Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
June 2003
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Poems on this Page:

In the Face of

by James Conroy
Death's translucent image
crossed the winter sky,
a night cloud swirling shapeless
without violence or remorse;
full of wind and moon.

From the auk I gleaned the
certain knowledge
that survival isn't everything.
Ponder the extinct species
hibernating in encyclopedias,
tamed, forgotten,
pressed into knowledge and history.

The lone wolf shivers to see his shadow
folding like a page.

You've Got Mail!

by Barbara Cagle Ray
Mildred picked up her pen and paper again;
Her lips trembled, but she held back the tears.
"Well, I'll write him once more," she thought,
"Just as I've done for the past twenty years.

The Spring and Summer of my life have gone;
Autumn's gold has come, Winter's in sight.
If I receive no answer from him this time,
At least I've tried to do what's right."

She finished her letter, reached for her walker,
And headed to the mailbox in the pouring rain.
Her neighbor, Leah, ran outside to help her;
She said, "I see you've written your son again."

The Winter was harsh and Mildred grew weak;
She watched the box daily from her bed, alone.
Finally, her frail body could wait no longer;
God answered her prayer, "Please take me home."

The next day her neighbor, Leah, ran to her door;
She knocked very loudly, then let out a yell--
"Millie, it's me, I'm on my way inside;
"Oh, praise the Lord, you've got mail!"


by Thom Schmidt
Strip away all you think protects
Isolates you

Strip your thoughts, your mind, your body
Of anything that holds no promise

Your great pain, rife with
Intolerance, suffering, boredom and bloated

Strip it all away and become

See yourself

Begin again

When I heard

by Wilda Morris
In Memory of Fred Rogers
I took off my jacket,
put on a sweater
and changed to sneakers
when I heard the news.
I wanted to sink
into make-believe,
find a comforting castle
with a benevolent king
and hide from the truth.

But you taught us
to talk about life
and death, to face
realities, so I took
a train of thought back,
knowing it was all right
to grieve, knowing
it wasn't my fault,
and that no wishes
could bring back the one
who liked me
just the way I am.

The Mighty Oak and the Humble Fir

by Sally Calhoun
A mighty oak and a humble fir
stood next to each other in a forest.
After a time they began to speak,
and drew comparisons.
"I am very strong," said the oak.
"My wood is hard, and, except for the dropping of some leaves
in autumn, I am steadfast, brave, and true."
The fir tree pondered.
"My wood is soft," she said.
"And I am sensitive to the sensuous caress
of every passing wind. But I am steadfast too."
"I am king of the forest," said the oak.
"I can see that I shall need to take care of you."
"Not so," said the fir. "You are stubborn, obdurate too."
And so they squabbled for a bit,
speaking from pride.
"You are rigid," said the fir,
"while I am flexible,
bouncing back from every perilous storm."
"I stand my ground," countered the oak.
"None of that namby-pamby waffling for me!"
He dug his roots even further into the earth,
while the fir tree waved her branches frantically.
For some time they did not speak.
Then somehow, with time (for that was all they had),
they came to see
their bitter gibes had roots in jealousy.
"I wish that I were green," confessed the oak,
"and able to bend so gracefully!"
"You're always so erect,"declared the fir.
"And nothing ever fazes you!"
And so they made their peace,
and merrily they dwelt, commenting on, sporadically,
the beauty of each other's progeny.


by Pat Petros
Of all our months, the perfect one is June
when lemon lilies bloom, to charm us all.
The summer winds play nature's wake-up tune,
while from the marsh the red-winged blackbirds call.
As clover fills the air with wondrous scent,
it bathes my spirit like an opiate.
Delightful melodies that birds present
are cause for me to pause, and celebrate,
but home and duties are now beckoning,
and I must rouse from drowsy summer dreams
for Father Time demands a reckoning
of things accomplished while the sun still beams.
When I recall this tranquil hour it will
bring warmth throughout bleak days of winter chill.

Minnesota Nice

by Judy Galati
Virginia says the grapes grow big up here
The tomatoes fat
She says the squirrels empty the feeders everyday

I say the soul is fed fast, by the slow
Lap of the lake
Lap . . . Lap of the lake

Steeped in unshared memories
Of ancient brave hearts
Who trod determined, down

The beltway of glacial melt
To this place, where the grapes grow big
The tomatoes fat

(As presented in Millpond Journal, Fall 1998)


by William Marr
an enormous red ball
hanging over the branches
indeed seems out of proportion

But the tree
flushed with excitement
that it is his day's work
the fruit he produces

The Nightingale and the Lark

by Barbara Eaton
I slip quietly
out the back basement door,
and perch in my
favorite spot
on the top step.

The sky is a huge shadow.
The trees are darker shadows.
I am a shadow, too.

I look for the constellation
of Orion
and the North Star.
You are Orion, and
I am the North Star.
We are far apart.

All of the neighbors
are still sleeping.
The newspaper will
come soon.

First one up
makes the coffee,
warm and bittersweet.
My body is waking up.
I used to
dream away the time,
but now I rise
with the lark.

Wait -- is that
a nightingale
I hear?

I have never heard
the nightingale sing,
yet I know that
the nightingale
sings in the dark.

Wait -- is it
the nightingale
or the lark?

You are the nightingale,
and I am the lark.
We may never
meet again.

It is getting light.
The sparrows are
waking up, too.
And the skittery pigeons.

Did Mark Antony
and Cleopatra
ever meet secretly
at dawn?
You are the Arabian bird,
and I am the turtle dove.

You might arrive
at any moment...
I hear your voice, and
my heart is suspended
in mid-air --
it is early morning,
and I am in love.


by Alan Harris
I didn't want to have to want
but I had to want not to hurt
so I wanted what I felt was best
but everyone else wanted it too
and there wasn't enough of it
so conflicts and hurt prevailed
even though we wanted peace.

Now what I really seem to want
is not to have to want at all
but if I can always never want
will that be what I'll always want?

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