Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
February 2004
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Poems on this Page:

The Sound of Dust

by Todd Possehl
I'm reading Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
and I'm thinking my brain is not
quiet enough. I put the book away
       -turn off the light
       -lie down
try to cultivate no-mind.

Then a Japanese beetle crawls
up my pillow and tells me
he's figured out the sound
of one hand clapping -

that it's the same noise
dust makes when it accumulates
under my bed.

I tell him this is a startling revelation
for an insect without hands
       -without flesh
       -without bones.

"And no-mind," he adds, then bows
to wish me the sweetest of dreams.

Death of a Poem

by Michelle True
My poem lies on the page,
weakly staring up at me,
begging me with its eyes
to end its misery.

I replace sick words
with healthy ones;
but it continues to moan
in obvious pain.

I have tried all known remedies.
I can't bear to let it suffer;
in my heart I know what must be done.

With a heavy heart and
an emotional goodbye,
I crumple the page gently
and toss it in the trash.

To honor its memory,
some of its words will be
quickly, tenderly transplanted
into a new poem.

In reincarnation, its soul
will live on.

Urban Paranoia

by James Conroy
  thieves waiting for you to sleep;
  men with rifles on rooftops,

while below in the subway
amidst a universe all
motion and noise, bag-lady
clutches the things worth having.

Upstairs in your apartment
  you have nothing worth stealing
  or to die for
but see yourself a target.

Elevators climb both ways.
Fear, like heat, rises.
She only asked for change.


by James L. Corcoran
Swallowing the nature that comes with every step
Fastidiously ordering the elements of the time
Honor comes with virtue heroes get a rep
With a taste of money comes a taste of wine

Born of needs becoming penetration of the egg
Wins the competition and becomes a fact of life
On the faces of the runner who suffers on his legs
And coming through in first place wins the Excellency fight

The cleaning and the signing/the continual arduous climbing
Each obstacle a test/each overture a personal best

The size of the little drummer boy and the Santa Claus Surprise
The weight of the diamonds answering right now inside your eyes
The circuitry of accomplishment the reason that we cry
Why there's inflection in a question and truth in every lie

And the seriousness about it inside where we can't hide
Is we are governed by assertions based on articles of pride


by Thom Schmidt
Darkness is safety

The dark is anonymity

Darkness is soothing
Darkness is forgetting

Disappear in darkness

Or not

Darkness is possibility


New beginning

American Triptych

by Beth Staas
My country's not a symphony,
all harmony, discipline and skill
led by conductors in tails and cummerbund,
but a cacophony of reggae, jazz and twelve-tone,
quarrelsome, belligerent, rejoicing in discord.
Metallica and shrieking undulations
scrape sounds into rough resonance
without triplets, triads, or lofty cadences,
but slam-bang reversals.
Our music is not to burnish and blend
but scuff, rasp and assault
until nerve endings twang an edgy response,
each note reverberating opposition.
Our rhythm beats, pounds
and vibrates the throat, ribcage and groin,
with melody an afterthought,
then an open-ended coda
to an unfinished song.

My country's not a still life
of folded fabric, dappled pastels
trapped on an easel or decorously framed,
nor is it sleek and shiny art deco,
all rulered lines and compassed curves
that are glossy, lustrous and hard.
Instead, it's a work in progress
of tin, rusted steel and stone,
of uneven spaces
        that impinge,
        that make you dizzy,
        that make you sit and look.
It's a palette of wild colors that don't match,
flung off center, helter-skelter, right and left.
It's textured hemp and homespun
so rough you want to scratch,
its anamorphosis
depicting shape and form.

My country’s not a stylized dance
an arabesque in tights or tutued pirouette,
a choreographed fairy tale
with saucy attitude, caractere and mime.
Its dance is a boisterous hoe-down
that clomps, stomps, whoops and hollers
and smells of saddle soap and frontier sweat.
Rudimental and ravishing,
it goes backward, sideward,
in counter movement, contraction, release,
percussive, sharp and sudden
as to whip the abdomen dead center,
to the innerness of solar plexus,
and arc between fall and recovery.
It’s muscular, resilient and strong,
that neither leads nor follows
but struts its own rhythm
and boldly says, I am.

Riding the Planet

by Sally Calhoun
Riding on this planet is like riding on a plane.
The aberration's that you do not know you're moving
unless you're by a window, and, of course, on earth there is no window.
But you're plunging forth, all right,
day and night,
from the instant you're conceived
and even after death from deep within the grave
you whirl,
with stillness only an illusion,
(while living) caught in a profusion
of minor meditations
or major cogitations.
It's rather like a giant carousel,
rotating well,
and you are glued to earth
by gravity. The dearth
of motion sickness is the surprise,
for your eyes
take in everything around as still that's moving too.
Without this illusion, whatever would we do
but ponder the hurtling drive of every stone of every size?
There'd be no time to orient
yourself, or to be calm.

We are carried by our blood, as by a wind,
stirred sometimes by blazing light, and by the very sight
of every object, even slight
that, as by a balm,
sets us down as with a gentle thud
on the sudden surface of life's tense and wondrous road.

