Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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

Tuesday, December 07, 2021


by Bonnie Proudfoot

Cartoon by Clay Jones

Outside, the chirping of birds is erased
by sirens and the latest newsfeed delivers
the latest news, the camera goes back
to school for this one, what a bitch,
some shy 15-year-old, his heart tethered
to his gun, uses lead for his brand of graffiti,
he wants to be a daredevil, a showstopper,
a level up in the (anti-) social strata
Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland,
new codes for manhood. Maybe
he was always an outlier,
maybe instead of a pet ocelot,
his dad bought him a Black Friday pistol,
he posts his picture on Facebook the next day
some ephemeral way to prove that
someone loves him.
In the hallway, the slaughter.
Bullets crisscross the walls,
Bodies left to bleed out on the floor,
outside a classroom door,
a voice calls, It’s ok, bro,
it’s the police you can come out now,
But the other students
have too much skin in the game,
stagger out the back window, shake. We
see the flowers, a few more crosses
on the roadway, messages of what’s
at stake. Meanwhile in America,
Kyle Rittenhouse walks free,
Parkland students protested,
but some in the US Congress denied
that shooting even happened. We
will see gun sales spike before Christmas,
Today, it’s hunting season in Ohio,
shots ring out in the woods,
the birds become silent. Sometimes I
can’t tell where the shots are coming from,
where they are headed.

Bonnie Proudfoot is a recipient of a Fellowship for the Arts in Creative Writing from the West Virginia department of Culture and History, and has had fiction and poetry published in The Gettysburg Review, Kestrel, Sheila-Na-Gig, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, and other journals. Her first novel, Goshen Road, was published by Swallow Press in January of 2020, and was selected by the Women’s National Book Association for one of its Great Group Reads for 2020.  The novel was also long-listed for the 2021 PEN/ Hemingway award for debut fiction.