Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
April 2014
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Poems on this Page:

Price for flight

by Christine Cianciosi
I met you tonight
on another plane.
I hugged you near
to comfort your tears.

While I traveled far
yet remained here,
our souls astrally met
in dream worlds depth. 

Your essence so clear
I hug you near—
within these tears
let go the fear.

There's a feeling I get 
from your spirit I met—
soon to leave
it cries to be free.

I see you in
your brother's eyes
and in his eyes
I see you. 

While we never did meet,
I traveled to you tonight—
my spirit so bright
coming to you in astral flight. 

Your father waits
at the foot of the bed—
coming early or late
he won't hesitate. 

To leave this plane
there is a price—
don't think twice
for that heavenly flight. 

Let go the fear
yes its coming near—
last moment of breath
welcomes new birth in death.

Sweet Chestnut

by Nancy Ann Schaefer
…it may sound as if I had invented it; but to me
it seems like a poem—Viktor E. Frankl

The train slithers along sinister track across guilty 
landscape, cattle cars crammed with human stock: 
tear-soaked mothers, silent children, hollow-eyed 
men, frail friends, neighbors, pensioners, babies
all crowd into stifling carriage—new transports 
roll in and halt by Auschwitz gate as twilight falls.

Amid dog barks, Nazi shouts, Capo blows, new arrivals 
descend into bowels of the camp: barbed wire, watch 
towers, unspeakable stench. Nonstop, smokestacks 
disgorge precious dust, choking ash blots out the sun 
under Krupp-colored sky. At reception: piles of shoes 
asunder, scuffed suitcases, heaps of human hair, eyeless 

spectacles, gold fillings. Tattoo numbers carefully 
recorded in neat lists compiled by a stern clerk in light 
diffused by lampshade—pink as pigskin. Prison guards 
survey loot: fluted crystal, fine china, priceless paintings, 
lost rag doll. Prisoners file past senior SS officer 
in spotless uniform; casually he lifts forefinger, points 

left, points right—more left than right. Screams, curses 
grip hearts, crack open starless night. Nearby in earthen 
hut, a young woman lies on makeshift cot, whispers to
Viktor, her thin voice rattles in chest. Soon she begins 
to float free of her captors—from cruelty, deprivation, 
deep loss. Before she draws final breath, she tells him: 
Gazing out crude window cut through flimsy wall, 
she beheld sweet chestnut's solitary branch burdened
by two white blossoms. In her loneliness, she talked 
to her only friend, the tree—

Sweet chestnut replied:
I am here, I am here, 
I am life, eternal life.

(first published in Out Loud Anthology VI, 2013)

Oops...That One's Not an Easter Egg!

by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
I have been hiding eggs for the kids all day
I hid them high and low, now I am tired, I must say,
I put those eggs in places that I can't even remember,
Goodness gracious! The kids might still be 
searching for eggs 'til mid-September,
Things got busy, while I was hiding eggs,
I was chatting on the phone,
I was also changing the baby's diaper 
When out dropped a little stone,
I was so engrossed in conversation that I may
Have hidden it in a strategic place,
But we'll immediately know who found it by
the frown upon his or her face! 

My Big Old Green Glass Floor Jug,

by Barbara Robinette
the one we've casually possessed for thirty-one years,
the one that moved with us from the apartment
to Lewis Street to Dyson Street, then hundreds of miles
south to the trees of Arkansas      the one that stoically
witnessed our hot tempers and furrowed brows
worried about making money and ends meet,
the same one that sparkled on the boys' birthdays,
when they laughingly popped balloons by sitting on them
while I cut the cake    now it's the jug with a jagged crack
to the gaping hole in its side.
Instead of displaying it in our new living room,
I resolutely placed it in the thick plastic bag
with the other trash.  Then powerfully swung the hammer
hearing the glass shatter.  I knew its form was no more—
but my life!  I tightened a knot with the yellow
plastic tie to this new bodybag.
There are sorrows keener than this.
While eating breakfast the next day, we watched the news
of Yasser Arafat's death and that his body
will be air lifted from France to Egypt.  The president
of France called him courageous.  And then we talked of how
he didn't stop the suicide bombers     that surely somewhere
a young man sits in his home, powerfully waving Arafat's 
holy white flag.  And when he can wait no longer, the boy
rushes out the front door, turns and calls "good-bye!" to his mother,
holding a dish towel and standing near the front doorway.
She wipes the freshly washed and sparkling drinking glass
around and around and around its rim.
She stands in the doorway for a long, long time.
(previously published in the author's book Sea Leafs By Moon)

One Last Turn

by Phil Egelston
She's stopped at weathered face
of timeworn rock.
It halts her high and holy leap.
The doe, to find her
fawn, a dapple-covered spot,
turns and shoots past the line
of ancient, haunting trees.
She spins, and rolling tumblers
click in place, each to
its intended numbered slot,
and one last turn
snaps open Time:
Eternity in a shot.


by Donna Pucciani
The moon consumes first
the white-hot souffle of summer,
then the orange omelet of fall.

