Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
April 2006
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by Michelle True
Holding on too tightly to lost love
diminishes the ability to hope;
makes nightmares out of dreams
that never would have come true;
coats darkness with promises of light.
The heart longs for decadent desire.

The desperate holds of desire
erase any chance for love.
Faith is held hostage by false hope,
lost in a labyrinth of dreams,
Despair leads to realities untrue;
lies cower from the light.

Shadows hide from any light
seeking only to fill their dark desire
offering control, disguised as love.
Slowly fades the last vestiges of hope;
nightmares brushed off as only dreams.
Lies unconsciously are considered true.

Letting go of what is right and true
the darkness further overcomes the light,
replacing loneliness with false desire.
Shattered illusions fill the eyes of love,
gently dropping the reins of tethered hope
as whispered words detail desperate dreams.

Truth prevails, entering waking dreams.
Eventually lies no longer ring true.
The darkness lifts as rises morning light.
The object is no more a lost desire.
Memories resurface of what construes true love.
Sleeping longings wake with newfound hope.

The lost self has found its way back home,
remembered its long, forgotten dreams;
discovered that shadows hid what was true.
Now darkness fades before the light.
The soul fills with belief and warm desire,
no longer wanting dependency but love.

For all the dreams now able to come true,
light has returned, gone is evil's desire.
Only the love of one's self can foster such hope.

I smell your closeness

by John Quinn
In the front seat of my Chevy,
on Friday nights,
in a time
before there were consoles,
coffee holders,
and seat belts
I could smell your closeness.
There was nothing between us
except a steady pulse of
blues, swing, or Rock and Roll
from the AM station:
"for Veronica and Mary Jo
from the boys at Tastee-Chicken
here's Buddy, Basie or the King!"
I drove, left hand on
the shiny knob
strapped to the steering wheel,
right arm around your shoulders,
dangling ever closer to your breast.
I would taste shampooed strings of hair.
I could smell your closeness.

Now with seat belts in the Volvo,
diaper bags on the floor,
a soccer schedule on a magnet
in the green glow of the dashboard
and public radio's cool jazz,
you stare out the window
as we drive to your mother's
I still smell your closeness.

Strange Grounds

by Mark Hudson
There's a coffee cafe we go to after work,
Where all the cynical poets lurk.
You hear them making dangerous sounds,
As they drink their trademark, Strange Grounds.
The coffee itself is completely bizarre,
It doesn't have liquor but you might wreck your car.
Some say they incorporate a strange ingredient,
That might be legal, and even make you obedient.
The coffeehouse sits on top of a hill,
It probably won't close if it's anyone's will.
Nobody knows why the coffee's so inspiring,
People read poems until they are tiring.
All the has-beens come there to rekindle
Their poet careers which are starting to dwindle.
A pot of espresso of the house specialty
And their rhymes are just flying with excellency
The conversations you hear are amazing
Tons of good poets who are worth much praising
I went to coffee with my poet buddy Walter
When it comes to rhyming he does not falter
As he drank the coffee, he started grunting,
Then out of the blue he said, "wanna go duck-hunting?"
So at six in the morning we sat in a boat
With our shotguns poised, in a yellow rain coat
"Boy," said Walter, "This is what it takes!
If you want to be a poet, don't make no mistakes!
You say you are a poet, you can't be the best,
But duck-hunting puts some hair on your chest!"
The minute he said that, a duck flew above us,
Walter took a shot, and started to cuss.
"See what I mean! You gotta pay attention,
The duck flew by and sensed our intention.
You gotta figure out what a bird might do,
And for no other reason, write a haiku."
Well I shot ten ducks, and Walter shot one,
He was a sorry resentful, son-of-a-gun.
I wrote a haiku, well maybe one or two,
But Walter got an unheard-of case of bird flu.
I don't know how his luck got so bad,
It was one of the best times I ever had.
The next day in the coffee shop,
I had some stories for which I could swap.
Amid all the clamor I served some roast duck
We drank lots of coffee and things went amuck.
People started getting sick from my cooking,
I dumped the food in the trash when no one was looking.
A man said, "Because of you, I got bird flu,
You'll hear from my lawyer! I'm going to sue!
So I changed my identity and never came back,
That delicious coffee is what I do lack.
Since then, I just drink coffee at home,
A perfect place to write a good poem.
To the coffee shop, I won't be coming back,
So goodbye to all! And to all a good quack!

