Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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, June 17, 2020


by Shirley JonesLuke

Detail from “Answers to Your Protest Questions” by Chelsea Saunders at The Nib, June 12, 2020

Inequality is store security following
It’s the inconsistent punishment from
a teacher for breaking a class rule
it’s the number of times you were stopped
by the police, as you walked or drove home
It’s being fired & taking twice as long to find a job
It’s being an ex-con and no one wants to hire you
It’s having a name on a resume—Jaquita, Kamal, or Rayshawn then being placed in the circular file.  It’s listening to your grandmother tell stories about the marches in the sixties or your mom telling you about being called nigger when she was a freshman in college during the eighties or how even now you hold your child tightly as a police car rolls by, watching your every move. It’s being Black in America and bracing for battle every time you leave the house. Or it’s forgetting your roots & embracing the shucking & jiving that Society wants to see. You entertain & you live another day. You resist & they’ll kill you. It’s a living death versus death. A burden Black folk carry & they can’t carry it anymore.

Shirley JonesLuke is an activist, essayist, and poet living in Boston, Mass. She has an MFA from Emerson College. Her work focuses on culture, race, and society. Shirley has attended workshops at Breadloaf, Tin House, and VONA. She is working on a poetry manuscript.