Winter becomes lemon-ice
scooped in crystal, carried
to the lips in spoons
of the family silver.

Spring will bring mud 
and blossoms, meringue 
sugaring a cloud of leaves.

(published in Cairn. Also
displayed in Storefront Window
Project, Highland Park Poetry)

The Stem

by Mark Hudson
I went out for coffee with my friend Chris,
I had some coffee and had to take a piss.
I went into the restroom, on the hand drying machine,
someone left a stem that was green.
In high school, I might've considered it a find,
but I'm old and I'm permanently out of my mind.
I left the stem on the hand dryer where it was,
I know what pot is and I know what it does.
My friend Chris had to pee a little later,
he saw the stem, which could've been the waiter's.
I tell this story, as if it were a joke,
but at least I didn't take the stem to smoke.
If I didn't believe in God, it wouldn't take long,
to take that stem, and put it in a bong.
So if the stem was the devil's attempt at temptation,
I'm too old for this pot-head generation.
Finding a stem to a pot-head is gold,
but to me it's worthless, I'm getting too old.
If you saw a burger sitting on the street,
would you consider it something you would eat?
I must put things in their proper perspective,
pot kind of makes your brain defective.
If you think your life is making you bored,
don't end up like the mayor Rob Ford.
Fifteen minutes of fame is what he had,
his life was worse than the show "Breaking bad."
So, devil, keep on offering distractions,
I've noticed all the coming attractions.
Colorado is where you can buy,
legal pot, and you can get high.
And pretend that problems aren't as bad,
but when your money is gone you'll be sad.
A stem on the restroom hand dryer just means,
the barista got bored with his espresso beans.
So welcome to the world of getting old!
Everything's a rerun, the coffee is cold.
If you find a stem in the local café,
you'll take it, because you don't have to pay.
Americans love anything that they can get free,
but someone out there is paying the fee.
It's usually the poor who are breaking their back,
working towards having a heart attack.
So just because I notice a stem in the café,
doesn't mean I can take it away.
Some things are meant to just stay in the ground,
but how many crazy things have been found?
Now everybody is fracking for oil,
damaging water and ruining the soil.
I may be full of a bunch of superstitions,
but I really just don't trust politicians.
Now think of this poem, that I've just created,
I didn't get high to write it, I made it.
But I can't be judging the whole humanity,
the whole world is total insanity.
You can use pot for coping skills,
but who is going to pay your bills?
So I don't care about finding a stem,
in the past I would've thought it a gem.
They don't care if kids even learn,
make pot legal, with brain cells to burn.
I didn't take the stem, which was smart,
I left it in the restroom, and let out a fart.

Eleven Lines

by William Marr
Escaping from the boredom
of the soap opera
a colorful bubble
wanders the neighborhood
where people are in school
or at work
When it finally decides to burst
and give itself a last, loud clap
we hardly hear anything
    as the world turns

The American Dream

by Beth Staas
Properly taught,
he might have written a dirge,
the strings a final lullaby,
a murmured legato
beneath the oboe's mournful cry,
a soft reproach to the flutes
that scurried along the scale,
for there was no gladness here.

Were he an artist,
his brush could have swirled
in emerald, ruby, sapphire blue,
a bejeweling of colors
to decorate her bier,
or fashioned a howling beast
of brown and gray blotches
that screamed out his grief.

A poetic pen
would have voiced an ode
when he slipped off his ring
to slide over hers,
or hymned a heavenly psalm
to send her on her way
to paradise.

But mute, dumb and frozen,
he stood and stood,
looking as never before
with eyes rimmed in red,
then touched her cheek
in a final farewell.

My father, beast of burden,
unsmiling, distant, remote,
still pressed against the window,
against that golden door.

