Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
February 2013
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Poems on this Page:

To a Veteran

by Marguerite McClelland
            I was a baby,
            a child of World War II
            you saved.

            We met by chance,
            so many years later,
            so few years ago.

            You wrote to me,
            every Christmas,
            always remembering,
            that terrible night
            that would not let you go.

            near the Franco-German border,
            Christmas 1944.

            Perhaps you thought,
            as you wrote,
            that by telling the story,
                        and telling it again, 
                                             and again,
            it might diminish,
      and go away, 
like an echo.

            But that terrible night
            in December 
            nineteen forty-four
            in the forest near my village
            has etched itself
            into your mind
            and into my heart

Seeing Voices

by Christine Cianciosi
Inside these halls
spirits in flight
whisper the call,
"get out of our sight!"

To see their cold
you needn't look hard
but never take hold
to a door ajar. 

Peek inside
you think you will see 
shadow people glide,
spirit breath of pleas. 

To see a voice
right up close—
spirits rejoice,
your body froze.

Dead air that is lost
still traveling about,
tired of being tossed
seeking a way out.

Head to the light
please let go of your fear,
seeing voices part
they happily cheer.

Ides of March

by John Pawlik

Here there are
Long lines of the unemployed
Waiting to submit their information
As I suppose is usual
With a great deal of strained confusion
Constant noise and a general depression
That permeates the building's air
Being a total stranger here
I stand outside it all watching you
Answering questions giving directions
To other tables and for numbers to be called
If not pointed out at my request
By one who had no interest in why I asked
I wouldn't have known that it was you
This is exactly where you belong . . .
So it's good at last I was just passing by
I leave through the door by which I came
Go to my car and turn the key
I note the change that comes over me
Some things are best left in history
And slowly drive away
Under other leaves
By the lost autumn shore
Who is there that is walking
In the loft of an old red barn
Beside a field of green alfalfa
Two kittens are playing
Forever and ever for her
And her alone
Forever hide and seek

Museum Skeleton

by Susan T. Moss
She doesn't say to shed
one's skin.  She doesn't say
to burn brighter, work harder,
pray more.

She says nothing, stands erect,
raised from another era
when daily life had to be
gathered by the handful,

protected from others
who only wanted their share
of what became obsolete
and unfathomable.

We can see further,
collect more, button ourselves
against fierce winds that stir
what she too

might have felt on joyless nights
with only a spark to reveal
the insights we keep at arm's length – 
and still the fear of the dark.

Slipping Away

by Beth Staas
At first we both knew
then just me - a blessing, I suppose.
You couldn't remember
nouns and names
like maintenance and Oregon.
"The computer's jammed,"
you'd say with a bewildered smile.
"No input, no output. Just plain jammed."
There was more.

"Where will we put all these people?"
you'd say, wandering the empty house,
and more sadly, "I want to go home,"
when already there.
Choosing what to wear was hard,
so many days were spent naked,
your blue veins, white skin and whiter hair
a ghostly forecast of things to come.

First the struggle, shaking with rage
when a light bulb burned out
or the imagined truck down below
didn't unload fast enough,
thoughts that seemed like missiles
searing your bloodshot eyes,
scorching your lips
as you lurched toward lunacy.

Later you were gentle, I'll give you that,
stroking beloved books no longer read,
weeping for Brubeck and Brahms,
asking how to turn on the TV, please.
Then years of silence
and you were gone,
leaving us to puzzle out a warrior
who'd fought to the end
even as all the munitions failed.

Sunday Mornin'

(My Inner Child)
by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
I can smell the steam rising from between your beautiful brown thighs as
I sit beneath your chair,
After you have washed, blow dried, parted, greased and now you are
straightening my hair.
Sam is singing softly in the background about Cupid drawing back his bow,
We're poor as hell sitting up in these bricks but in this space and time,
I love you more than you will ever know.
The phone rings and it's grandma and she just wants to do her usual Sunday mornin' chattin' ,
All mama says is 'um', huh, um huh', while she is listening to what's happenin;.
I can hear grandma saying, 'well I know you are busy trying to get them babies ready
and clean the house so I ain't gonna hold you too long,
Sam is steady singing in the background embedding himself into my heart,
Man, his voice is so smooth and strong!
Bacon, eggs, sausages, pancakes and syrup all wafting through the morning air,
Brothers and sisters either watching tv or cleaning,
Daddy snoring heavily in the bedroom sounding like a wounded bear!
It's memories like this that I wouldn't trade for all of the money in the world
Because these memories are where I run to find my inner self, my inner girl.

