Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
April 2001
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by Tom Roby
My cats go nuts.

They blizzard the hall
with shredded rolls
of toilet tissue.

They snap the necks
of flowers I brought
when I forgot your birthday.

They scatter stacks of bills
and slide across the rug
on payment schedules.

I chase them up and down
the hallway where static cling
snowflakes everything.

I corner them.

They flatten their ears,
hiss, and drum their tails.

I tap a can of tuna
to imperious yowls
from the carnival of carnivores.

They lap the dishes
with tongues like waves
that softly consume the shore.

I drowse,
spent in a chair,
with a lapful of purrs.

Wasted tissues
belated birthdays
pending payments
pass me by.

Skarny the Aviation Garbageman

by Bob McCarthy
I have a friend
named Skarny
who's an aviation garbage man

You've heard of planes refueling planes in mid air
well, Skarny empties planes trash in mid air

yeah, he flies from plane to plane emptying their trash

He flies with the window partly open
(to let the smoke from his cigarette out)

His hair's blown back
He's wearing a tank top
He has a 16oz. can of Bud in the cupholder
and the C.D.'s he plays are anything from Leslie West
and Mountain to Bob Seger to George Carlin

not many people know about this service Skarny offers

He's truly a pioneer in the aviation garbage field

Tree and the Summer Sun

by William Marr
I laugh a thousand laughs
in the morning wind
my whole body shakes and trembles
with joy

I know it's you dear
casting my shadow to the ground
your eyes burn upon my nape

Stops on the Way to Eden and Beyond: The Movie

by Larry Turner
See, it hasn't been done, making a movie from a book of poems.
Well yes, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats did give us that musical.
And yes, there are some problems, continuity and such. Still...

Already I'm scouting out locations:
The cave where Lot and his daughters settled.
Road from Anacapri down to the Blue Grotto.
Field of purple bluebells.
Thick-walled jail in Lilith.

You think I'm egotistical, making a poem about making a movie out of my own poems?
What about Yeats and his circus animals?
(Not much of an accomplishment, being no more egotistical than Yeats.)

The nice thing about casting is, I'm not constrained by money or time.
I can put Humphrey Bogart and Julia Roberts in the same scene
and make them each any age I like.
For narrator, I'm thinking of Tom Cruise,
but I'll probably settle for Woody Allen.

Maybe you can help. Who should do
Eve of Earth, Eve of Life, Adam, Sophia, the Chief Ruler,
the banker's wife, the commuter, the traveler, the gentle butcher,
the piano student and her teachers,
Laurie and her lovers, Heidi and her father, Owain and the princess,
the girl who offered me wings?

Some things here you don't recognize?
Buy the book.
Or wait for the movie.

The Oak

by Nancy Clark
Two human lifetimes old, or more,
This oak, just one of hundreds else
Deep rooted in the forest soil
Once grew from new, its first full leaf
Unseen, its foliaging alone.

In time came claimers of the land
With plans and markers, shovels, saws.
The forest yielded, till the tree
Shared space with houses, roads with curbs
And lawns and poles with wires and lights.

A grace of nature in our yard,
This oak held place as centerpiece.
Our lives were always full of leaves
And limbs in seasons' dances rocked
With raindrops, winds, and blowing snow.

Its trunk of ample girth set stage
For us to see the scamperings
Of fat brown squirrels, watch creepers climb,
Woodpeckers work, and flickers dart,
Performers on the crusty bark.

A feeder from its lowest limb
We filled with bread and nuts and seeds
That drew the fussing gangs of sparrows,
Pompous crows, bright cardinals,
And wary squirrels with bushy tails.

The pulse of spring would once more bring
The "leafing out," protruding buds
Unfolding into wide clean green,
All perfect leaves, and acorn seeds
Would drop like marbles on the lawn.

Each year the white spring beauties made
A ruffled skirt around its trunk.
Above, the summer's wealth of leaves
Shed sunshine for our welcome shade
And turned to brittle in the fall.

The winds that sifted through our window
Blew as well about our tree.
We shared the place, the air, the breath.
A common thread of spirit circled
Through us and our sturdy oak.

As we looked out to share its life,
It also gazed inside at us.
It watched the child grow up, the dog
Grow old, the table set for every meal,
Watched lights go off at time to sleep.

Beneath its gaze we mowed the grass,
We shoveled snow and raked its leaves.
It watched the people come and go,
The children dressed for trick-or-treat,
Saw Santa Claus come up the walk.

One April as the forest woke,
A creeping sense of absence made
Me stop to study, touch its branches.
Barren limbs! The "leafing-out"
Had failed to come on time with spring.

Gone dead. Gone numb to flowing, stroking
Spring. Denied its drink, as if
A thief beneath the earth had drained
Its water trough and then to bear
Indignity of nakedness.

No slow and gradual demise,
Just gone, a standing skeleton
Like ruin of a cathedral spire
In silence offering wordlessly
A prayer to finish vanishing.