Winter Blues

by David LaRue Alexander
I’m sooo done with ice and snow,
that winter glow;
that was,
is long since gone.
Like a bad relationship,
that lingers on;
I just want it over!
I yearn for green grass,
and fields of clover.
Why do they call it, 
the winter blues?
When there are no hues,
of color in sight.
Everything, everywhere,
is nothing but white.
Warm sunny days,
but a distant memory.
Like a prisoner held captive,
I just want to be free.
Blossoming flowers,
and budding trees.
Soft gentle rain,
the birds and the bees.
These are the things,
I'd love to see.
If Spring would only come,
and rescue

florida solstice

by Steven Kappes
on the morning
of the winter solstice
all of the residents
gather in the
florida RV park
as the sky lightens
and the black of night
fades into coming dawn
as our ancient ancestors
gathered in stone cathedrals
on bare mountain tops
in the ice and snow of winter
waiting for a sign
wearing shorts and flip flops
short sleeved shirts
we wait for the sun to appear
between two certain trees
marking the shortest day
but this is only fantasy
a couple of bicyclists
a few morning walkers
some out for exercise
some with their dogs
others leaving for town
to find breakfast
are the only ones stirring
no formal assembly
no special signs await
we get our predictions
from morning newscasts
on the local tv station
and the winter solstice
means only
four more shopping days
until Christmas

When a Stranger Calls

by Jill Angel Langlois
The middle-aged woman at the bar
hunched on her barstool,
wrapped in a tattered raincoat,
hopes the man with curious eyes 
will send her a drink.
Just so she can refuse it.
She is stationed here night after night
growing old and craggy, 
full of verbal judgment for contemporaries
with a harshness from cigarette parties
lasting too long into the night
and into the morning.

Newspaper folded over, pen in hand,
she searches for a new apartment.
A scotch is placed at her elbow
as the barkeep offers an amused raised eyebrow.
She looks down and sets her face in stone.
Cold, harsh, rough eyes search the small crowd.
Frown lines appear on her worn face
as she spots him at the other end of the bar.
The man with curious eyes smiles, hopeful.
She shakes her head, questioning the barkeep.
The barkeep shrugs and smirks, 
knowing she got what she wanted.
The man moves closer to her.

She pierces the man with a glare.
"Get lost!" she hisses.
"Why," he says, "so I can be where you are?"

The nerve!
She gasps, scowls at him,
brusquely folds her newspaper,
stuffs it into her purse.
She turns and leaves,
slithering out of the creaking door,
away, into the cold, lonely night.

The barkeep smiles; lights a smoke; leans on the counter.
The man throws back the last swallow,
tosses money on the bar.
Meeting the barkeeps eyes,
he flips up the collar on his raincoat.
Follows out after her.

Upon Awakening after Bypass Surgery

by Bonnie Manion
I was able to see shadowy figures
silhouetted against the fading sunset;
he on one side by the window, she
on the other kissing my forehead,
saying, "this one's for Chrissie,
this one's for Sheila, this one's for."

Respirator gone and more awake,
I was able to lie still all the next day
by holding her small warm hand,
marveling at her patience, my peace.
Her sister also came, generously,
from a distance, accompanied in
rare duo by her own curious husband.

The following day was harder for I
lay alone, immobilized by the sheer
multiplicity of tubing, monitors and
wiring that connected my vital signs
to digital readouts.  No visitor broke
the monotony of my straight-jacketed,
silent wait.  Surprisingly, I had no pain
without movement.  I coaxed myself to

Be still, my heart, don't fret, reasoning
It's for your own good you're trussed,
gusseted with catheter and chest tubes,
arms threaded with IVs, skin dotted
with electrodes.  You can overcome
these claustrophobic restrictions one
minute, one hour, one day at a time.

In time, the low winter sun did return
to an expansive blue sky, hospital
buildings jutting up in front of fluffy,
racing clouds.  A web of bare branches
outside my window reminded me of
the network of tubing that yesterday
enmeshed me, enabling me, this time,
to cheat death.

The Second Letter (Part 2)

by David McKenna
Part 1

A Soul's Song

by Chris Holaves
...the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace.
                        Num. 6:26

Hauntingly, a melody plays in my head
like an ocean breeze blows gently through a conch shell,
and sighs echo round and round to lure memories happy and sad 
of places, faces, hopes and dreams drowned by time's well.

Resounding ear to ear, this tune to me is dear
and resonates in the mind's dark chamber back and forth—
to trill slowly under a dormant universal fear:
My soul's song, aged like wine with time, has achieved its worth.

How can I describe the soul's nostalgic sound?
It's the heart's violin playing sadly near the bay,
the bassoon's breath to keep me always life-bound
while the ocean's blue sky has almost turned gray,
but visions of places, faces, and dreams still deeply resound.

Piercing lyrics and rhythms of this melody hound
my years while wistful breezes take me in May
to crescendo what I may have lost or may have found.