As we lay

Mariana Al.Far
My hair collapses on the pillow
And we lay there
Holding each other's souls into place
It's only been moments
Since our spirits roamed around the room
Entangled in a dance

Exhausted we lay
Looking into the silence
Loud was the drumming of hearts
Beastly was the feeding of the flesh

Hold on to my spirit
It's drifting..
Gazing at the door
It's locked!

I'm chained to the bed
Chained to the darkness
Chained to the floor
"I'm scared to touch you"
You said back then

It's your hand again
On my forehead
On my hair

If only yesterday was today

"I still love you
As yesterday
And I will always
You say

How could I be as good as you are to me?
Why should I get more than a glance?
A blink and it's yet again one more chance
To love
To destroy
To feel
To hold each other's souls into place

And again we lay
In a beautiful embrace.


Deborah Vitello
I never needed JESUS
You were my savior
Even though I was a lost soul
I didn't beleve in anything anymore
Until I met you
Our love was a miracle
Causing us to be reborn
I never needed Angels
Because I had you
You wore no halo
But you were as powerful as if you had wings
Carrying me through some pretty rough times
You became my religion
Yes, I worshipped you
Your death became my Armaggedon
Now I pray everyday
That we will be together again
Because wherever you are is heaven.

Neither Gay Nor Particularly Happy Being Straight

by Job Conger
I have had me some sweethearts
who said they thought me wise;
traded love for some bountiful
baskets of lies.
It was all so mercantile,
I recall with a sigh.
It seems I was born to be an older guy.

My delirious romances
all ended in a huff.
I haven't loved often
or even enough,
but I'm done with my fool's game
of wondering why.
It seems I was born to be an older guy.

Companion forever hopes,
duets in the sun,
I had my chances
and I blew every one.
Panning for gold in the waste of woe -
You know it's folly to try.
One might say I was born to be an older guy.

No more quilt and antique shopping.
There's more room to stretch in bed.
Don't have to pretend to like her friends;
I just have to pretend to like my friends instead.
I've not vacuumed my house
since last fourth of July.
It seems I was born to be an older guy.

Without Shoes

by Christine Swanberg
Henry walks into the restaurant
In stocking feet. Suddenly
His wife, son, and daughter see
That no one noticed Dad shuffling
To the old Buick, shoeless.
Dad, a child now chauffeured
In the back seat of his own car,
Now he sees that he has forgotten
His loafers.
                  No one says anything.

No one knows that the daughter,
Here now with the family, has been
Disinherited. The family is well-schooled
In keeping up appearances, but the daughter
Followed her heart and broke
The rules for Love in the Middle Class.

Later, she will be the one to pull off
His clammy white socks, rub his sallow,
Calloused feet with her thumbs.
She will smooth over the balls of his feet
With the fleshy part of her palm,
Kneading each foot gently. And seeing
The bulging veins, the turbulent river
Of his old body, the collapsed tributaries,
And the old bones splayed like the wing
Of a raven, she will rub until his feet
Turn pink, as though they were embarrassed.

His feet will blush
And flush with a warmth
He hardly recognizes.
                               She is
Her father's daughter and will not cry.
Neither speaks an apology.
She is washing his feet
With a white washcloth
Soaked in lemon-scented shampoo.
This he accepts without judgment.


by Lauren Finaldi Gurus
We're going to surprise her
with pudding!

Dinette chairs screech
on linoleum when we drag them
to cabinets of measuring cups,
wooden spoons and the biggest
aqua bowl we can find.

I empty tiny pouches of powder,
pour the milk, stir
and lick the spoon.

Little Sister gets jobs like wiping up
spilled chocolate from the floor,
discarding the pudding boxes,
standing guard for signs of an adult.

At only four, she knows more
about cooking because I don't care,
never pay much attention. She insists
we use Tupperware on the stove.

The first plastic container starts to bubble
under brown goop. Lowering the flame
does not help, bubbles pop.

The second and third melt
in similar suit. I hope Dad
can fix those holes.
My sister maintains
this is how Mom makes it.

We run out of Tupperware
when Mom wakes up for her big surprise.


by Pat Petros
Off the train we move,
person to person
recycling gas-fumed oxygen,
sharp angry honks,
screeching tires,
whooshing air brakes.
You welcome me, Chicago,
wrap your arms around
so tight
I suffocate.


by Donna Pucciani
Seventy years ago in West New York,
the Van Buren Wildcats initiated my father
into the gang. Sitting him atop a fetid hill
at the city garbage dump, they screamed
at the top of their adolescent lungs:
"Let the Pigeons Fly!" Handfuls
of rotten tomatoes, the mulch of old tires,
used diapers and pitted newspapers,
the swill of other people's lives,
jetted through the air. Missiles
rose like angels, clinging to my father
with the merriment of stench and filthy blessing.

