Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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

Thursday, July 13, 2017


by Mark Ward

Image source: The New Yorker, July 3, 2017: “The Gay Men Who Fled Chechnya’s Purge.” See also “How a Russian Journalist Exposed the Anti-Gay Crackdown in Chechnya,” The New Yorker, June 10, 2017.

Chechnya 2017

I say nothing. The police interrogate me,
start to break me with electricity. I scream but
say nothing. I will only live if I say nothing.
Each shock dissolves the words they speak,
the taunts they throw, they've always known,
my whole community responds with voltage.

I no longer understand their language.
I am a tourist mixed up in all of this
waiting for my embassy to free me
and be a near miss story I'll tell to the man
who loves me, who will never leave me
like this: eighteen, severed, unkissed. 

I'm put in with thirty others; battery hens,
nowhere to move but for our sins, held
together by tears, the persistence of skin
and a confirmation, unintended by them,
that there are more of us. We cannot sleep so
we speak our secrets since it can't get worse. 

I jolt awake to see the boy beside me staring.
He’s from a few villages over, yet we've never
met. The hand that woke me keeps contact, his lips
open slightly. I can't breathe looking at that. My first kiss
approaches. We're being watched. All I want is this
but I shake my head no; saying nothing, but living. 

I lose track of days, of beatings. The wounds
no longer heal, keep bleeding. I am so thirsty,
I am starving. I cannot concentrate. I hear them
laughing. Or is that me when they ask me
questions. I will not speak. I will not lessen.
I'm dehydrated and delirious. I imagine a life

where I grow up somewhere else and this
would be a conversation, a status update,
an aspect of me. The village boy is dead.
I no longer sleep. I am a corollary. I dream.
There are millions like me, sleeping tonight.
I say nothing but still lose the fight.

Mark Ward is a poet from Dublin, Ireland. With his own poems  featured in many journals and anthologies, Ward founded and edits Impossible Archetype: A Journal of LGBTQ+ Poetry. He has completed two books, a chap called Circumference and a full-length collection called How to Live When Life Subtracts. He has watched every episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race many, many times.