Then slowly, ever so slowly, the notes decrescendo
till my head's at peace with shell-sound memories of long ago.


by Sandi Caplan
Mornings are here to remind us
To stop and open our eyes

For the beauty of life that 
Surrounds us

We be a guiding light 
In the sky

Acer Rubrum

by Candace Armstrong
They call me Red Maple, but my name is Acer Rubrum. 
I have many sisters: Silver, Sugar, Norway and Black.
Our windblown samaras render ample
reproduction. We populate the earth.

I stretch upward with joy! Pachysandra 
shelters in my cooling summer shade, 
sleeps beneath snows at my feet, and wakes when sun 
on my naked branches gets my sap flowing.

Many a species envies the smooth grey skin of my youth,
I can tell you, but not as much as my incarnadine splendor
in autumn. Jealousy ripples on the wind through the brown
and yellow leaves of my neighbors.

Sparrows settle their nests in the crotches
of my many robust boughs. Squirrels scamper 
over my outstretched limbs for high refuge 
from the lawnmower and the barking dog. 

A lady hangs bird feeders from my branches,
a light and happy burden. Her tender pruning 
keeps me pleasing to people pausing in their walks
to admire me, some taking photographs.

Best of all is the young boy who grows strong
climbing to hidden vantage in my bright
bower. They might call me Red Maple, but
my name is Acer Rubrum.

(published in MUSE, summer 2012)


by Marguerite McClelland
The town below lay cozily
between the folds of the afternoon.
The girl, alone, on the crest of the hill
watched the cloudless sky
hang motionless above the lofty pines.
Smoke from village chimneys
drifted into the evening chill;
the ping from the blacksmith's shop,
the screech of the saw at the mill,
the bell of the grocer's door,
and the bark of an angry dog 
after the peddler of ribbons and shoe laces —

these, taking turns,
hop-skipped to where she lay,
and the yellow bench, a little ways below,
held patiently her half-filled bag of kindling
for the winter fires,
while she burned with desire
for faraway.

She didn’t know
how winding trails
turn into arrowed roads
never wending their way back home;
how hollow the rumbling stone
against the rubber of wheels,
how, like them, she would grow
and dull,
and hollow,
and follow,
and follow....


by Cathy Lou Pearson
We went to Provence,
we traveling five.
We wined and dined
and explored St. Remy.
Whether north, south,
east or west, there was plenty to see.
We savored and saw and learned quite a lot.
Our curiosity peaked with each day.
We felt like explorers as we peered
in the regional nooks and crannies.

The autumnal afternoon sun seemed incandescent.
The shadows cast a mysterious shade of pale
as if to tell us of what is to come or has been.
Like sponges, we soaked in the Roman history.
The Impressionists' footprints were in the surrounds.
Easy to understand the drive to create artistic alchemy
with such ease, breathing unsurpassed infusion into each
expression from a stroke of the brush.

So much to see, how fast the time flew.
We traveling folks embraced what seemed new,
but actually was old as the history was written
the south of France, oh, we were smitten!
It whispers us back like an old friend for sure.
Yes, we must return for an immersion of more.

The splendor of France engulfs our senses,
the magnificence of newfound reality,
imperative, exemplary, existential, exquisite,
yet elementary in enormity,
in a kind of Mandarin mosaic manner.

We journeyed to France,
we traveling five.
A memorable sojourn
When will we return?
French provincial proclivities,
Renaissance reconstituted.
Fruitful antiquities hammered through time,
uncharted territory,
intrinsical enlightenment.
French gravitational pull,
undeniably so.
The vagarious imagination peaks.
Sanguinely, it's hard to let go.

Crayling Creek

by Wilda Morris
The old creek bed is almost dry,
just puddles among brown leaves,
piles of twigs and rocks,
like Dad, once a nurturing stream,
now a small pool of memory
in the detritus of Parkinson’s disease,
feet like dead leaves,
his fingers, twisted twigs.
Sometimes he rises from his chair
and walks. Sometimes his laugh
reflects joy in the pool of his eyes.
Like robins at the creek bed,
I stop and drink.

(first published in issue 45 of the
on-line journal Gangway)

Soil of Generations

by Kathy Cotton
In a blink of spring,
crocus gives way to daffodil,
forsythia to lilac.

In a blink,
mother gives way to daughter,
daughter to grandchild.

In their ceaseless cycles 
and women
bloom, fade,

bury their lovely seeds
in the soil of generations,

preparing always 
for the next spring.

Paper Bells

by Pamela Larson
I sit down to edit
the let go journal
that I regret  my words into
night after night.
An elastic variety of unwanted jargon,
syllabled little enemies of bashful courage
sit in front of the pour your soul jury
to see if I've let out too much
or too little.
They discount a few feelings
saying they are stolen idea bargains
and red ink me to dig deeper.
These words are unfit for ready!
You must not judge but demand!
You must interrogate the mindlessness,
rip it apart,
throw it against juxtaposition
and build it up again on the other side...
That is the Tao of it.

Nuts and Bolts

by Susan T. Moss
Worn floorboards creak
in every old hardware store.
Each is familiar even

on first visit when I know
before seeing every stacked shelf
filled with a bevy of screws,

door handles, metal thingamajigs,
rubber boots and gloves assembled
near furniture polish and mops

close to orange chain saws.
Toward the back, paint cans perch
in tightly packed rows

next to brushes and color charts
glowing under fluorescent
fixtures too high for dusting.

In one corner stand sturdy shovels
for dirt or snow and to my left
among kitchen utensils

hangs the cake tester I've been seeking
for three months plus paper baking
cups with red hearts

like the ones in magazine photos.
Nearby sits a small iron skillet
hard to ignore and so useful

to sauté garlic someday after planting
grass seed from aisle six and fixing
the sink with chrome parts in aisle ten.

Big barrels of nails don't block access
to the counter anymore and cash
registers don't clink when opened,

but there's the smell of oil and wood
in a place where people still know how
to repair household drips and cracks

and measure within a micron, which beats
plunger-over-clog any steel-clad megamart
where I could get lost without a map.

I Sing with My Wings

by Irfanulla Shariff
I sing with my wings
I am a hummingbird
I chirp and whistle
And they call me
The amazing love bird
I wander around
From flower to flower
Touching them softly
With my beak
In quest of sweet nectar
An essential fuel
For my musical soul
I shine like a diamond
And change my color occasionally
To attract my mate
I flow gently
Forward and backward
Upward and downward
Brisk is my dance
Full of enchanting romance
I may be the smallest bird
But I buzz
With colossal speed
My lyrics are flying words
I hum along
From the bottom of my heart
I praise and thank
The Lord of the universe
Every single day
For giving me a chance
To serve and enjoy
This awesome world
Now you know
Why I sing
With my wings

Lost Stories

by Marcia Pradzinski
Lakes, rivers, oceans fight 
to reach me. Their stories surge 
in moonlit waves —

a quicksilver flash of my grandparents 
who lost children to disease as they gasped
drowning in eddies of English

my father's work apron, stiff with oil
from his day as a machinist,
hung idle on days spent fishing for perch

my mother whose fiery hair and stern face 
rich with freckles melted into smiles
at the sight of her nine grandchildren —

Lakes, rivers, oceans fight 
to reach me. Their stories surge 
in moonlight waves, then sink.

(published in Exact Change Press, Winter 2013)


by Lynn Fitzgerald
Two glasses,
a stain of dark berries
in the time of fullness.

How might they have been discovered
on that cloudless night,
they slept, so still and plum ripened, 
like matching leaves, one 
with a raindrop, the other 
moist becoming dry.

One letter's opening
like the month of May, only fainter,
slips a transparent film 
across the limb summer 
has left unstirred,
as that night, when you pulled with your eyes 
the whole prairie into your sleeve.

Rond'a Vouz Gone A rye

by Ina Perlmuter
"honey maybe
find the bedding
make the beds
open windows
this place smells musty
fridge shelves, ugh
you know
need a woman's touch
I'll find the links
pool 'n exercise room
get ice for our drinky poos"
"You do that," I say
woman's touch my foot!
what I don't say but do
is pick up his car keys
my cell phone and bag
he is no Sir Galahad
He's clueless
open windows, clean shelves
make beds
drinky poo my foot!

Saturday Walk

by Alan Harris
I am nothing. I walk my
fleshy shell along the street,
seeing the squirrels at play and
hearing the early spring birds.

No, I am not invisible yet.
This body has size and mass
and cruises well on automatic pilot.
Any bird that cares can see me.

But the breeze whistles in my ears
as if I were hollow, and that's how
I feel—ecstatically hollow—
here for now, but empty of place.

I am the neighborhood today—
I am the sidewalk, the bare but
budding trees. I am the children
on bicycles and skateboards.

No iota in me stops
or diverts the fresh flowing of life.
The sun shines straight through me,
and I like the cool feeling inside.

Monday in the office
I will be something again.
I will have a title and a salary
and a desk and a boss.

Mondays must perhaps be.
Deadlines, crises,
meetings, phone calls—
all these may have their place.

But walking now outdoors,
I drift along free and empty.
Nothing can touch me
when I am nothing.

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