Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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, June 19, 2020


by Richard Fox

“SeeSaw” by Leyla Murr (2009)

Ronnie approaches me. I point the tip of my cane at him.
Oops, he says. Forgot you’re one of those social distancing freaks.
Don’t worry, You walk your side of the street and I’ll walk mine.

I wear a mask and face shield. His face is uncovered.
He sneezes. No problem, man. Just allergies.

I lower my cane, ask Ronnie how he’s doing with the quarantine.
He shakes his head, steps towards me, stops, hold his palms out.

Oops. Keep screwing up. I can’t deal with this Coronavirus crap.
How many people you know who’ve died? How many had their lives messed up?
Like me. I’m down to three days a week at work. Masks are mandatory.
My boss comes by when I have mine down—trying to get some oxygen—
sends me home. I lose another day’s pay for this bullshit.

He spits on the sidewalk. I twirl my cane.

Like, you need a mask. You’re sick—so protect yourself. That’s cool.
But why do healthy people have to wear them? Don’t I have rights?

I wonder how his family’s doing.

Little Kenny and I watch Korean baseball. Only game in town.
Daphne complains. Wants to do jigsaw puzzles or watch kid’s movies.
Thinks we should take this opportunity to paint the inside of the house.
I’m tired from all this doing nothing. Can’t go out to eat. Or to the bar.
Hey—did you sell your Prius? My Porsche is for sale.

I tell him my license was pulled after neurosurgery. Deficient vision.

Oh wow. You’re stuck home—forever. That sucks.
But hey—how you doing with that cancer?

I answer—stable.

Oh wow! You’re in remission? Outstanding. Congratulations!

I say, No, not remission. Stable. Cancer’s still in my lungs.
It’s not going but it’s not growing.

Damn it! replies Ronnie. Oh man, that’s shitty. I’m sorry I asked.
Not trying to upset you—you look great, especially

I think, someone who’s dying. Flash an invisible grin.

Nah, Ronnie. Stable is excellent cancer news.
A good scan means ninety days on vacation until the next one.
Like the Red Sox, I get to play this summer.

I swing my cane like a Louisville Slugger.

When not writing about rock ’n roll or youthful transgressions, Richard Fox focuses on cancer from the patient’s point of view drawing on hope, humor, and unforeseen gifts. He is the author of four poetry collections, the latest embracing the burlesque of collateral damage (Big Table, 2020). His poem "Skating on the Edge of Flesh" won the 2017 Frank O'Hara Award.