Unaware that metaphor becomes reality,
and long after the Wildcats skulked off
among the tenements and the detritus of youth,
my father, now barely breathing the leftovers of life,
crowned with the muck of age, infirmity his kingly cape,
reigns in his wheelchair. The story he told us often
over cookies and milk has forgotten him,
but he remains, as ever, king of the hill,
keeping the myth alive.

(Accepted for publication by Off the Coast)


by James L. Corcoran
To put with wit
A stopping stone
That rolling to
Sat still as bone
A toil that ends
The job that starts
With endless
Of fits and Starts
The barnacle on the
Ivory Coast
The jell-o in your hair
All there to tell us
Wonderfully how
Our motion stills
is there
And after tired bodies
Are finally come to rest
We can count by
Who and what was best
Formally however
Just like the heaving
Inertia comes to point us
And relate it to the

A Mother's Tears

by Bonnie Manion
A mother's tears
My necklace make.
They link the years,
An old keepsake.
Each baby cry,
All childhood falls,
Your grown goodbye
Or dream that stalled.
Each smothered hope,
Rash driving spree,
When you eloped
Wrought anxiety.
Your quick retort,
Derisive laugh,
More links did forge,
More tears did graft.
Stilled parent's voice
When heart won't bend,
Her child's wrong choice
Or untrue friend.
A mother's fears
Set her apart
And keep her tears
Close to her heart.
Each one a part
Of a growing chain,
Within her heart
Woes liked remain.
They fade through years,
Almost depart,
But a mother's tears
Adorn her heart.

A Love Renewed

by John J. Gordon
Was he blind to subtle signals sent,
Unprepared for changes yet to come?
Content everything stay the same,
She was his one and only love.

She said his presence made her complete,
He was secure just being with her.
Few words were needed, rarely spoken,
Since she fulfilled his every need.

Yet as their relationship blossomed,
Uneasy moments came more often.
Increasing closeness cramped her space.
He yearned for a bit more freedom.

Still, when it happened he was shocked.
That noise, the exploding confusion,
He must have hurt her, she was screaming,
Terrified, he had trouble breathing.

Amidst this chaos, he was born.

At that moment, his world shattered,
Removed from her for the first time.
When she reached out to cradle him,
Her gentle touch renewed their love.


by Todd Possehl
You lived life with little,
loved your children, your parents.

Lie down now, without complaint, and listen
patiently to words uttered as eyes
close to light.

Seek a bed of cold wet earth and marry
the centuries as night consumes
and consummates the day--

savor the sweet grass of heaven.

Let yourself crumble with ease
into the dust you were, the dust
you are, and know the sun
is deity.

(Previously published in the The Iconoclast)

They Fly

by Steven Schroeder
There are sleepers along the walk,
stripped to the waist in heat
that does not break
even when it rains. It rolled in
at the beginning of May and has
crushed the last parasol of resistance
by the end of June.
        Some of them
worked through the night on this
city that has no idea how to stop. Some
will rise soon to begin again,
tearing the city down by hand with pick
and hammer, while massive
trucks wait in line to pour concrete
where the Phoenix city rises
as it falls, a Daoist geometry
of solid contraries. Some
will gather at the edges of rich people's haunts
and scratch for leavings as they pass.

There are little armies marching on
these same edges with sticks
they carry to keep the rabble in
line, ensure that money is never disturbed.
There are moments of contact; where a cop
and a beggar have waited on the same corner
for years, there is a strategic admiration
like that between commanders who face each other
on the same battlefield a long time, intimate
as lovers. The longer the war, the more
it resembles a lover's quarrel.
        I have seen cops and beggars
trade smiles and conversation after
coins have dropped and another tourist has
gone away undisturbed. They have roles
to play, and the drama, like the city, does
not sleep for fear it will not wake. When
a coin drops in a beggar's bowl, it is
the sound of money, rhythmic as picks
and hammers at scenes of endless construction:
tear the city down, raise the city up, let us
make a city. There are sleepers, but never the city.

