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Friday, September 30, 2022


by Susan Vespoli 

Three bullets pop from the back of my son’s head
shiny, bloodless, sailing up the barrel of a gun

that tucks itself into the holster at the hip
of a 25-year-old policeman who still dreams
of the person he shot 11 months earlier,
still jolts awake screaming,      I’m sorry!
My son, no longer dead, returns to the bus
and falls asleep, traveling to the previous morning          
at 6:00 a.m., where he and his unhoused comrades
slumber in the underpass tunnel by the freeway.
No thoughts of bullets enter his head. Cops who arrive

at daybreak look around, say, I’m sorry, do not tackle them, snicker,
arrest them for “sleeping in a public place.” Instead, they pass out blankets,
coffee, flyers for shelters; see the wheelchair, the crutches, the backpacks,

people shivering from the cold, not fear of the badge, the taunt, the violent
ego of those hired by taxpayers to be protectors, peacekeepers.

Susan Vespoli writes from Phoenix, AZ where she believes in the power of writing to heal. Before her son was killed in March 2022, she told him about the poems she wrote about him and addiction in their family. He was quiet and then turned to her and said, "If the poems can help others, then good."

Editor's Note: The New Verse News previously published two of long-time contributor Susan Vespoli's poems about the killing of her son by police: "Before I Knew Adam Had Died" and "My Ex-Husband Calls To Tell Me Our Son Has Been Shot By Police."

Thursday, September 29, 2022


by Robbie Gamble

News item: scientists are jubilant
as a golf cart-sized hunk of space
payload pulled up and T-boned
a minor asteroid a touch more
massive than Fenway Park—
a veritable bullseye—our first
home entry into the extraterrestrial
demolition derby. Newsfeeds showed
grainy shots of an apparent pumice
stone looming in the void, then
a blank screen, followed by polo-
shirted Mission Control engineers
high-fiving and avowing “This one’s
for the dinosaurs!” as if they
might have changed the course
of paleontology had NASA been
operational back at the end
of the Cretaceous Era. Today
we are watching as Hurricane
Ian, a Cat 4 beast, is slamming
into the Florida Gulf Coast, and I
bet there’s a whole bunch of golf
carts being swept inland with
the storm surge, while the governor
hunkers behind hasty barricades
of banned books, and the Red Sox
might have to relocate for next
spring training. A certain president
floated the notion of nuking hurricanes
back out into open water. Hmm. And
there was also that business of beating
a virus back with bleach. In space,
no one can hear you tee off.

Robbie Gamble (he/him) is the author of A Can of Pinto Beans (Lily Poetry Review Press, 2022). His poems have appeared in the Atlanta Review, Lunch Ticket, RHINO, Salamander, and The Sun. He divides his time between Boston and Vermont. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022


by Elane Gutterman

About a dozen teen girls in a secret book club in Afghanistan are reading—and finding comfort in—Anne Frank's diary. Arzou, one of participants, said it was the first time they had read the firsthand account of a teenage girl living through extreme hardship. "I think Anne Frank is like, as a friend for me," she said. Photo: Diaa Hadid. —NPR, September 11, 2022.

I don’t want to live in vain like most people
In a basement at the edge of Kabul, at a secret
      book club,
a dozen teenage girls defy the Taliban,
feed their curiosity, exercise their minds,
connect to a Jewish girl from a distant time and
I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people
In translated books, the girls find themes to tunnel
      through darkness. 
Volunteer leaders steer the conversations, probe
      with questions. 
Girls like Arzou discover a kinship with Kitty—
      Anne’s diary, relate 
to bickering with mom, crush on Peter, resolve not
      to lose hope.
Even those I’ve never met
What brave teens, they’ve survived suicide
losses, terrors, hardships of their Hazara minority.
In the past year, they’ve cried and tried to 
the Taliban’s intent to cover, confine, undermine
I want to go on living even after my death
Masouma finds comfort in Anne’s diary, despite
      her grasp
of Anne’s horrific end. These teenage girls of
now all dream of writing a book. Zahra says,
knows how long I will live, or when I will die.” 

Editor's Note: The italicized lines are quotations from Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl.

Elane Gutterman is a trustee and the literary chair at the West Windsor Arts Center. Her poems invoking social justice have appeared in prior issues of The New Verse News. Her first book of poetry, Tides of Expectation (Kelsay Books), was published earlier this year. She dedicates this poem to the brave girls in the secret book club in Kabul and to one remarkable Afghani girl who arrived in Santa Fe, NM this week to begin tenth grade studies there.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022


by Ana Doina

Tweet by Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad 9/16/22

Dark clouds covered the sky 

for months before the year 

Troy fell prey to a wooden horse.


Scientists now tell 

nothing had been growing 

for years before chieftains  

took their tribes

in search of better pastures,

warring one another for the right 

to greener valleys.


Homer decries 

the face of a beautiful woman

for the first war,

but tree stumps 

tell of darkness, drought;

the bowels of the earth tell

of roaming hordes 

drifting, losing their roots.

The underworld 

brings back abandoned hearths, 

jars still full of honey, tools, 

cradles, toys,


buried where a fighter fell.


The scientists can’t yet tell

what covered the sun, what 

drove the peaceful herdsman 

to take up arms and leave 

the simple habits 

of his pasture, 

but back there, where ancient empires

used to thrive, five thousand years on 

and, still, a woman’s face, 

even when veiled, 

is blamed. Is doomed.

Ana Doina, Romanian-born American writer living in New Jersey, left Romania during the Ceausescu regime. Her poems appeared in numerous print and online magazines, anthologies, and textbooks. She won Honorable Mention in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Awards for Poems on the Jewish Experience contest in 2007, and three of her poems were nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2002, 2003, and 2004

Monday, September 26, 2022


by Hiba Heba

for the flood victims of Pakistan

A heavily flooded home in Rajo Nizamani village, near Jhirk, Sept. 10. Credit: Hassaan Gondal for TIME.
You can help the UN World Food Programme—the world’s largest humanitarian agency—provide life-saving food to the most vulnerable families. CLICK HERE TO DONATE NOW.

Koyal chirps / in the dark street /
Leaves / barks / magnolias / roofied by the dark street /
The moon is blighting / the sky / in this poem / this poem is a dark street /
We played cricket / in the same desolate / streets /
I bled / between my legs / bled the size of a vat / in this dark street /
Tonight I dangle / my legs over the railing / thinking / mourning /
O Dark Street / how loud is your thunder / of desolateness /
even the clouds /  denounced it /  they rained / raged / bled /

In Urdu when it rains / we say / badal baras rahe hain:
the clouds are falling / falling / tearing through /
the fearful blue / of the dark street /

Every night I call Daisy / home / from my kitchen’s old window /
every night / she prances over the railing / then in my arms /
I trust these long / misleading / dark streets /
the streets hold / together / our tenderness /

When a mother wades / through the cloudy / deluge /
ululating the names / of her children / Musa / Musa / Musa /
she knows all / that has drowned / will eventually
be found / when the clouds ascend / even the tenderness /
now holding itself / against / the koyal-gloom / of the dark street /

Hiba Heba is a Pakistani poet who recently launched an online business, RepairInk, that provides editing and proofreading services. She was the first runner-up for the New Feathers Award 2021. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Eunoia Review, Fragmented Voices, The Ofi Press and Poetry Wales, among others. Hiba has a micro-chapbook, Grief is a Firefly (Origami Poems Project, 2021), and her debut full-length poetry collection Birth of a Mural will be published by the US-based Golden Dragonfly Press in October, 2022. 

Sunday, September 25, 2022


by Dion Farquhar 

I’m Omicron, son of Delta

I skipped generations

from four to fifteen

letters of the Greek alphabet

I’ve outrun Delta

gone after 200,000 more

surpassed a million  

despite decrees, desires

for the old normal

—that hell

for everyone (but the dead)

to get back to work

forget your boosters

travel bans and masks

after all this time 

you still don’t get what global means

you may be faster

smarter now

but after two and a half years

so am I

your rich country as backward

as the ones you’ve impoverished                                                                           

but you win again, America

tally the most dead

so dream on about “herd immunity” 

your unvaxed forty percent

still my gateway

and I’m here to stay

Dion Farquhar has recent poems in Non-Binary Review, Superpresent, Blind Field, Poesis, Cape Rock: Poetry, Poydras Review, Mortar, Local Nomad, Columbia Poetry Review, moria, Shifter,BlazeVOX, etc. Her third poetry book Don’t Bother is in press at Finishing Line Press, and she has three chapbooks. She works as an exploited adjunct at two universities, but still loves the classroom, and she is active in the University of California Santa Cruz adjunct union, the UC-AFT. 

Saturday, September 24, 2022


There were emotional scenes in the eastern Siberian republic Buryatia as drafted men said goodbye to their families. Credit: Ayuna Shagdurova, The Guardian, September 23, 2022

Earl Wilcox is a Korean War vet, a retired university professor, and contributor to The New Verse News since 2005. 

Friday, September 23, 2022


by Dustin Michael

It's not often you find a bright side to drought, but in Texas, the heat and lack of rain have uncovered dinosaur tracks from 113 million years. The tracks were unveiled at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas — about an hour's drive from Fort Worth. The park is known for its dinosaur tracks, but these newer ones are usually covered with water from the Paluxy River and aren't visible. NPR, August 25, 2022

In the photograph you perch atop your tall chair,
a Mesozoic predator with a smaller dinosaur–in this case
a plastic stegosaurus mailed to you by your Uncle Richie.
Your skin pallid, papery like a new fossil exposed to air,
your lifeless smile a museum skeleton, you were four years old, 
my son, and it was just spring, and no one knew you
had leukemia or how close to death you were. 

The floods arrived, tests and tears, swift currents 
sweeping you across town to the children’s hospital 
clutching your favorite things. I discovered you each day 
washed up on the bank of your hospital bed, wires and tubes 
twisted around your withered limbs like prehistoric vines.
For our home, you became a mysteriously vanished creature, 
a question sleeping at the end of a trail of footprints,
and I became a scientist logging your every trace,
following your ancient tracks, cataloging your fragments 
while your nurses and doctors reconstructed you. 

Now, each time I think I have you adequately described 
and slouch toward the podium of my heart to proclaim,
“I hereby present my findings so the world will know
this child, my little boy, who roamed this very Earth—”
more evidence appears, the sediment of my hours 
is scoured away to reveal more mundane marks 
made sacred by distance, disaster, the old economics 
of despair: your preschool mat on the floor like a shed skin, 
your crayon drawing of our family, crumpled, a primordial leaf, 
your t-shirt sleeve peeking like an ancient tooth 
from the laundry pile, and the wondrous sets of trackways 
I found one afternoon when I collapsed face-down on the floor 
near where you and your puppy used to play, 
the tiny footprints tell where you both scurried in 
from a sudden storm, faint mud on laminate flooring, 
puppy and boy, a cataclysm of joy frozen in time. 

Spring was a hundred million years ago and in every second since
I have lived a life of hope and mourning. These new tracks emerged 
from behind my tears like your toys when I would drain the bath. 
Where do they lead? Perhaps to the children’s hospital 
and your den of blankets and tubes, or to the counter 
and the photo of your dying child’s smile,
or into an uncertain future where I 
cannot see you, surely because
you are only bounding ahead. 

Dustin Michael lives with his family in Georgia, where he teaches English writing and literature. He and his wife share blogging duties at, where they write about their son, Phin, who was recently diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.

Thursday, September 22, 2022


by Dick Altman

“Megadrought in the American south-west: a climate disaster unseen in 1,200 years.” -The Guardian,  September 12, 2022

Whenever I see the word—
I want to dismantle it                                
Dthe letter—is easy—
delete and destroy
the most unforgiving letter—to me—
letter O—like a wolf’s maw—
whose mandible blades the heart—
as I watch high desert’s drought
wolf whatever’s in reach
of its insatiable jaws… 
            Golden seas of shimmering
cow-pen daisies
Billowing swarms of insects
that sustain night hawk and bat
Purple Russian Sage beloved
of bees
Acequias—historic hand-dug
streams—feeding pasture
and crop
Rio Grande turned
into a waterless highway
of sand
Weakened pine—long needle
and short—decimated
by bark beetle
Every dead tree a depleted
trove of oxygen
If drought were a song—I’d hear  
a one-note elegy of unyielding spareness—
a flameless fire unfurling in three-quarter
time—a waterless flood whose silent
music swallows all it touches—insistent
waltz whose slow cadences fool hope—
clouds swollen with broken melodies—
cisterns hollow with minor-key emptiness—
Aspen’s metallic yellow of fall chorusing
a month too soon
Call me a fool to plant a small forest
of trees—when I build here at seven-
thousand feet in Indian Country—half
of these children—if I may call them that—
fail to survive—no defense against a force
ghostly—merciless in its fury to gorge
on blood from leaf/petal/earth—flame
never seen—flood never felt—rapacious
lupine shadow hidden in the dark of light

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, The New Verse News, 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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022


by Harold Oberman

This poem doesn’t go as far as it used to.
In the past, twelve lines would wrap it up,
Say all we wanted to say,
But now each word buys a little less,
Each syllable strains to make a complete sound,
And we’re left wanting,

Hungering in the margins,
Left short each stanza,
Straining to make it work,
Straining to just get by
In an economy
With a fixed amount of words
But extravagant combinations.

Harold Oberman is a poet and lawyer writing in Charleston, S.C. He has appeared recently in The New Verse News, The Free State Review, An Anthology of Low Country Poets, and has been honored by the Poetry Society of South Carolina.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022


by Steven Kent

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
are full of passionate intensity." 
—W.B. Yeats, "The Second Coming"

“I thought I was writing fiction in The Handmaid’s Tale.”  
—Margaret Atwood, The Atlantic, May 13, 2022

"It cannot happen here," we claim;

"Our country couldn't be that bad!"

But we may live to find the fame

M. Atwood found in Gilead.

Steven Kent is the poetic alter ego of writer, musician, and Oxford comma enthusiast Kent Burnside. His work appears in Light, Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, and OEDILF, among others.

Monday, September 19, 2022


by Robert Wildwood

When Lever Alejos of Venezuela arrived at the southern border penniless in July, he gladly accepted a free bus ride to Washington, D.C., courtesy of the state of Texas. He had no family or friends to receive him, and spent one night in the plaza across from Union Station. He soon settled into a homeless shelter. “I have nothing,” Mr. Alejos, 29, said on his third day in the city, “but I have the will to work and succeed.” Two months later, Mr. Alejos is making between $600 to $700 a week, saving up to buy a used car and planning to move out of the shelter. “There is so much opportunity here,” he said on Thursday, at the end of a day’s work. “You just have to take advantage of it.” —The New York Times, September 18, 2022

“Immigrants are taking our jobs”

after he said that to me

I wondered how it could be true

that a person with little capital and

only the possessions they carried

was so powerful that

they could “Take” a job from someone.

   Everytime I ever got a job

I had to ask for it

and a job was offered to me.

   Talk about the capitalists who

are giving jobs away to

desperate people willing to accept lower pay

Inside our country or worldwide.

   Talk about the capitalists who

turned their back on you and your family

to exploit a vulnerable working class population

the immigrants.

   Follow the money and see 

who is the real thief

Robert Wildwood, a poet from Duluth, Minnesota, makes his living as a nurse.

Sunday, September 18, 2022


by Annie Cowell

The queue for Queen Elizabeth II's lying-in-state is visible from space in this photo taken Sept. 16, 2022. (Image credit: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies @Maxar via

We feel
it is a very
British thing,
the queue.
That we 
invented it,
monopolise it,
transformed it
into art. 
We queue,
best foot
forward, wearing
stiff upper lips,
plumes of
peacock pride.
For centuries 
we have practised; 
in war time 
ration lines, 
It agitates 
our sense
of fairness;
we are ready
to be tested, 
to fight 
for our 
we have
the mother
of all 
A record 
for miles,
like the
Thames through 
the heart 
of London.
A pulsing
tail of 
from Britain 
and abroad
eager to 
a marathon
of waiting
and be a part 
of history.
No agitation
here, instead
a camaraderie
of shared
of sorrow.
At last,
there is
the end.
A pause,
in which
to bow 
our heads.
Pay respects.
it seems,
to say

Annie Cowell  grew up in Northern England. She is a former teacher who lives by the sea in Cyprus with her husband and rescue dogs. She is widely published in Popshot Quarterly, The Milk House, Paddler Press, and more. Her debut chapbook Birth Mote(s) is now available.