Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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, March 16, 2022


by Dick Altman

in New Mexico

Smoke and fire, Ukraine’s signature  in the morning
paper, tells the physical story. Lines of people leading
to nowhere.  Second day headline to yesterday’s photo
of a pregnant woman on stretcher in front of a bombed
hospital: Mother-to-be dies.  The configuration of living,
dying, dead looms out of history’s mists, as I look
across pueblos of Rio Grande’s valley.  The great pall
of misery that binds Ukraine and Indian Country.
Treaties broken. Tectonics of people, like moving
land masses, shifting, transforming the human
landscape.  People driven like herded cattle, to slaughter. 
America’s East cleansing the Native heartland. Manifest
destiny’s tsunami sweeping Indians aside, all the way
to the Pacific.  Cultures’ flesh and bone left to decompose
on prairie, high desert plains, lowlands.  Dig up
the nameless graves, if you can find them.  The soil doesn’t
distinguish between Indian and Ukrainian. Worms eat
to the same bone.  Digital worms in one monumental hack
could disarm America’s defenses.  Shut down the grid. 
Prevent plane and missile from launching.  Go to sleep
in the dark and wake, ten hours later, to discover thousands
of alien aircraft have landed all over America.  And you
discover you no longer live in the land of the free.  You
want to escape, but to where.  Software that runs your car
has been high-jacked.  Look out to the street and strange
uniforms shove your neighbors into a line.  Like
American soldiers dismantling Indian villages that believed,
by treaty, the land was theirs.  Like Ukrainians waking
to ground and aerial attack.  Living on New Mexico’s
high desert plain, at seven thousand feet, might seem like
I’m literally above it all.  This is Indian Country.  My stock,
though not  my   eastern  European  forebears, nearly
obliterated Indigenous territory. Across the street and down
the  block, survives a   ten-foot   square of sacred, protected
ground. A metaphor of diminishment at the heart of one
civilization’s rise, another’s living burial.

Dick Altman writes in the high, thin, magical air of Santa Fe, NM, where, at 7,000 feet, reality and imagination often blur. He is published in Santa Fe Literary Review, American Journal of Poetry, riverSedge, Fredericksburg Literary Review, Foliate Oak, Blue Line, THE Magazine, Humana obscura, The Offbeat, Haunted Waters Press, Split Rock Review, The RavensPerch, Beyond Words, Sky Island Journal, and others here and abroad.  A poetry winner of Santa Fe New Mexican’s annual literary competition, he has in progress two collections of some 100 published poems.  His work has been selected for the forthcoming first volume of The New Mexico Anthology of Poetry to be published by the New Mexico Museum Press.