Today's Anthem

by Irfanulla Shariff
Oh! America we salute you
We are your shining stars
Boundless love flow among us
Fragrance of your soil
Permeating in our souls
Flying high in sky your eagles
Their faith never enfeebles
Melodies of serene breeze
The icons of enduring peace
All the faiths hand in hand
Marching towards universality
What a mighty team of geniality
Praise to you our Lord
The Protector and Resurrector
For fashioning our country
A true symbol of liberty
No way! You cannot terrify us
Oh! Vacillating evil
Thousands of times
Have not you tested us?

The Interview

by David McKenna
Please, have a seat. Coffee? No? Good. We would reject
someone hooked on caffeine, because only perfect
physical specimens are hired. Do you object?
I thought not. My role is to find any defect
you might have, we all have some, and then to project
their consequences on the job. Our first subject

is your physical well being. May we subject
you to drug and other blood tests? I will reject
your candidacy now if you say no. The project
we are attempting to complete requires perfect
mental balance at all times. Just a slight defect
could cause rollout delays and make us the object

of ridicule worldwide, so, you see, my object
is to rule that out immediately. Subject
materials are confidential. To defect
to competitors would require that we reject
the plan, scrap it entirely, and start to perfect
a totally new way to complete the project.

Do you understand? Good. The timeline we project
ranges from three to six years. It is our object,
we feel realistically, that you perfect
the means to bring the game plan to conclusion, subject	
to guidelines provided, that you will not reject
our input, nor cause any troublesome defect.

Now, it is well known that some people may defect
for monetary reasons, or because project
stress levels get too high. We urge you to reject
such notions. Your background has been the object
of serious concern to some and the subject
of anxiety. Knowing you are not perfect

to me, however, is a plus. For I know perfect
people unable of overcoming one defect
common in most humans: whenever we subject
ourselves to continual change, when we project
that benchmarks set today may not be the object
of tomorrow, perfect people break down, reject.

All things are subject to change. For you to object
would project that human flaw, that natural defect
and provide the perfect reason for your reject.

Year of the Snake

by Mark Hudson
The Chinese say it's the year of the snake,
but the snake is getting thrown into the lake!
Could there be a giant earthquake?
Better be good, for goodness sake!
Multiple gods are in people's minds,
imaginations turning us all blind!
God kicked out of his own universe,
The snake is waiting, starting to rehearse!
The battle of good and evil has begun,
Some say the victory has already been won!
Maybe we just have to go through the motions,
but they say the beast will rise from the ocean!
The Antichrist may not be easy to see,
the Antichrist could be you and me.
Oh, how hard it is to do what is right,
Some people think it means to fight.
Watching the news brings nothing but tears,
and then if you think, a lot of fears.
A lot of people believe in the right to bear arms,
But haven't some maniacs done enough harm?
Hollywood continues to churn out the trash,
all in order to make a lot of cash.
When is the last time you saw a person read?
Who ever helps out people in need?
Can't we see the government greed?
Aren't we all yearning to once again be freed?
I don't understand the government spending,
sometimes it seems it is never ending.
Some people might tell you, "Don't worry!"
But doomsday approaches, and it's in a hurry!
In church I learn that God is not through,
He has better plans—and things we should do.
But I sometimes feel overwhelmed when I hear
that here we are in a whole brand new year.
It's the year of the snake—and snakes are mean!
And the bad luck number is the number thirteen!
But a lot of people predict 2013 will be
a better year than the last one—we'll see.
The Mayans claimed people would be enlightened,
but bad things happened, at times we were frightened.
The Mayans are a culture that exists no more,
The here and now is what I'm living for.
So a snake to me is not who I give power,
it's the supreme being that makes the snake cower.
One day, the suffering will be gone,
but meanwhile, avoid the snake on your lawn.

