Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
April 2007
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by John Pawlik
because . . . perhaps
being unable
to stand the light

she seeks to come
in the last dead nothing hour
before the rooster crows

silently now
into a darkened bed
for the love she never knew or had

hip to spectral hip
caressing with phantom tongue

for after all. . . in the end . . .

what did straitlaced mortal morality
finally ever gain her
beyond the eternal yearning
for a little sin

The Land of Broken Pipedreams

by Mark Hudson
The dictionary defines a pipedream as a hope,
Like a delusion you might have on dope.
But all I can see is the American dream,
Is not what it might seem, it's a scheme.
A friend who was a drummer told his old man,
"I'm going to play drums and join a band."
His dad said, " That's a pipedream, you know,
Get a job, you'll never be in a show."
But I found that pipedreams were so sweet,
Most people who have them end up on the street.
I had a friend growing up who played guitar,
He wore dreds and he smoked a cigar.
People thought he'd make it far,
They thought he was going to be a rock star.
But now his hair is short, and it's clear,
He had his work cut out as an engineer.
I knew another friend who was a drummer,
But what happened to him was a bummer.
He died of leukemia rather recently,
But he used to play drums rather decently.
His dreams were just pipedreams too,
He went somewhere to be someone new.
One friend wanted his dreams so bad,
That he comitted suicide it was really sad.
Is any dream worth dying for,
Isn't life worth a little more?
The stars on TV burn out before our eyes
Just as American as many apple pies
Anna Nicole Smith how did she die
Does anybody even care why
The crocodile hunter's wife shed tears
And it made us confront our fears
Because some people don't have any real friends
The TV show itself is a means to an end
When I work in a factory for a twelve-hour shift
I want to watch TV, I need a lift
I want to see other's pipedreams dissolve
Around my TV the world does revolve
And if I have to work in a factory and labor
I don't want to see a prosperous neighbor
If a TV or rock star fails for all eyes to see
How better my life seems to be
Because I never got to live my calling
Maybe I could, maybe I'm just stalling
Schwarzenegger was a muscular man
But he never fought in Iraq or Iran
Neither did Bush, or any of the others
But those who do will sadden their mothers
And you can watch a computer-generated war
In a movie you've never seen before
Where actors have computer-generated muscles
Can you see how Hollywood hustles?
Being famous is over-rated,
How many stars have we hated.
I could've been a rock star, or an actor,
But instead I drive a truck or a tractor.
An actor with humility is a rarity,
The oscars had not a moment of clarity.
So my pipe dreams are still alive
I still dream from nine to five
When I don't give up people think I'm crazy,
They can't read my mind so they think I'm lazy.
Dreams are meant to come and go,
It's life itself that is the show.
Would people pay full-price to see your story,
Would it be a comedy or an allegory?
No story is unimportant to us all,
Like whatever happened to Arsenio Hall?
The Hall of Fame that leads us to shame,
We're all just another forgotten name.
But hopefully in God's eyes we matter,
He's there for us when our dreams shatter.
So pipedreams really do sometimes come true,
Consider yourself one of the fortunate few!

An Old Family Recipe

by G. C. Rosenquist
You didn't give birth to me
You invented me
In your boiling cauldron
A lonely larva wriggling free
Floating in your soup
Oh, the nerves I had
In your hand I was an edible effigy
Trying to evolve
But limbs made of plastic and plaster
Are easy to replace
Just detach from torso
Put into broth
Bind the bleeding
Add 1lb. Sugar
1lb. Spice
And stir until room temperature

When I got thigh-high
Bisection and dissection
Were on the menu
Using a long knife
Sever the bone
Split breast apart
Reach in with clean hands
Tear heart out
Bread skin accordingly
Deep fry for 35 minutes
Serves 1

Old enough now to cook my own meals
You saw in my jaw
Molars inlaid with ivory
Cavities under the enamel
And a ripe wagging tongue
With tongs, pull tongue out
Filet my nuts
Salt and pepper vigorously
Broil at 350 degrees forever

All this to make me more tasteful to you
Am I done yet?

The Story of Childhood

by Mardelle Fortier
Our house turned into the hut of Baba Yar
deep in the forest, on stilts of chicken legs,
shadows snaked under chill trees. Clouds
slunk across the sky like black cats.

As night fell, bright eyes stared unceasingly
from the hollow of a tree. Dark branches
tapped the window. Howls rose from some
mysterious place . . .
perhaps imagination.

Had we kids created this strangeness,
this laughter, these thrills, this new world,
an escape from mundane laundry
and cooking -- after we read that book?

(Published in DuPage Arts Life, 06-07)

Always Twenty One

by Jim Lambert
I found a poster-sized enlargement
Of a photo of my wife.
I took it on our second day of marriage.
Three months shy of her twenty-second birthday,
She is flashing a pixie smile
And squinting in the bright sunlight.

