Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
February, 2023
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Poems on this Page:

Primal Darkness

by Christopher Kuhl
Early spring, the moon drops
behind the clouds. Rain 
drenches homes, shops, flags:
the world is at war.

A woman is lost in her thoughts,
the moment; there is no fruition, no 
fulfillment. Axes hew the primal 

between heaven and earth; trees,
roof beams split beneath bombs,
ear-shattering. Where,
where are the children?

Raising her eyes to the artillery
smoke, she sees small bodies so
like her own but deadly still:

hopeless, she looks through fire
and rain, searching for her way
home, blinded by blood and
a thousand tears.

The Old Ball Game

by William L. Lederer
Something's always there
whether faithless as the morn 
Whether doubtless as the air
the mind is always born
to some notion overheard
from a human kind of word.
Not just way, shape or form
feeling times forlorn
But a space to fulfill
by an act of the will.
Does the passer tell the receiver
when to cut and where to go?
Or how to play the deceiver 
In some giant puppet show?
Does he say remember practice
or other games in the past?
No, he throws a Hail Mary,
sees the glory and hopes it lasts.


by William Marr
no matter how hard I tried to fry the stuff
it just didn't taste right
so I searched my fridge
and found a condiment bottle
that had been stored there for ages
and emptied the entire contents into the wok
when I tasted it again
my tears poured down like rain
unable to distinguish
the taste of life —
sour, sweet, bitter, or hot

No Good Deed and All That Jazz

by Cassandra McGovern
On my whizzing winter walk to Union Station
I'd pop change into her jingle box.
"Money for the homeless!" she'd shriek,
her voice rough by 7:30 am.

At her spot at Chicago River's bridge at Jackson, 
her right hand rattled the container's contents, 
one arm flailing out to passersby.
Her grey cloth coat clutched at the collar, 
holey grey gloves, some fingers missing, 
white hair tucked into a knit cap, face etched.

One morning, I had no money
to slip through her box's slit top.
My eyes smiled an apology.
Never had there been a thank you before—
just an extra jingle thrust
as her unblinking eyes pierced through the cold,
her straight lips shrieked out 
to the next person walking behind me.

She beckoned me to come near,
bumping her box at me, a wry smile.
Did she recognize me after so many months?
"My apologies. Today I don't have any..."
She leaned toward me, her stare demonic, 
and spat at my fur hat.

Fresh Pipes. Blue Hill Writers Group, 2012


by Caroline Johnson
Happy to see you
on a misty February morning 
when the heart's been derailed 
and bodies lie like bliss in some 
other state, miles away.

Birds flock to the feeder
to take what you give so freely
like Kokopelli's flute
the seeds are fertile and limitless
as the magician plays on.

You sing the tunes so sweetly
never hoarding them for another day
but pass them on as they come,
like a gift, as if to say,
"My present is to you this moment."

This box of rain and rainbow.
This sacred crow and tin man combined.
This teary drop of sunshine,
escapes from the clouds and dives
from one soul to another in time.

Enough to lift the spirit and soar—
like the eagles in Montana 
like whistling across empty canyons
like sadness unchained into melody...
and reaping laughter from weeping,
sowing love into a lost field of dreams.

Traveling Light

by Susan T. Moss
All the indispensable maps 
and guidebooks have expired,
heavy luggage expelled
to a basement corner 
with Grandmother's trunks
from eighty years ago,
and I am left wondering
what might happen 
if I were to travel
with only the shirt
on my back and nothing
to burden what's left 
of the journey.

View From My Kitchen Window on Valentine's Day

by Cielo Jones
Another two inches on top of the crusted two-week old snow, white blankets my neighborhood again.

Freezing cold dominates still. Mr. and Mrs. Squirrels don't mind it at all. They only care about the bread and vegetable scraps in my bin, one inside digging and digging while the other watches. Then they switch, swinging their fanned tails declaring to others, "this is their territory," even to me. Am I not the one dumping those every morning, why scare me?

I watched them in the fall bringing maple leaves up in my tree that they seem to think it's theirs. They made a lovely bed where the big branches split from the trunk. Some days I am an intruder watching them while they snuggle, hold-curled on each other when the wind comes bold. Today, they don't have roses or chocolates, only bread and scrap lettuces yet they're happy to be together up and down our trash bin, and up and down our tree.

I sip my coffee and watch, wistful for the warmth they share atop this cold cold winter.

I Age

by Michael Lee Johnson
Arthritis and aging make it hard,
I walk gingerly, with a cane, and walk
slow, bent forward, fear threats,
falls, fear denouement—
I turn pages, my family albums
become a task.
But I can still bake and shake,
sugar cookies, sweet potato,
lemon meringue pies.
Alone, most of my time,
but never on Sundays,
friends and communion, 
United Church of Canada. 
I chug a few down,
love my Blonde Canadian Pale Ale,
Copenhagen long cut a pinch of snuff.
I can still dance the Boogie-woogie,
Lindy Hop in my living room,
with my nursing care home partner.
Aging has left me with youthful dimples, 
but few long-term promises.

Cure for Frustrations

by Carol Marcus
Stressed by daily life
Grab a donut
Smack your lips
Savor the morsels
Enjoy yourself.

