Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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, September 18, 2020


by Pamela Devereaux Wilson

our well stopped working five days ago
i hand-pump water from storage containers
boil for cleaning, food prep and drinking
flush toilet with a pail

the physical work, breathing hazardous wildfire ash
that coats and clogs my mask as temperatures reach 80
advised to stay indoors but i pray best under the old apple tree
today we are told we have the worst air quality in the world

500,000 people, a tenth of Oregon's population, evacuated
when they go home, will they find piles of smoldering ash
where their lives were once lived and fulfilled
22 missing at least 10 dead

millions of acres of Oregon's Cascades blackened for years
i may never see it green again nor walk forests of wade rivers
when rains come, hillsides will flow into rivers—crisis within crisis

many are water insecure - travel miles for water
dwindling or polluted sources
greed, corruption—survive every day without potable water

drenched in this heat, breathing ash-filled air
my dog won't go outside
my head aches constantly—i don't have water—I can't breathe

in tears i rage—i can't fix anything for anyone right now
do you know how much five gallons of Costco water costs

so i haul, pump, boil, cool and pour water
write this poem for my hopeful grandchildren
full of spunk, promise and joy yet I shall not
share the despair this poem sings --
                                                                                             without clean water
                                                                                          without breathable air life
                                                                                              stutters stumbles dies

Pamela Devereaux Wilson lives on acreage north of Corvallis in the Luckimute Watershed. There she gardens, continues to learn about herbal medicine and writes. As she ages, changes, uninvited and unforeseen have begun to shape her writing but the influence of her grandchildren has been a steady force.