Mists and clouds are rolling in behind her
Up the Columbia River from the cold Pacific.
She is so beautiful and we are so much in love,
With future problems unthought,
Heartaches a distant unknown,
Coming responsibilities ignored.

We are carefree young adults
Comfortable in our own independent ways
And eager to share our lives.
We have no jobs,
Very little money,
And not a care.

And here four decades later
I sit at my desk enthralled.
I gaze at the picture
And then climb in beside her.
We look out over the valley
Arm in arm
Feeling each other's warmth.

We stand together for a few moments
Savoring our youth and anticipation
Of a lifetime to be spent together.

Then I reluctantly leave her in the picture
Knowing it was all a dream,
But       one that came true.


by James L. Corcoran
Speaking in passions
above the highest heights
A man can climb
enriched in the glorious
to eternity in lights
in the moment that its due
with never ending patience
"Is the asking all that's wanted
or is there something
in the instance
I can really do for you"
unspoken virtue in timeless
"ness" in faces
gifted with proportion
with titles and relations
and are they real
we ask ourselves
and laugh at them sometimes
but how is it
that when we pray
they always open eyes


by Steven Kappes
the orchestra tunes up
a cacophony
pounding savagely
against our ears
until finally the lights dim
they grow still

the conductor emerges
lifts his baton
and they begin
becoming a multi-headed beast

arms sawing bows
faces red from pushing
the wind
all bending
moving independently
but in rhythm
each on their own
but still somehow together

dressed in black
they could be souls
condemned to the inferno
writhing in torment

angels banished
from their heavenly home
imploring their maker
for one more chance

the music swells
washes over the audience
but somehow embarrassed
at witnessing such an
intimate act


by Wilda Morris
for Barbara Eaton
You dream there is a giraffe
on the roof. I bring him down
to the street, ride him through
the neighborhood.

I slap his neck gently,
take off at a gallop
for Lyman Woods.
Careful not to trample
trillium, wild hyacinth,
trout lily, we nibble
leaves of ancient oaks,
drink from the shallow waters
of the marsh. Red-winged
blackbirds settle on his neck,
thick as sparrows
on a power line.

Don't seek me at home.
I'm intoxicated by adventure.
We're cantering east,
toward the Atlantic.
We'll take a ship to Africa,
head for the Kalahari.

And don't send the police
to get this giraffe back.
He says you never owned him.

(First published in Prairie
Light Review


by Ruan Wright
I dive into the church
         out of the rain
It's driving hard and I am
                   without an umbrella

                   The midweek city stillness

         A vagrant sleeps at the rear but
         his snores are mellifluous
         comforting –

         Like Sunday afternoons when I was a child
in front of the fire
after a big family dinner

         Dad in his chair dozing
         Mother knitting chatting with Nan
         Grandpa sitting in another chair, watching TV
         my brothers and I playing Trouble
         the knock and pop of the die at its space-bubble helm –

I hurry along the aisle
         my high heels click
                   like clacking dice.

                                  I stand them still.

                                  It seems the walls
                towards me
like a welcoming host

Kiss me quiet
as would a mother at bedtime

I kneel
close my eyes
                        The rain
                                         is a distant shush.

(First published in Windhover, 2007)

In Search of His War

by John J. Gordon
"I have ordered a pre-emptive strike.
We are at war." Our Current Leader

Curiosity driven, I went searching for His War.

Finding the plan he said would bring victory,
A cursory scan quickly revealed,
Huge tax cuts, no draft, no call for sacrifice;
A bizarre blueprint for a wartime setting.

Patriotic politicians, business elite,
Would surely scurry to join his great fight.
But so few were serving in any capacity,
Their total response was barely a whisper.

Questioning the public was imperative,
A crucial cross section of thoughts on his war,
Strong opinions spewed forth, pro and con
Not many had first-hand experience.

Since students strive to always be truthful,
The college crowd had to be queried.
"My career's too important." "Man, I'm partying."
Two of the excuses I heard not to fight.

Indifference did not reign in every corner.
A sergeant emerged whose job was recruiting,
His young enlistees were trained for killing,
Theirs an up-close, personal view of the war.

Who volunteered, what were their motives?
He said some were gung ho, most had no choice,
Joining the service to score work or escape,
The survivor's reward, hope for a new life.

After finding His War, people avoid it,
Apathetic or troubled by its goal,
The few who do battle face constant peril,
Surrounded by fear and mounting death toll.

A Gardener Drinks Elderberry Wine
While Listening to Tchaikovsky, or,
A Botanist's Guide to the Orchestra

by Donna Pucciani
Violins are springs of mint, violas
lemon thyme that takes over the lawn,
celli like Siberian irises, richly purpled
on pale stalks, and basses old rhododendrons
huffing in the wind.

