Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
February 2003
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Poems on this Page:

The Existentialists

by James Conroy
Dawn: the heat of day
is still a rim of morning.
Here, in Algeria, Camus
rises with a headache. There
is no compromise - he realizes
this now and his strangeness is
suddenly strange to him.

Midday: the air and body
diffuse water and salt. Here,
down a Paris sidestreet, Sartre
bangs his fist on the desk just
to hear the noise. The glasses
tremble forward on the bridge
of his nose. He will notice when
vision becomes as important as action.

Twilight: below, the jungle
deepens in green-black shadows.
Hammarskjold, wary but unafraid,
remembers flying over the desert;
there had been so many places
to land.

A Fallen Goddess

by William Marr
He could not find the slightest crack
on the idol that he picked up from the floor
wiping off the dust
he put it back in the high niche

Last night's earthquake
caused the downfall
that shook his faith

Now that all is well
no doubt he will go on with his worship

But the goddess who descended to earth last night
knows the man has failed her test
by repeatedly turning and inspecting
he has shattered her inner parts

First Love

by Barbara Cagle Ray
Julie sat quietly in the little white schoolhouse;
She was a pretty girl with long golden curls.
Beside her sat a boy with a devilish grin;
He didn't seem to notice the fair-haired girl.

Deep inside, Julie felt a strange new stirring;
She wiggled restlessly on the old wooden seat.
When she'd lift her eyes and glance at Bobby,
Her innocent heart seemed to skip a beat.

When the teacher entered and sat at her desk,
The class was startled by a sudden scream--
"Bobby, this will get you another ten licks;
I see you've put gum in my chair again!"

Tears began to roll down Julie's sad face;
She raised her hand and spoke respectfully.
"Teacher, I guess I'll take the licks today,
Cause the one who put the gum there was me."

At recess, Bobby found Julie on the closet floor;
She was lowering her pretty blue eyes in shame.
"Julie, you know I put the gum in the chair;
Why'd you lie for me and take all the blame?"

Julie's soft hand touched his guilt-ridden face,
As she whispered, "Bobby, I sure wish I knew;
You see, I've never felt this way before--
Do you think it could be because I love you?"

Part Two

Sixty years later, Bobby gazed at Julie,
His golden-haired angel, sent from above.
She still hadn't lost her innocent smile,
And she'd definitely learned about true love.

"Julie, my dear, come sit here beside me;
Please read to me before I fall asleep."
She slowly made her way over to his bed,
Reached out her hand and caressed his cheek.

"My dear Julie, I know you must be tired,
But could you manage a page or two somehow?"
Julie reached for her latest novel on the table--
It was titled, Loved You Then, Love You Now.


by Bob McCarthy
read Holy books
play my recorder
write poetry

be kind to old people
be kind to children
be kind to butterflies

sip green tea

Open Water

by Thom Schmidt
Just as you thought
- Safety -
Land on the horizon
Destiny in hand
The course
- again

A new wind
Is it the remaining swells
of a distant storm?
Long broken
of its own volition

Never mind,
the change has come
Fogging the glass of your internal compass

You set sail
Pointing the bow
From shore

by which star
points toward


Aftermath, September 11, 2001
by Sister Meg Holden, FSP
Long lines
of bewildered firefighters
wearily weave themselves
in a steady stream
into the entrance of heaven.

They are met
by a long-time resident
New York City Firefighter,
Thomas Holden, 1927 - 56,
Engine Company 232, Brooklyn.

Shaking hands with each one of them,
he looks into their astonished faces
and smiles,
welcoming them into heaven.


by Carlos Bellamy
If I had to come
back to Earth
and I could choose
what I wanted
to be
not saying it's true
just if I could
I'd like to
come back and be
a tree
exiled deep in a forest
remote from civilization
aware of self
on what life
truly means


by Marthalyn Dale Smith
I remember you, do you remember me?
Do you remember us the way we used to be?
I remember your smile and love so fine.
Do you remember your love for me
the way it used to be?
I long to be a new memory for you
and you for me.
Cause I will always love you.
Will you ever love me?
Or leave it just a wonderful memory
to be remembered by just you and me.

