Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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

Saturday, January 16, 2021


by John Hodgen

Heading in to the Quickie Mart I can tell right away something’s wrong, 

the kid behind the counter with the plexi-glass wrap-around going at it  

with a customer, giving him a piece of her mind, or more. I think perhaps  

she caught him stealing, or worse, but he’s a business guy, gray suit, gray tie,  

and when I open the door it’s not anger at all, it’s passion I’m hearing,   

passion in a Quickie Mart. She’s just a kid, early 20’s or so, hair pulled back,  

masked, oversized glasses fogged up. She’s saying, …when even we can see  

what’s going on, us average people, people like us, then you know something’s wrong.  

And the man doesn’t speak, just nods and turns away, goes past me  

like a broken ghost, back to the world again. And I turn to her in this  

tiny temple where we all come and go for milk and tickets and cigarettes  

and gas, and ask her what it is that all of us should know, all us average people  

who gas and gulp and come and go. She says, …the Capitol, what those people did. 

And I tell her I agree, it’s a sacred place, that they call it the People’s House, 

that Lincoln ended slavery there with the 13th Amendment in the Capitol,  

that when you’re actually there it feels more like a church. And then I can’t stop.  

I tell her it’s good what you did, speaking up like that. I tell her Siddhartha  

says your birthday isn’t really the day that you’re born. It’s the first time  

you stand up to your parents, to anyone with power over you, and tell them  

the truth. That’s the day when you’re truly born, when you first come alive.  

I want to say she was smiling, gleaming like a newborn held up to the light,  

but she was wearing a mask. I gave her a twenty for pump number five. 

John Hodgen, Writer-in-Residence at Assumption University, won the AWP Prize for Grace (University of Pittsburgh Press). His new book is The Lord of Everywhere (Lynx House/University of Washington Press).