Troubled by bills
Then potato chips
Crunching sounds
Guaranteed relief
For sure.

Aches and Pains
Soothe them with
Hot tea, honey
And cookies

Relationship woes
Forget your troubles
Reach for chocolate
Melt in mouth


by Tom Moran
I pierce pin holes
in a piece
of black construction paper,
hold the paper up
to the sunshine
because as a child
I was told
that the stars
at night
is light
shining through from heaven.
I pull away the paper,
smile at
the newness 
of love
on my face.
I live
on the cusp of two worlds,
one spiritual,
one Earth bound;
a hitchhiker
in the rain
who can't run,
can't hide,
and can't make it
stop raining.
A soul in a 
concrete world,
waiting on the day
I cut loose,
fly free.

She Speaks for Herself

by Lennart Lundh
It's a story often told,
and always told wrong,
about how I went into the woods
and met a tragic fate at the hands
of some who saw my crown as riches,
others who envied my clothes
and left me naked, alone, vulnerable
to self-reflection, its partner self-pity,
and their coupled bending madness.

Have you ever met a princess,
a real one, left to her own devices
and free to wander unconstrained?
Have you ever met a princess,
one with self-respect and sanity,
who wouldn't want to run away?

There were no woods.
I gave away my crown, its jewels,
cast off silks and petticoats
to wear a simple frock, dirty, worn.
There was no clearing with a pond.
I gazed into myself, be sure of that,
but in doing so found peace, my self.
Self-pity and a form of madness
belong to those who want the story.

(after the 1913 painting "Princess
Tuvstarr Gazing Down Into the
Dark Waters of the Forest Tarn",
by John Bauer)

Winter Lights

by Jill Angel Langlois
Frozen beach,
Frozen water
I skim a stone
Over life that's frozen underneath
All around are lights in houses
Where people aren't ready for sleep
Light is life
I am life
I have come this far
To prove I am alive and not ready for sleep
For I can see the lights,
And I can see the stars in the cold winter sky,
And the moon that shines like a spot light
I lose my equilibrium
I'm off balance
I fall onto the frozen shore
Rolling over on my back
I gaze at the red and green flashing lights
The airplane streaming in the night sky
Where he's going, I don't know
Seems like we have that in common
On this night of empty cold and winter lights


by Rafael Lantigua Medina
Challenges are good
Even with boundaries
because they test our strength.
We like challenges that comes
from inside and talk and walk,
and make our soul thrill in silence.

Who cares about boundaries
when enjoying the challenge of a smile,
a simple look, a saying, a move,
or a touch...
Challenges are good
and make us real with our feeling
and ready to sparkle in celebration
of happiness without regrets.

Herman Melville Explains Himself

by Wilda Morris
I am air
I am rain
I am hail

I am a hammer
and a nail

I mine evil

I am raven
I am eel

I am lava
I am larvae

I veil
and I reveal

This poem is a lipogram
using only letters of the
alphabet found in Herman
Melville's name. From
Pequod Poems: Gamming
with Moby-Dick
by Wilda Morris
(Kelsay Books, 2019).

Chasing Determinism

by G. Jordan Maclay
Western civilization is continually searching 
for the key to understand and control our world, 
to link a specific cause with every effect. 

Western scientists have believed the key to be:

	1.  The scientific revolution.
	We thought, with Newton, 
	the universe was predictable, like a gigantic mechanical clock and 
	at last we knew the laws governing it's operation.  
	Turns out it is more complicated.

	2.  Then we thought quantum theory gave us the real lowdown.  
	But it has some problems too.  
	All of a sudden, determinism is lost and 
	the theory of everything is statistical in nature, 
	the same cause gives unpredictable effects.
	Quantum computers will not save us.

	3.  We thought genetics was deterministic,
	that if we knew the genes 
	we could predict everything about a human.   
	But it turns out we have 
	fewer genes than a mouse, 
	and genes are just part of the story,
	environment and gene expression are another part.   

	4.  Thirty years ago it was Artificial Intelligence.   
	Now it has resurfaced with Big Data
	to allow us to "master the universe". 
	Concerning sentient computers, can a submarine swim? 
	The algorithms are as limited 
	as the humans writing the computer instructions.
	It is a digital view of the world, sucking up the internet. 

Western civilization won't give up. 
We will never surrender to nature, 
but we keep running down the same maze
searching for determinism.

Backyard Conversation

by Emma Alexandra Kowalenko
I always wanted to fly. 
Chickadee Herald, do you think,
That I, Squirrel, could fly? Someday...?

There are perils I must warn.
Perils, hawks, foxes, people.
Your quickness on the ground, 
Agility through your treed highway,
Serve you well.
Your feet, your tail, are your wings.

We all must eat, survive, be cautious.
That's why I call out danger.
My fellow creatures, Juncos, Sparrows, 
You Squirrel.
You've heard my calls.

I have heard your calls Chickadee.
What magic, what travels,
Do you wish for?

I wish for food abundance, 
Safe passage,
Mindfulness unveiled.

More ISPS Poems | Haiga Gallery

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