Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
June 2005
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Saint John's Church

by James Conroy
Countryfolk favored wood to stone;
church, stairs, an ancient ash-gray dock,
except in the cemetery behind some evergreens
where Martha and the baby are laid under
granite like a lump in the pastor's throat.

Mallards rise on a tonic chord
from the organ tuner's stroke.
Not staying for the recital
they are flying on their own music;
clear, pure,
fading in the southern sky
expanded by two souls.


by Donna Pucciani
Freshly scalded,
a dozen prawns recline in the skillet,
black roe-eyes staring upwards
through molten butter
and each others' whiskers.

Garlic perfumes them like incense.
Liquid gold bathes their translucent
shells. A cut lemon
squeezes out the last anointing
before mastication,
fragrant myrrh worthy of a king,
an ephemeral gesture,
like all last rites.

Ten minutes ago, they squirmed
in a basket at the market,
mounds of living commas,
dreaming of mud at low tide,
now rising at last
in manicured hands
to the heaven of human hunger.

(First published in The Village Rambler)


by James L. Corcoran
I wit you start. You will occur to me.
Over and over the distance shouts
in the dimness and the darkness of an
overshadow. You wait right there a
virgin, untouched by flame or duration.
I cannot hide my house. Your vision
rests nested in my heart like another
face looking at me with the accusation
of defeat. I cannot rest. I must undie
in each and every moment. I must not
tire for the relief. You nod your head
at me whenever I must ask to pass, and
your gnarly roots grab at my running
like so many tentacles on an orb. I must
be cautious. Even the rain can produce
the mud that rates that even second lapse.
I want to win. I must survive. The two
planes rest upon each other in the dark
two countries of space noting it in need.
Stick to the gun and arrive. The merit lies
in cunning with the self. Ruthless lying to
the ego to get the job done. I don't want
to walk. Just the same. Torturing the
ease and indolence with the exercise that
they discipline with work. Leaving pain
vanished in the air behind us, and leaving
us brimming with answers up on the top.

When It's Time To Go

by Jared Smith
When you have done what you can do,

    when you have been thanked

and are standing with your back to an open stairway

and a stone courtyard of tradition surrounds you

    in all directions


            you go inside

                and listen

                    to the walls.

They vibrate with madness

that is so dense it cannot scream.

It cannot flake off like the paint in your home.

It was quarried deep beneath the earth

    where it is dark

        and light comes only

            with a chisel

                or dynamite

                    and is everlasting

except that some part of the stone retains darkness

and holds it deep within its heart

    while the boot soles of other hearts bounce off.

You wander there

    after the thanks

        and you go home.

(First appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review)

The Middle Way

by Todd Possehl
I want to be Schwenkfeldian---
a member of the sect.

Everyone knows Martin Luther,
and Lutherans live
on your street,

but who remembers Kaspar Schwenkfeld
von Ossig, another reformer
and theologian of the 16th century?

A small group of his followers still exist
in southeastern Pennsylvania---
a safe haven after years of persecution
in Europe.

Their greatest sin? Regarding the bread
and wine as wholly symbolic.
And this only a part of Schwenkfeld's
progressive, gentle theology

known as the Middle Way.

Somehow, I feel it's people like these---
like the Cathari (a community destroyed
by the 14th century for seeing God
as light, for holding love over ritual,
spirit over matter),

who've found the narrow path.

I don't want to be a Methodist or Muslim
in the wider sense.

I don't want to go solo either.

I need a small, devoted sect---
somewhere between living and dying---
between heaven and hell.

(Previously published in Green Hills Literary Lantern)

The Matter of Green Onions

At a marketplace in Zhuhai, China
by William Marr
A whole ten cents to buy green onions for the new year
look here everybody, this lady has given me
for green onions

the vegetable vendor half-jokingly flashed
the coin she gave him
and pronounced repeatedly the biggest event of the

I could not help laughing heartily
as the green onions she wanted for her fish dish
were inflated to spice up
a dull marketplace afternoon

For Starters

by Sally Calhoun
Memories are not still. They are full of passion,
action, causal events. But sometimes an image freezes
as in a movie frame, and presents itself as the only thing to grab for
to make the beginning of a poem; chances are it's a symbol and much to be desired.
Cling to it as though for dear life,
with the force of a worm kissing its way into an apple
or a leech fastening onto a naked heel.

