Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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

Monday, February 11, 2019


by Marsha Owens

When did he have an epiphany? she asked
unclear about how one is racist and then is not.

I know how life meanders, doesn’t march
in straight lines like VMI cadets stepping
around Stonewall Jackson’s horse, its body
stained with white and black blood before it
was stuffed and saluted, forever revered.

Her name was LaVinia, her body stout,
her words few, her work for my Mama—
clean toilets and stiffly pressed sheets,
her days long, two bus rides from Richmond
to the freshly coifed suburbs, all-white.

I didn’t know why LaVinia fixed sandwiches
for my brother and me but none for herself.

His name was Pete, lanky and dark, head bowed
to say, Mornin’ Ma’am to my Mama, Mornin’ Missy
to me, a five-year-old. His work for my Daddy—
boards nailed, shingles hauled up the ladder, laid
out just so—a few dollars at day’s end.

I didn’t know why Pete sat outside on the stoop
at lunchtime, eating his hot dog on a paper plate.

I swam in the culture into which I was born,
1950s, somewhere between slavery’s end
and the Act called Civil Rights.

I stumbled with other white people away
from horrible injustices and strode towards
desegregated neighborhoods, integrated schools,
JFK, MLK, Trayvon Martin, President Obama.

I listened and learned, read and reflected,
laughed and cried with new friends whose
memories were not mine, nor mine theirs.
No epiphany, just life. And I voted

“for the person who cares about all people,”
Daddy said in his old age, simplistic political
advice that had evolved over a lifetime
and became the politics I chose to follow.

Marsha Owens is a retired educator who still lives and writes in Richmond, VA. She voted for Ralph Northam and Mark Herring, not because they are perfect, but because their policies support "all people."