Liverpool Airport

by Donna Pucciani
Zip up fat cases on a speckled floor. 
The departure board reloads

as minutes swivel a rain-wracked 
week past cloudbread and journeys

of hills. The cousins' eyes green 
as gardens in the rain, their treevoices

endure autumn's golden sword,
and in the gray exhaust outside

reclines a yellow submarine.
Mostly planes don't fall on Bergamo

over the North Sea and the Alps, 
medicine numbing the engines.

Separation and its nemesis, gratitude, 
are for all seasons.

Even a perfect landing is
empty after the last embrace.

(First published in Caveat Lector)


by Pamela Larson
retreat house
looking for him—
mushrooms on a log

studying family

by Steven Kappes
I keep getting teaser ads
from the genealogy company
they want to sell me information
about my ancient ancestors
where they came from
what were their occupations
how they made their way
to living where they lived
I think I know everything
I need to know about them
they came from somewhere else
like all humans have
migrating to another land
trying to find a better life
or to escape something unbearable
they farmed or labored
and raised their families
the best way they knew how
they lived and loved
fought and struggled
laughed and cried
eventually they died
and were buried somewhere
turned to dust
the wheres and whys
don't matter at all
they live in me
and in my children's children
as long as we continue on

In the Seed

by Kathy Cotton
"I yam what I yam?. . ."
  --Popeye, 1933
In its beginning,
the scant millimeter
of the poppy seed
holds the coming root
and stem, green leaf,
red petal. And I,
beginning to end,
am who I am in my
scripted kernel. But
the roll of the dice is this:
where the seed falls. Who
would I be, planted in
Chile or China,
Iceland, Zimbabwe?
Still me: brown-eyed,
X-chromosomed. Still prone
to love words and symmetry
and red. The same little flower,
tossed by some other
wild wind.

That Didn't Happen, but Something Did

by jacob erin-cilberto
that fateful day came and went
but my heart is still here,
looking through the ruins for you
to touch my calendar
flip over my months
rest your hand on my night

so i can wake the next day alive with the sun
perched on my shoulder
peer through the wreckage that was supposed to come

try to understand each ending
that was,
each lover who stopped
not a Mayan thing
just the end of our little world of love

and then there were earthquakes, tsunamis, floods
a falling apart of the heart
and a soft beat under the rubble

you reaching out to me
me feeling it
so hard next month came crashing in

almost ripping the page from its binding
i collapsed with you turning the page

and woke in the middle of the turning
wondering how i could still be here

and how love doesn't count days and months and years

it just is.

My Bubble

by Marie Samuel
It broke, my bubble,without a sound
Yet the pop vibrated throughout a lifetime,
The ripples rolled from broken dreams
With pieces held together by tiny threads.

So carry on as if it is intact,
And march and jump and soar
Someday you'll lift over hills and lakes,
A painted hot air balloon on high.

Till then we'll wait like frozen beings.
With hearts that hurt and wills that weep.
Too late, I fear, for my bubbles.
They break and try to reappear, glimpsed
Briefly, translucently, with none to see
Or care, but then there is eternity

For bubbles that could be just a spring.
At least there was that briefest time.
So work, repair, and fix and mend,
No one will mind if it's too thin.
Don't rage at what might have been,
Just hold the line and do not bend.

Street Magician

by Patty Dickson Pieczka
He snaps his fingers,
and a flame ignites in his eye.
Fire blooms from his dragon
mouth, scatters into
yellow butterflies that
wing toward me.
They hover into the deep mine
of my spirit and melt
into a liquid ore that fills
my veins, illuminating
dark secrets. The crowd
claps politely and walks on.
Dazed, I stumble
after them.
Stars levitate above
a cloak of clouds.
A church balances the moon
on the point of its steeple.

