Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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, May 29, 2019


by Mary K O'Melveny

“This is the only place where I can relax and feel free, even if it’s only for a few hours,” Hadis Lessani Delijam said recently as she sat at a coffee shop, her hair uncovered, and chatted with two young men in Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times, May 25, 2019

who knew escape
could be simple
like this   my cup
steaming  hints of
cardamom spice
drops of honey
our round table
thin metal chairs
tremble as we
laugh  full throated

here in Kabul
laughter often
eludes   cloistered
behind headscarves
after all who smiles
freely when she
is camouflaged
I ask my friends
this question  as
we settle in

easier now
than in our youth
we talk of peace
how we prefer
noisy songs of
blackbirds   warblers
drongos  bluethroats
to drone whines
or sidewalk bombs

how we worry
Taliban elders
sitting at tables
in Doha with
will force us from
these safe spaces
whirling back to

here   coffee in
one hand    my nails
red as poppies
I look through love
notes posted on
the café wallboard
I belong to
no one   this fact
will fuel my
path to freedom

Mary K O'Melveny is a recently retired labor rights attorney who lives in Washington DC and Woodstock NY.  Her work has appeared in various print and on-line journals. Her first poetry chapbook A Woman of a Certain Age is available from Finishing Line Press.