The piccolo's a honeybee, its head tucked into
the Russian sage of the bassoons, and in between,
the oboe slithers its wisteria overhanging
the clarinets' dark ferns, with the flute
a linnet perched on a chimney.

Trumpet vines the color of carrots and ginger
climb the fence where trombones, cool and damp,
soak up the rain like clumps of hydrangeas,
while the horns, sturdy as hosta and hungry as slugs,
bask in a thicket of tubas.

A tympani of evergreens -- hemlock, spruce, fir --
lend their ancient power to the snapping snares
of petunias, and the horse chestnut tree groans,
a bass drum shaking hollyhocks like tambourines,
blue and silver in the rain.

(Published in Spillway)

Prayer of the Pharisee

by Beth Staas
I thank thee God, as here I stand
a Christian in a Christian land
where other faiths are minor schisms,
heaven and hell but euphemisms,
and piety perfunctory.
I thank thee for democracy
where everyone is all the same
excluding those with foreign name;
where prejudice is seen as cruel
except in housing, work and school.
I thank thee for Dow Jones' power
that made all other systems cower,
where English is the common speech
and Internet is within reach
to waste away another day.
You've kept most illnesses at bay
with madness just a minor worry,
anxiety but transitory;
for every pain and ache, a pill,
along with conscience, ethics, will.
And I thank you, Oh Lord sublime,
for giving me the gift of time
to woo and wed repeatedly,
conceiving offspring frequently,
fecundate birth to bloat the earth.
And finally you've shown the worth
of guns and tanks and planes that soar
and promises a winning war.
So though some die on foreign strand,
It's not my fault, as here I stand.

(Previously published in Combat web e-zine)

My Funny Mother

by Dr. S. V. Rama Rao
Partitioning my hair
was like drawing a straight line with a pencil
on my head with her favourite wooden comb
for my mother.
Before sending me to the school
hitting gentlly with her knuckles
on my head and
smiling affectionately
stamping a loving kiss
on the neatly combed hair
was the daily ritual
while I was growing up.

My mother would be waiting
for me to come home
from the after-school games.
As my long hair was
falling on the forehead and
poking the eyelids,
my mother's gentle hands
would instantly push up
the greasy, sweaty hair.

Whenever I look
in the mirror - even now -
I see a mischievous mother
standing behind me
ready to hit tenderly with her knuckles
and stamp a kiss
as naturally as she smiles.

While gently sliding my palm
on my little darling daughter's hair.
I too would stamp a soft kiss and
hit gently on her fluffy head
with my knuckles,
hilariously laughing to myself
at my own prank.
Kanaka Lakshmi Padmavathi,
who is named after my mother,
smiles at me in wonder,
not understanding
my childish amusement.

Whenever my daughter smiles
how dearly I long seeing my mother
standing next to my daughter
in her natural presence
readily awaiting to hit
with her knuckles
on my coconut head
while gently ruffling the non-greasy hair and
planting a kiss making a long whistling sound
on my greying head.

Where are you now,
my dear mother?
Please let me see you once.

Brother Tim

by Robert Burns Mounts
He never felt the deadly butterfly;
it grew in his head without a hint of sting
at a chemists' society symposium that spring.
A minor headache, a jolt when he'd glance at the sky;
a pause and brief confusion when he'd try
to speak and find his memory wandering
over technical terms he'd not found troubling
since the first reagent he'd helped identify.

That fall, back home, in terror he would find
himself alone, on streets he ought to know.
In twisted towns he sat on curbs and cried.
By second April, the wings had gripped his mind;
and with his reason, control began to go:
his bladder, bowels, his breathing. Then he died.

Deep Coffee, Alone

by Alan Harris
Suburbs (proud arks upon a primitive sea)

Today a female heart has gone funny--
funny like the strangest way a heart can feel
and still beat.

Quiet on her white couch,
drinking gourmet coffee,
she wrestles with inner intrusions
not covered by her insurance--
uninvited bass notes
are troubling her treble reality.

All is in place outdoors--
sunshine properly warming her acre,
fertile lawn greenly framing
her sporty car aglitter in the driveway,
white patio furniture gleaming
from acceptably jaunty angles.

But indoors, wallpaper blurs near the couch.
She cries--longly, profoundly cries.

Her architected home has no ears
for such snappings of heart,
nor is her healthy lawn
in sympathy wilting.

Her white couch, red car, green lawn,
and petite palace of prepared comfort
seem like checkers, smart but alien
on a board whose game has fallen
deep into chess for keeps.

Coffee and courage by now cool,
she meekly questions the silence:
"What is happening to me?"

Body, calm.
Mind, thoughtless.
Heart, electric.
Silence, holy.

(Cup needs rinsing.)

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