Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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

Sunday, September 12, 2021


by Nicholas Katsanis

An Afghan soldier pops up from his tank to signal a U.S. warplane bombing Al Qaeda fighters in the White Mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan on Dec. 10, 2001.(David Guttenfelder / Associated Press via the Los Angeles Times)

The owls and the crows are at war
Embroiled in bitter struggle for control of their dominion
Ill-defined by borders and perceived advantages

The owls are old and therefore wise
Or so they tell themselves to make-belief
Convince their childrens’ children of their superiority
Supremacy of poise and purpose, they persist
Until foibles morph into fact,
Poorly begotten truth whose tangled roots are lost—conveniently—in antiquity

The crows are young, confident, energetic
The skies’ embrace belong to them, they preach
For they are fast and nimble
Intimidating in their murder, or so they teach their children
Schooling them in the virtue of their virility, their singularity of purpose

The owls and crows are at war
Bickering over holes in trees
Despite the endless forest that surrounds them

Beak on beak and claw on claw
They decimate each other’s numbers
Each pointless victory and defeat
Treated by triumphalism and defiance in equal measure

The owls’ corpses are offered eternal absolution
The crows’ mangled bodies heavenly promise of peace and honey
Both declaring divine providence over the Final Rights
Both bereft of true wisdom

The owls and the crows were at war
Embroiled in bitter struggle for control of their dominion
Until the lightning in the forest burned
And the rain fell upon the smoldering stumps

And there was nothing left to war over

Author’s Note: Inspired by the Panchatantra collection of classic Indian fables, this adaptation examines the current/perpetual secular and religious tension in Afghanistan post-collapse.

Nicholas Katsanis is an author and poet of magical realism. You can find some of his micro fiction (50-word stories, stories in 100 words) as well upcoming pieces in Literary Stories and elsewhere (including magazines that do not have the word ‘Story’ in their titles). He lives and works in southern Florida. Follow him on Twitter @nicholaskatsan1