Three young teens have brought a skateboard
to practice on the wide open square at hai shong shie jie--
almost too early to vogue, but a cop not much older
than they watches with a look that says he would
join them if he could. He will send them away
when the square is crowded with tourists
and young mothers who bring their children
here to walk. But not now. A man who must be forty-
something stops, hand on hip contrapposto, to watch them.
        He can remember a moment like this
if he holds himself still against the money. But still
is possible only for an instant at the pivot point
on which the world turns. He moves, and so
do the boys with the skateboard.

A mother laughs with her daughter
in a bright orange dress, shows her how
to flap her wings, and, trailing tiny
bells of laughter,
they fly.

(Published in Moon City Review, Autumn 2004,
and Fallen Prose, Virtual Artists Collective, 2006)

a fitting tribute

by Steven Kappes
there they are again
on television news
racing down the court
orange costumes
flapping in the wind
as their legs churn
like cliff divers
wind milling
as they drop

this winning
basketball team
is one of the best
in the nation

but I have to wonder
how much greater
they might be
if only their

Starry Night

by John Pawlik
And a good friend said
Something about hope
Being the religion
Of the irrational

That it is easier to be blind
Regardless to the eyes
To listen to the heart's fantasies
Whatever the ear may hear

He lit a cigarette . . .
Exhaled halos of blue
Into the cool evening air

That it's silly
To really believe
Tomorrow will be any better
In so far as what it is that actually matters

And all I said
Looking up into the starry night
Was Oh . . .


for Clifford Saper
by Wilda Morris
of the brain

that little walnut
in your head

which says
eat or drink

or cry

have sex
or don't

how did you know
to look

for the on-off switch

for sleep

you must
have been


(First published in
DuPage Arts Life,
Fall, 2004)


by Larry Turner
You must know how you attract me.
You are the light that guides me
amid surrounding night.
You have such warmth, and yet
you seal yourself within
a globe of glass where I can see you
but never touch. My antennae
can't discern what signal you are sending.
Over and over, I try to draw near
until with battered wings I fall.

No Time To Keep

by Tim Breitzmann
So many clocks
And no time to keep

The dirge of drums
Of hoof steps

An unruly horse
Backward boots

Our lady in black
Though pink will be recalled

A procession of kings
Winds through a sea of common humanity

A little boy salutes
And we are left...

Some people die
And nations weep

Some die alone
With their name known but to God

Some die with such suffering
Well before their time

Some die peacefully
At a ripe old age

Yet all of our futures
Is to live in someone else's past

So relish the day with them
The sun will set when it sets

Life, is as tic tac toe
It can't be won, only played

A Sewing Bag

by Sally Calhoun
My sewing bag is strictly metaphorical.
I pull out scraps,
examine them,
piece them together
as stories or as poems,
even as books.

Although you cannot see it,
I think of my sewing bag as blue,
the color that my mother always wore,
as I always like to aim for things
that make me feel like my mother.

My sewing bag, abstract,
is filled with many roles,
the least of which is one for sewing buttons
or making clothes.

Instead the roles conjure multi-colored dreams,
woven with sights and sounds I grasp and recognize,
moments of insight,
smidgens of despair
caught in time, transmogrified
into more interesting fare.

What could any Twenty-first Century woman do
without one of these?

Custom-made, ready for dumping out or sorting at
a given moment's notice?

Stone Forest in Kunming, China

by William Marr
here "annual ring" becomes meaningless
just like we don't ask
the life history of an individual wave
in the sea

still we train our cameras
on their rugged faces
each bearing a mark
from the Big Bang
while their hands
all thrust toward the sky

The Internet Highway

by Caroline Johnson
Behind the computer congestion
    the digital id
        the networking to Oz
    as we download our frustration
        lies a background of Chrysanthemums
and glacial mountains,
    our lily white utopia,
        pure as snow, stands unchanged
          against the ever changing binary ions.

Our perfect dream seems
    as real as yesterday,
        as attainable as a drifting hitchhiker
          alone on a desert highway,
    frozen with grief
        and with laughter he empties his
pockets to find only the filled space of time,
    the present moment of being
        the conversation faking up
          for the void of coins
          and presents
    with just a little effort he hitches
        up his backpack
    and leans down to pick a flower.


by Alan Harris
Listen to abundance--
not only Niagara's thunder
but two mosquitoes whining--

not only the whoosh of rest
but the whoops of errors
and the whew of success.

Abundance is my golly
and Betsy's heavens,
but also the sibilance
of a petunia's petal
falling into grass.

Abundance roars out its yes
and whispers yet more yes--
the best, it is, of the most,
plus the all within the least.

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