Like the unconscious, the road itself leads us unwittingly along,
and we don't always know, as with science, those things we ought to know,
especially that madness such as this remains the central source of everybody's song.

The Brown Thumb

by John Quinn
I don't know what each seed knows,
but in my house, no green thing grows!
Nothing flowers, nothing will bloom
in my kitchen or living room.
Violets turn to brown and gray,
no vegetable can ever stay,
ferns all wither, rubber plants die,
go to that hothouse in the sky.
I water, pray and fertilize.
It don't matter -- everything dies!

straw hat

by Steven Kappes
in the early morning darkness
I pass by a house
where lights are on
and no curtains block the view

in the entry hall
a brown straw hat
a black ribbon
trailing from the crown
hangs from a peg on the wall
waiting to shelter its owner
from heat of the day

the dark haired woman
who lives in the house
small delicate
is from some far-off land
where women know
to keep the sun away

the hat seems to say
that she lives alone
the single hat
framed by the window
a symbol of her status

Year End Prayer

by Larry Turner
As the year comes to an end, we thank you
for all you have done for us this year.

You have restored us to health while all over
the country our friends are suffering and dying
from diabetes and other afflictions.

With all these gifts you've given us, I hesitate to speak,
But I have some new poems that I think you'll find unique.

You have brought us here and surrounded us with beauty,
in our home, our garden, our neighborhood, our city,
and throughout our state.

I know that you're omniscient, but I'll give this little hint.
These poems that I mentioned, I would love to see in print.

You have given us a church and community
through which we may serve and be active
in doing your work.

You would not find it difficult since you made heaven and earth,
To find a publisher to print these poems of Christ's birth.

You have placed us in the midst of a loving family
who genuinely like one another.

I know these poems may not be the kind that you'd applaud.
Of Mary and her soldier's love, a passion sent from God.

You have provided us with this Christmas time
bringing all of this together--
the beauty, church, community, family and purposeful activity
to make a joyous season we will never forget.

Maintaining all the Cosmos, you must have a lot to do,
So if you can't see to my poems, I guess that's okay too.

The Second Dawn

by Tim Breitzmann
There is a place… a time
When the past is present
And the future is now
A porthole

To the other side of time
Where the Omega
Crosses to the Alpha
And a calming oneness

With understanding
Of the simplistic complexity
That it is life's imperfection
That is so perfect

Where up is down
In is out
Where it doesn't matter
For you are in the eye of a storm

The center of all
Where the beginning
Of the beginnings end
Has begun… to end

To begin
The beginning

Some people see a sunset
I see the second dawn

Greeting 2004

by William Marr
no sooner had we escaped
from a tangle of Saddam's
bushy beard
we stepped right into the field
haunted by the shadows of SARS

suddenly a terrifying orange light was raised
reflecting the glare
from a maddening cow

while at Times Square
thundering at the top of their voices
people made the frantic countdown


seeing 2003 was knocked cold on the ground
they whirled around with great relief
yelling jumping embracing kissing
as if this is indeed
the very first new year

Lost Childhood Harmonies

by Mardelle Fortier
Lost: the summer resort we owned
when I was a child.
A girl, running through that world,
along the edge of the lake,
my legs having power to changes its shape.
The water, cold and transparent
as a blue vase,
resting on grains of sand.
I slide into the vase, rub my body
against its bubble edges,
roll around inside my fur,
bask in its warmth,
breathe deeply through every pore.
I am made of water;
I drift wherever it drifts.
My body floats with me,
my thoughts float with us,
nothing is buried in the sand.

My sister always swam with me.
Our colors matched, as do lake and sky.
Her brown hair and eyes reflected mine
in a silent pool.
The games we played,
like running from Burglars
in the strange dark marsh,
were played as by one person.
At night her voice, then mine,
then hers again created stories
with one rhythm, one point of view.

I was part of my mother's body,
a ball that rolled away, bounced through
fields and brambles, fell into mud,
but never went far. Her arms
encircled me at night
while she whispered to me,
and her words and image
closed around me in a silver ring.

Year 2001

by Undra' Ware Sr.
As we enter the year 2001; we need to ask ourselves, what have we done?

Our world have consumed so much fear that hatred, greed and jealousy is always near.

Our children is suffering with so much pain but the world don't care due to selfish gain.

Most of us want to be wealthy as we risk our lives and become unhealthy.

As children of God we should resist the nonsense that exist. Understand that life is short
and when it ends there will be a report.

The question is what have you done?

Through your education, title or faith, who did you help along the way or did you cause
them to go astray.

As children of God, we must do our best and remember it's all a spiritual test.


by Alan Harris
From whom does your life
have its license to live?
Not from Rome or Scriptures
or fine-robed Interpreters--

not from parent or teacher,
policeman or mayor.
Your frame can be governed
but your heart heeds the One

as butterflies do
aloft in a breeze
over leaf and flower
in tune with The Will.

Enclosed please find
within you a church
never built, yet nearer
than one breath away.

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