Let there be the still picture of a wild rose,
then let time lapse photos swell
and open the bloom
before a hoary heart
and in this moment start
to fashion the tale.
The still is the kernel.
It is the nugget.
It is the protein in the meal.


by Ruan Wright
I saw a sun
bright as a flower
in the center
of my mind

It glowed
filled my head
like a golden balloon

We lifted
over the room
out of the door
into clear blue air

soufflé light
into a melting
lemon swoon

A zephyr caught us
laughed us high
till we crashed
with the lavender moon

scintillating stars
chrysanthemum full
like the fourth of July


by Tim Breitzmann
What is 80 years
Rotations of a planet
So many sunrises
Ticks of a clock

They say that time
Waits for no one
I think this wrong
It's the recorder of circumstances

Time is the wake of a ship
Foot prints in the snow
A song is not a song
Unless it is sung

Time is your marker
Folded pages of a book
Yarn on a finger
Things to recall

I remember many things
Tears you shed for a grasshopper
Hugs & kisses, homemade pizzas
A piece of pie you brought to my bed

Laughter & tears, sorrows & joys
Liverpool rummy, Thanksgiving dinners
Birthday cakes, toast cut into houses
Burnt rolls, cheese on a pie

I remember a January day
When you held my hand
And simply said …
I love you

It's not the Ticks of a clock
Nor the movement of shadows
It's not these things I recall

I remember many things
I remember love
I remember you

Love Letter

For Ed
by Wilda Morris
Maybe you think I keep you
like I keep my old shoes
because I can't bear
to break in new ones
but that's not the reason.
After all these years
you’re still a good fit,
still polished to a shine
in my eyes.
I want to be laced up with you
as long as I live.

(First published in Grab-a-Nickel,
Fall/Winter 2004-2005, p. 12.)


by Sister Meg Holden, FSP
The world a garden should be
where people live in harmony.
Flowers, trees and all living things
God made to live together respectfully.

York Harbor

by Pat Petros
It was June.
We walked through a sea
of tall grass which bowed
to the ocean breeze,
revealing clumps of gossamer, pink wild roses--
their fragrant petals glistening in the sunlight.
The breath of wild roses permeated our pores,
became part of us, and all else faded;
the blue cloudless sky, boom of distant fog horn,
swoosh of waves hitting the shore,
and the harsh call of seagulls.

Now, when I hear someone speak of Maine,
I am there again;
seagulls are flying above Nevil Light;
I feel the ocean breeze blowing the grass
and I breathe deeply
of the perfume of wild roses.

Day in the Park

by Barbara Eaton
Spring is not the time
for this kind of love.

The unrequited kind
is out of fashion now.

    An elderly couple
    sits on the park bench,
    shading their eyes
    as they watch their grandchildren
    play in the sun.

    He wears a gray wool cap
    and smokes a pipe.
    A cane
    rests on the bench
    next to her knee.

You must be bored
with being worshipped
from afar.

If I really loved you,
I suppose
I would let you go.

Only I keep thinking
of new ways
to say good-bye:
just one more phone call
just one more letter
just one more poem.

If only you -
But break, my heart,
For I must hold my tongue.

Texas Hospitality

by Mardelle Fortier
is as big and thick as cream
and after a harsh northern
Winter, I'm going to sit
outside in its gold warmth
and let its gentle sparkles
pour across my face
so that I can lick up
each extra drop of it

until I am no longer
shuddering cold,
bruised by ice and sleet,

I eat until I feel soothed
in each frostbitten cell,
soothed the way only
love can soothe,
healed the way
only love can heal.

(Previously published in
DuPage Arts/Life, 2005)

An Evening Question

by Alan Harris
Blackbirds crackle random
sonic pepper under fading skies
at end of day when silence
brings more pain to birds
than sounds held in can bear.

Up west, three backlit
afterclouds, blue-gray,
suggest a breathless blessing,
outer sky to inner eye.

Two robins try antiphony
positioned fence to fence
and trade their choruses
across a subtlety of dew.

Overhead, a helicopter's growl
subdues the singing birds
who observe a silent minute
waiting for the bully to be gone.

Next door, the dog
barks out his being
at something heard or felt
and with each bark
a girl shouts "Shut up!"
until he does.

A cat comes walking by,
surprised at me,
too close,
but quickly taking care
to show no fear.

Quietly alert,
I stare across
this outdoor table--
top all strewn with
wings of maple seeds
delayed from
reaching earth--
and I bow within.

My breath amazed
at simple dusk,
I fold in half,
and half, and half,
until there's hardly any I.

This enigmatic sky
now closing day
with fake finality
while straddling
yin and yang
abstains from answering
my wordless
evening question.

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