Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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, May 25, 2018


by Jan Steckel

A Border Patrol agent shot and killed a woman who had crossed the border illegally near Laredo, Tex., on Wednesday after the officer came under attack, federal authorities said. —The New York Times, May 24, 2018. Photo: A border fence in Laredo, Tex., not far from where a Border Patrol agent fatally shot a woman on Wednesday who the authorities said had illegally crossed the border. Credit: Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times.

As I walked out on the streets of Rio Bravo,
As I walked out in Rio Bravo one day,
I spied a body all wrapped up in Mylar,
Covered with Mylar, as cold as the clay.

I saw by ICE milling that she was a migrant.
Marta Martinez was filming that day.
Marta Martinez, she held up her cell phone,
Yelled at the agents who murdered the girl.

Why are you maltreating them?
What have they done to you?
You shot that girl, she yelled,
Now she’s lying there dead.

We only tased her, claimed one of the ICE men.
Tased her! snorted Marta. You shot her!
She’s lying there stone cold. She attacked us,
Said the ICE men, with blunt objects.

What blunt objects? demanded Marta,
As the ICE men dragged three campesinos
Out of the trees and into their wagon.
Plastic water bottles? I don’t see any rocks.

They were running from you when you shot,
Cried Marta in anger. She’s somebody’s daughter,
Sister, maybe mother. It’s hard to tell how old
She was with half her face shot off.

Beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly,
Play the dead march as we carry her along.
Down in the green valley, lay the sod over her.
She was a young migrant they said had done wrong.

Jan Steckel was a Harvard- and Yale-trained pediatrician who took care of Spanish-speaking children until chronic pain persuaded her to change professions to writer, poet and medical editor. She is an activist for bisexual and disability rights who lives in Oakland, California. Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Her creative writing has appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Her work won the Goodreads Newsletter Poetry Contest, a Zeiser Grant for Women Artists, the Jewel by the Bay Poetry Competition, Triplopia’s Best of the Best competition, and three Pushcart nominations.