Then came the men who felled the oak
Who cut and hauled it all away
While we were gone, and smoothed the lawn.
The wind blew in, no bond to share,
And we were left confronting air.

The Flowering and the Waning

by Jeanette Helmbrecht
The Flowering
The rosebud tip
wriggles and twists in her
binding green,

Pulls in the sun,
tastes his full warmth on her
scarlet lips,

sparks delight,
stretches to drink in deep
thrusting rays

and grandly bursts
leasing her color in
high exalt!
The Waning
The lily leans

on her weathered stem

Frail blossom sways
in tender yield

Her shimmer stills
entices turn

She flexes,
nods to waning light

And lightly hails
sun dipped in dim

Receding rays

Two Worlds

by Georgiann Foley
She mad, he mad, we mad
From the bang bang
Of the tom-toms
On the hill
Hey, ho,
Hey, ho!
The crowd yells and the fans
Thrash their pom-poms.

But over the hill
In the odd land of
Silent "e"
I made a discovery.
Softness lures things
into different form.

Down toward the valley,
A grove of gray hackberry trees
Rake and scrape the wispy sky.
Gutteral sounds come tumbling down,
Shaking the bark as branches sort and sift
The duple march of sound to muted tones.

In the valley leaning against a tree
Friends sit and eat a picnic treat,
Sandwiches and
Pomme frites.

Ancient men sit quietly
Hunched over great tomes
Reading philosophy,
Each line a balance of what
Is wise and true.

By the glistening, rippling river
A player blows gentle notes
Upon a simple reed
And looks up to take in the expanse
Of the grand, blue dome.

--Published in the March, 2001 issue of Byline magazine

News Muse #14

by Richard Oberbruner
Standardized tests for professional wrestlers is now mandatory
However, scores necessary to achieve WWF status
equal that of illiterate medieval mongrels.
There are now more PH.D.'s
working in fast food
restaurants than
ever before.
the crispier fries.
After acquitting a Black man
of assault charges, the all White jury
was arrested after attacking the defendant
outside the court house. Since the climate in Wash., D.C.
has not changed for decades the now capitol of the United States
is Topeka, Kansas. In an effort to enliven bored suburban Americans
Zapatista rebels from the jungles of Southern Mexico have been
Patrolling quiet cul-de-sacs in ski masks and speaking a
derivitave of Spanish that cannot be checked-out
on language tapes at the library. A homeless
man gave his State of the Street address
to a throng of well-wishers which
included one liver diseased
"There are more down sides
than up sides living day to day,"
said the man who could not identify him
self since he had no forms of identification.
"You may forget your name but if you find loose
change suddenly you become Chairman of the Board."
An independent inquiry into whether or not the U.S. government
is working at peak efficiency had to be delayed after several peak efficiency
experts contracted Legionnaires Disease at a tight-lipped banquet sponsored by
a faction of conservative Democrats calling themselves "The Chosen Ones."
International Intimate Apparel Day came and went with nobody noticing.
The world's smallest undercover detective was arrested after hiding
in the cleavage of a shoplifter. On the first day of Spring
a hawk gnawed a mouse, a dog chased its tail, a schizo
phrenic son stabbed his corporate dad, a toll
booth operator embezzled a little bit
more and a church loosing
parishioners put God
on sale.

Box Turtle

by Margarete Cantrall
Balanced, still,
flat bottom upward
like a Volksy Beetle wreck
it lay in the dust.

Kids or cats,
Mischievous puppy,
slow moving tractor, something,
had flipped it over,

onto ridged top shell.
It could lie there forever
if nobody came.

Pick it up.
Heavy, hard to lift.
No one in there. Two nose slits
only. All else tucked

well away:
a tight parcel of
paranoia, self-contained,
caution visible.

Box turtles
don't have rear or side-
view mirrors, move in straight line
navigate by nose.

I set him
down, alive or dead,
orange and green mosaics up.
He desereved a chance.

I aimed him
toward a ditch with grass
and hope of water, waited,
watching rock inert.

He stirred, heaved
his heavy house up.
Then slow by slow, sure by sure,
he moved havenward.

Midnight in Midwinter

by Alan Harris
Just the finest trace of snow fell
unseen yet tingly on my face,
and the streets were whitening under
a semi-coating of this semi-snow.
I knew the moon was up there but
clouds were having their way.
I walked familiar streets,
my neighborhood oddly hushed--
no traffic, dogs all quiet indoors.

Far off I heard the muffled horn
of a diesel engine pulling its
rumbling train along the single
trunk line past the edge of town.
With each crossing its wail and
rumble became a little louder,
and then each wail became quieter
until silence comforted the streets
like a forgiving mother after
her child's necessary cries.

All of us had our way tonight--
the snow was able to hint of itself,
my footprints showed I'd been there,
the train took some of the silence,
and midnight was allowed its hush.

Now my coat is hanging to dry
and I know where the moon is.

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