Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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, October 10, 2018


by Kathleen A. Lawrence

She put her cold hand over my mouth,
she whispered hotly in my ear
a wet warning, “don’t talk about it.”
She ordered me to keep his secret,
their secrets become our secrets,
their sins we own, if we share what should
be buried, for country, and for tradition.
Silence is your patriotic virtue,
your civic duty to keep it to yourself.
Swallow the pain, spare us your burden.
“Shhh!” she blew with heavy, minty breath
in my face like a school librarian
who didn’t like her job, she glared
at me with the eyes of a water moccasin,
never blinking, she repeated her threat
to everything good I had ever known,
every future I had ever dreamed,
she swatted away my annoying truths,
she laughed uproariously at my viridity,
innocence, naivety, and guilelessness,
and pelted me with any other Ivy League
language she could spit and spatter
my way. To intimidate me, she put all
her boozy weight on top of me,
covering me like a wool blanket
at a rainy homecoming game,
she left me raw, itchy, confused
and unsure I’d ever get rid of the need
to scratch, to tell, to scream out
spilling her secrets, their secrets,
that kept them standing on marble,
speaking under alabaster columns,
holding conferences to tell their stories.
She held me down, like a pile-up
on the playground when you couldn’t see,
or breathe, or scream, but you knew
you knew them just the same. You
knew his face, like you knew
your own sweat, and stomach ache,
and migraine, and fear of the dark.
Leaning on me she excused herself,
her own participation, she spoke kindly
of her own parents, old like mine,
but obviously not as important.
She stood without empathy while keeping
me locked in another room upstairs,
over and over, blaming me and my sisters,
aunts, friends, little girls not yet able to speak,
and anyone who spoke, tried to speak.
But I was muffled, suffocating with her thick
deference to men. She gulped water
for fuel and fury and shouted of her anger.
She looked down with a whiff of pity
and smarminess, high with condescension,
drunk with power, unhinged with desire
to overpower me and feeling superior
from the artificial height of her leather pumps.
She wished I was still, quiet, subdued,
still asleep in my tower. But I am awake.
Locked in a bathroom, at a party,
dragged into a bush, cornered in a bar,
shoved into the backseat, and I scream
without sound. She covered her ears
to my words, her eyes to my struggling,
and uses her mouth instead to tell his lies
and to keep me the liar. She was not rumpled,
her manicured hands washed with rose hips.
She proudly marked the date with Sharpee
on her calendar with a gold star for her ability
to twist, conquer, silence, strip, and grope
the truth all without a wrinkle, smudge or tear
to her well-pressed suit. Like the cunning asp
slithering down the flag pole she has silenced me,
before the stars and stripes and Alexander
and Anita. She has humiliated me, and hissed
a reminder of what will happen to anyone else
who tries to get away with the truth.

Author’s Note: This piece was written as a reaction to the extensive news coverage of Senator Susan Collins delivering her lengthy, self-indulgent, speech to provide explication and some might say excuses for her decision to vote in support of Kavanaugh's acceptance to the Supreme Court. Her desperate rhetoric tried to explain the irony of her assertion that she, like many of her Republican colleagues thought Dr. Blasey Ford's testimony was wholly believable and 'compelling' however, she still didn't believe her testimony or find it reason enough to stall her approval. Many of the senators said they thought something must have happened to the 'nice lady' they just don't think it involved Kavanaugh and that she must be 'mixed up.' They were quick to add that while they were impressed with what seemed to be her 'truthful' testimony they think the whole situation is a case of mistaken identity. Some questioned her ability to recall all the details, and T**mp even mocked her about this. The way she's been treated is despicable and more classic, blaming the victim, or assaulting the assaulted. This poem tries to get at the idea that Collins was telling another woman to keep her mouth shut. In my opinion, she has joined the enablers. She tells Blasey Ford and millions of other women and girls and yes, some men and boys to keep quiet. Like the mother who calls her daughter a liar, for accusing her step-dad of assault and warns her that they could lose everything if she tells anyone, the message is clear. That no one will believe her. I tried to use the details of Dr. Ford's description of the assault she endured as well as some of the other details of other women giving testimony across the country this week interwoven with the assault on the truth.

Kathleen A. Lawrence was born in Rochester—home of the Garbage Plate, Kodachrome, and Cab Calloway. She has been an educator for over 35 years, teaching Communication, Popular Culture, and Gender Studies at SUNY Cortland. She started writing poetry two years ago and her favorite challenge is the spiraling abecedarian. She has had poems appear in Rattle online for Poets Respond®, Scryptic, Eye to the Telescope, Parody Magazine, and Inigo Online Magazine. She's had poems nominated for the Rhysling Award and twice for the "Best of the Net" award. Her poem "Just Rosie" was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.