compromise with Them is to appease;
who, if war we must – well, better sooner!

But there is, beyond rumor,
a chance they are right.


My heart leaps up and plinks
against a flat plaster ceiling
and flakes drift down, falling
silently as snow in sand bins.

The specter of my anti-
weakening … of losing certainty
haunts me.

Up close,
Obama’s nuclear maneuver
is not personal, like loss
of face, or fighting the self-crippling demons
you or I try to suppress, even (if dishonestly) deny.

But his, and Khamenei’s, willingness
to reach across ocean and mountain,
past each other’s “Great Satan,”
above their own intense, entrenched resistance,
to make a pact
over the defining radical of our epoch,
speaks to a personal belief, in each,
of, in the other, a humanity
that proclaims an affirming Yes.

Llyn Clague’s poems have been published widely, including in Ibbetson Street, Atlanta Review, Wisconsin Review, California Quarterly, Main Street Rag, New York Quarterly, and other magazines.  His seventh book, Hard-Edged and Childlike, was published by Main Street Rag in September, 2014.