Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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

Thursday, May 19, 2022


by Paula J. Lambert

Most nights this week, there will be more birds in the air above
this country than people in beds down below.” —Josh Sokol

Just as the birds, distracted by light
that splits the star they follow into sparks
and mirrors so they never see the towers
that reach out to kill them, just as the birds,
so entranced by needs they cannot explain
that they propel themselves steadfastly
forward through all the wildfires we set 
for them (if they recognize their own 

plummeting numbers when they emerge 
from the smoke, they don’t show it, 
they keep flying) just as the birds 
soar even through their own sleep as, 

one by one by one, they die of thirst 
or starvation or exhaustion, falling into fields 
and ditches and sidewalks, mountain peaks
and seldom-seen valleys, just as they 

keep going, season after season, year after 
year, eon after unfathomable eon, so we 
sleep through it all in our beds below, 
writhing maybe through tangles of sheets 

and the existential threat we’ve made
of our lives—we who’ve lived long enough 
to multiply every problem we inherited, 
who’ve ignored or angrily explained away 

the desperate patterns of our own migration—
but sleeping, blithely unwilling to do more
than worry while, awake, we grab our keys 
and cameras and binoculars and go,
to the marshes, waterways and wild places
still left, still untrampled, still—unbeknownst
to us—part of the twisted dreams and difficult
truths we rarely remember, come morning. 

Paula J. Lambert has authored several collections of poetry including The Ghost of Every Feathered Thing (FutureCycle 2022) and How to See the World (Bottom Dog 2020). Awarded PEN America's L'Engle-Rahman Prize for Mentorship, Lambert's poetry and prose has been supported by the Ohio Arts Council, the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Her work has been nominated for several Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes.