Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at] No simultaneous submissions.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, June 11, 2024


by Bill Garvey

The government doubts his
cancer was caused by Camp Lejeune.
How do you know he was even there? they ask. 
We lived in New Bern North Carolina, 
she says, and every day Bill took the bus to Cherry Point 
or Camp Lejeune depending on his orders.
But even if he was at Camp Lejeune,
how do you know he drank the water?
It was hot, May to September 1952.
I'm sure he drank the water.
Were you with him at Lejeune?
Did you witness him drink the water?
Of course I wasn't with him. 
Of course I didn't witness... 
So for all you know he could have quenched
his thirst with an ice-cold Coca-Cola.
Or even a Ginger Ale. For all you know he was never 
exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune. 
I was madly in love with a Marine 
with crooked teeth and a cocky grin. 
Every day from May to September he came 
home to me seventy-two years ago,
clean and showered, so handsome 
in his crisp uniform, stepping from the bus 
into our tiny apartment, ready for me. 
Embracing me so close I forgot all about the heat. 
I'll always remember how good he smelled 
at the end of a long day, his hair still damp from 
your showers, not a whiff of Coca-Cola—
or even a Ginger Ale—on his lips.

Author's note: This is a true story. My mother is 93, still sharp, and she is suing the US government for my father's death from kidney and renal cancer in 1977, when the world was ignorant to Lejeune.

Bill Garvey's collection of poetry The basement on Biella was published in 2023 by DarkWinter Press. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Rattle, One Art, San Antonio Review, Connecticut River Review, Cimarron Review, The New Verse News, The New Quarterly and others.