You Can't Escape My Love

by Barbara Lauderdale Hearn
My love,
You don't love me, I fear.
But I honestly love you,
That is so true.
Please believe that I do,
I can't do anything without you.
You are just like me,
That, you should be able to see.
How long have we been together now?
We've survived somehow.
Our love is just right,
I don't want you out of my sight.
You will soon see,
I am not going to let
you get away from me.

Written in Church #2

by Richard Oberbruner
Faith is a creative act
It courts the spiritual muse
It is an imaginative self-sacrifice
To peer into nothing and find everything
As astronomers seek the edge of the universe
As geneticists dance in the footprints of creation
As a flutist blows the perfect breath from perfect lungs
                                That thrive in utter darkness

                                There is nothing more perfect
                              Than to imagine the sound of light
                            As it reverberates through the body
                          The most receptive ear imaginable
                        Once connected to the invisible
                      To reconnect is the only thing
                    It is the first fire that heats the soul
                  It is the soul itself

Star Cast

A Valentine villanelle by Pat Petros
To love is splendid; love returned divine.
What games we play to find our future mate!
With luck we find the perfect Valentine.

The lovers' spirits bubble just like wine
as breath and pulses now accelerate.
To love is splendid; love returned divine.

A mystery no skeptic can define.
Impossible to reason and debate.
With luck we find the perfect Valentine.

Be sure it's not all shadow and moonshine
that lasts a night but then will soon abate.
To love is splendid; love returned divine.

The stars and moon in heaven will align
when given love one can reciprocate.
With luck we find the perfect Valentine.

It's all a part of heaven's grand design
that those who love will surely validate.
To love is splendid; love returned divine.
With luck we'll find the perfect Valentine.


by Larry Turner
His rump is planted firmly on the floor.
His pleading eyes look up to me.
He wonders if wagging his tail plaintively
will help his cause.
"No, actually I would put out a dog on a night like this."
My foot pushes him out the door onto the deck.
I wake from sleep hearing
rainwater rattling along the downspout.
Seldom is there lightning or high wind.
Just rain.
Water stands on the lawn of clay.
The dog’s towel scarcely comes
out of the dryer into the cupboard
before it emerges again to dry him.
Flowers, grass, shrubs have forgotten the drought,
though river and groundwater remember.
Hard rain drives the dog down two steps
from the deck onto the soggy ground.
After a month, some complain--
Enough, already! I still celebrate the rain,
uneasy only about all these animals
gathering two by two.

Unclosed Loops

by Alan Harris
Life after rollicking life
I have littered
and frittered
but mostly learned
within unclosed loops.

The room where I work
is a monument to
and all my other rooms
imitate such open loops.

Shall I dare to suggest
that every spiral
is an unclosed loop?
And point out that spirals
are the basis of life
on all of its planes?

Closed-loop people
I have seen, dazzling
in their neatness,
smilingly prompt,
dickensly proud
of their punctilious

Do devotees of closed loops
expire with a snap, I wonder?
And will I expire someday
with an ambiguous sigh?

Let's broadly hint that
perhaps people never do expire
but instead subscribe over time
to suitably-spiraled-up bodies,
incremental costumes for playing
parts in this human drama
of infinite run. "Death" is all
the rage these eons, but only
for those who think their eyes
see all there is to see.

Let's even risk wondering
whether supposedly closed loops
might be minor quanta within major
evolving spirals.

Unclosed as my loops are,
I admit to irritating the tidy.
Closed, the tidy may enjoy
their control, but beyond
their cubishness a universe
swirls with intranesting
spirals that may little praise
the painful righteousness
of an organized desk drawer.

Now, where is that CD
I bought yesterday?
Has it spiraled off?

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