Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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, July 15, 2020


a quarantine poem in four parts
by Jill Crainshaw

Painting M004351 from Life? or Theatre? by Charlotte Salomon at the Jewish Historical Museum.


she blew in on lenten winds
i think i’ll stay awhile
be your muse until this thing ends
her left eye winked a suspicious smile

you plan to stay awhile?
she tossed an ancient tweed jacket on a chair
looked at me with a smile
pushed back her fedora, twirled her hair

i eyed the tweed lounging careless on the chair
her costume convinced me—well, almost
the faded fedora, the uncontained wisps of hair
who are you? i smiled—a suspicious host

though her costume convinced me—almost
that she harbored dubious ends
who are you? i smiled—a guarded host
when strangers blow in on lenten winds


today i harvest the tomatoes i prayed for yesterday
she’s still here—says she’s a poet but i am unsure
no pen or paper, not much to say
she just watches me, smiles--a quaint saboteur

she’s still here--insists she’s a poet but i am unsure
what are you writing? i’d like to know
she just watches me, smiles—a quaint saboteur
who arrived uninvited, interrupting my flow

tell me again, what are you writing? i am eager to know
it’s not everyday a poet moves into my space
arrives uninvited, interrupts my flow
wearing a faded fedora and a dubious smile on her face

no, i’ve never had a poet move into my space
tell me—how can i rhyme your presence away?
because you are here uninvited, interrupting my flow
while i harvest summer tomatoes i prayed for yesterday


the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
she waxed eloquent when i queried her work
i don’t know what she meant—she’s a shroud of mystery
and her presence here? a self-satisfied smirk

as she waxes eloquent when i query her work
which, if you must know, lacks reason and rhyme
and undermines her presence here, her self-satisfied smirk
what? is writing poetry considered a crime?

well, no—unless it lacks reason and rhyme
okay then—look at your hands, the lines in your face
i’m writing poetry right there and that can’t be a crime
we need to mark the moment—we need to leave a trace

she’s right—i see my hands, the lines in my face
a poem is emerging in the body of me
she’s writing it down; is that such a crime
when we know that the apple falls close to the tree?


she blew in on lenten winds
brought with her a threadbare refrain
i never meant for us to be forever friends
but telling her to go has been in vain

she just keeps repeating her threadbare refrain
“you are dust; to dust you shall return”
and asking her to go has been in vain
her tweed’s still in the chair—no end to her sojourn

“we are dust; to dust we shall return”
she keeps saying—her eyes full of hope
just let me stay—expand my poetic sojourn
let’s rhyme our way together out of this weary worn out trope

she says it again—her eyes bright with hope
shining from beneath her fedora—her hope never ends
let’s rhyme ourselves away from this hackneyed hopeless trope
and see where we can travel if we follow different winds

Jill Crainshaw is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a liturgical theology professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.