(First published in Common Ground)


by Carol Dooley
Ragged. Overgrown.
We are slow to notice
the scolding, the chiding, the complaints.
Louder. Louder.
We look above. Find
our path approaches
a red tail hawk nest.
Now under construction.

Chicago Poem

by Phillip Egelston
The structure, an erection of white marble,
shoots like a shout before us:
a tower of up-thrust dominance
revealing a space between vertebrae
to carry us like an injection
up the spinal cord of
tension on singing steel.
The heavy heights make a mean appeal
to my latent hypertension which rises,
pressure against gravity,
to a height like the rest of me
which can't find sea legs
in the high ocean of air.
I am released, and
the ninety-sixth floor offers a quick
glance at the city's deceptive sleep.
I stare out the clear glass, and
Chicago looks as if a clever thief
has hot-wired humanity in her bed.
A serpent slithers the distant expressway,
and Lake Michigan lies like a brooding giant
waiting for a time to rise.
It's strange to be atop this stone mountain
at this swaying height where skyscrapers
are in reaching distance of my outstretched arms.
Standing on these pilings
and this piled-high armor,
I wonder what marvelous foundation supports it:
What power beyond the smoking wit
and girder-fisted hand of man
lies sleepy and wise beneath it all?
The elevator calls like the watch on my wrist,
and three of us descend the singing wire
to go our separate ways
stroking like a ticking clock
until an hour strikes
towering in sudden power
over us.

(First published in RiverSedge,
University of Texas - Pan American)

Grey Sky

by Farouk Masud
The grey-filled sky
casts a shadow
of depression and doubt
over the world.
it feels like so many Sundays.
Stratus clouds
spread out
like a burial shroud.
It so reminds me
of old age,
with the end near
and time running out.
it reminds me
of death—
how cold and lonely
it must feel.
An ugly,
bizarre presence.
It resides above all
to look upon it
with scorn and sorrow.

Bird & Wings

by William Marr

struggling to


                   his wings

in the wind




Peaceful Revelations

by Stanley Victor Paskavich
Death of this life isn't the end
Breaths of new realities dwell within
Sleeping messages will be known in time
Keeping the wishes of your infinite mind
Come to the garden which you have grown
Some day you will reap what you have sown
Choice was yours all along the way
Rejoice in the beauty of that future day
Before you do leave this lovely land
Adore all the things you have at hand
Love all the beauty from the simplest thing
Above all pleasures that riches can bring

Lesson in Tending

by Gail Goepfert
Hanging from hooks
the tools
             come down
             come spring.
The hoe    
the spade    
the shovel
churn the ground.
My father bends a knee
to the soil                        
             come time for
a host
of summer bloomers.
How many times
             come May
did I watch him
trowel a hole,
tap the pot
to loosen the roots.
He squeezes
to release the clump
of dirt    
reaches for mulch
to dust the hole
             come time to plant
then nests and buries
each seedling
in the earth.
             comes near—
the hoe   
the spade    
the shovel           
scraped clean
             come end of day.

(Previously published in Poetic
License Press's Midnight Snack)

the formica table

by Marcia Pradzinski
formica table

(Awarded 2nd place in 2012 Jo-Anne Hirshfield
Memorial Contest at Evanston Library)

Watching No Baseball

by Alan Harris
We are sitting behind left field,
you and I, alone in the stadium.
We watch home plate where
no batter swings at no ball
that no pitcher has pitched.

Intently we follow no action anywhere.

The scoreboard contains no numbers
about forgotten innings.

Behind home plate
no umpire fiddles with
his protective pad
or runs the game with
shouts and gestures.

We are very much here.

No catcher signals for
crafty pitches to be hurled
from the vacant mound.

We sit here
safely upheld by bleachers
empty of roaring rabble.

Undwarfed by
an immense space
entirely eventless,
we inhale silence.

No need for talk.

After just enough
emptying of minds,
seeing everything that is
and isn't here
from arbitrary seats,
we know that it's over.

Down the winding exit stairs
we climb without a word
behind no crowds
to the busy sidewalk.

We exchange glances
but don't need to say
who won.

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