Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
June 2007
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Amateur Night

by Mark Hudson
Hector the Specter was a comedian of sorts,
He got into comedy 'cause he was no good at sports.
At the Comedy Club in L.A. he was having a show,
He was so nervous he didn't want to go.
His hero, Ghallager, kept him excellin,'
He'd even lugged along a case of watermelon.
So as he got there, opening night,
He saw that people were drunk and uptight.
This would probably make him or break him,
Not like the days when he failed in the gym.
He sat behind the stage, nervous as can be,
Some goofball offered him some LSD.
"No thanks!" He said. "I might stink!"
So the goofball put some drugs in his drink.
He didn't think putting the sprite to his lips,
Would make him take a whole bunch of trips.
So he sat behind the stage pacing and smoking,
He had to be funny tonight, no joking.
But the crowd was really rowdy and rough,
They liked fistfights like their steak-tough.
Hector peered through the curtains and he'd shiver,
He was going to be treated like chopped liver-or Joan Rivers!
Finally it was time for fifteen minutes of fame,
Either that, or he'd walk home in shame.
He stepped out on stage, and felt wierd.
Something was happening-he feared.
He told a joke and it was not well-received,
It was worse then the audience could've believed.
At first, they seemed to be rather quiet,
But pretty soon, they could've started a riot.
Someone threw a biscuit, and it hit the Spector,
No guns could've got through the metal detector.
Another person whipped a stick of butter,
Reducing the Spector's voice to an utter.
"If you think this is the end of my routine,
Ghallager always has a type of guillotine.
For cutting watermelons in half,
That's what he would do for a laugh.
But I tell you what I'm going to do,
I'm going to turn around the boo."
The Spector began to whip watermelons out,
They crushed a few tables without a doubt.
But one man sure would've been dead,
Because the watermelon barely missed his head!
The bouncer grabbed Hector and pulled him outside,
He was thrown on the street, which hurt his pride.
The people who were targets of his waterrmelons grabbed him,
And an angry rambunctious patron stabbed him.
He went to a hospital but didn't die,
It wasn't funny, he thought with a sigh.
Now he works with children and balloons,
He just wasn't a match for the goons.
The children understand his humor well,
And he still has some jokes left to tell.
Hector heckles kids with freckles,
And no longer acts like Dr. Jeckyl.
He's funny in his own way, and can't you see,
He found his calling, wouldn't you agree?
Making it big is over-rated,
It's one of the things I've always hated.
You can succeed as a great big clown,
But you'll see the same people on the way down.
California's full of those who failed,
The prisons are filled with those who are jailed.
Appreciate the here and now, where you are,
And then you won't feel the need to be a star.
You can watch the boob tube and know for a fact,
People go down the tubes 'cause they can't act.
I'd rather fail in the privacy of my own home,
That's what brought me to write this poem.
So if you have a dream, it might come true,
As long as someone doesn't say...boooooo!!


by G. C. Rosenquist
The night is liquid
Flowing past my open window
And rising in the white moon glow
Like black desert dunes of shining silk sheets

Many things float by

The dead squirrel I handed to my mother one winter day
The toilet I pushed off our top floor apartment porch in Chicago
The Italian kids who beat me up in the alley
The spider I stepped on and her long-legged babies spilling out on to the street like syrup
The empty, rusted hand grenade I found in the woods
The cannibalized guinea pigs I buried in the front yard in a plastic bag
My rainbow colored bicycle that got stolen
My first home run ball
The great big wood desk I wrote my first stories on
My high school driver's license
Oh, and look...there's my son doing the backstroke

It's a good thing I know how to swim

Innuendos of Mass Deception

by Farouk Masud
'Weapons of Mass Destruction'
An innuendo of deceptive conjunction.
A most sinister and effective phrase;
Suitable for these propaganda days
By a president who spreads fascism;
Pursuing absolute despotism.
Using this phrase to blackmail nations,
Force-feeding them our democratic aspirations;
Like spreading 'freedom' to Iraq-
To the Stone Age we've sent them back!
How did we create 1,000,000 Iraqi civilian deceased?
By dropping our 'Instruments of Mass Peace?'
This phrase is so convenient;
Maybe with Iran we'll be even less lenient.
We're the only nation to drop 'the Bomb.'
I'm sure they love us in Vietnam,
Nagasaki and Hiroshima:
Holocaust, cancer and emphysema.
Just ask Japan's living and dead.
You think they'll have said:
"Thank you for dropping your
'Products of Mass Happiness' on my head!"

11:34 Yesterday

by John Quinn
I would love to meet
the person I was
at 11:34 yesterday,
a pleasant chap
enjoying the world.

I returned from my walk
to sit in the sun
with bees and butterflies about
when a cardinal whistled
from a flowering pear tree
and a hummingbird,
the year's first hummingbird,
started inspecting
an exuberant, youthful rose,
hovering for just a moment,
I swore it winked
before spinning off
to find another audience.

I drank the scents of lilacs and grasses,
chewed on pinks, purples and greens
and then I glanced at my watch,
it was 11:35
and time to go in.

Thilbert Adams

by John L. Axtell
"In defense of poetry I give you my work."
At this task, Mr. Adams did not shirk.
First he wrote a gentle sweet refrain,
Followed by a lengthy quatrain.
Then to work on sonnets he got
Composing one about an old sot
Who got drunk on red dinner wine;
Just page after page of metered rhyme.
His work grew so profuse it covered a table;
That's when he heard from his wife Mable.
So move them he did, to an upstairs room,
Tender as a bride carried by a groom.
Burning again the midnight oil,
He set about his writing toil.
First a sonnet about a girl named Marie,
Then a circus rhyme, or two or three,
Followed by an ode to something green
And twelve verses on keeping the city clean.
Then it happened, that fateful night,
When his work had grown to tremendous height,
With pen in hand, ready to compose,
Up to heaven Mr. Adams rose.
If someday you should look toward the sky
And on a cloud passing by,
Lines of rhymes you should see,
It's just Thilbert Adams writing poetry.

Peacock Museum

by James L. Corcoran
A cold sandwich w/melon and the colors  of rainbow
                gather together like a wish

Bush hen peafowl mingling together   brushing aware

w/a lot of     feathers     as nimble as air      touching

layers adding delicacies one spread out upon another

Strutting quivers radiant   trains wandering     sky full
of seasons resulting in translucence    amid milk leaf

Fern fronds w/   sunset light   in the edges of a pond

A dress of runes     peering at   irridescent eye spots

Mating peahen grazing African savannahs    wanders

Asia   abandon plumes a swirl    a flitter        a flutter
the day mother with her wand of lithe perfume   wild
with   scented lotus oils of the exotic and   finer care

clouding textured skies      w/teeming vibrant flurries
of cranes  herons  pelicans  and terns over the water
over the wetlands    alive with the contents of prisms

                        walking among us

The Temple of Apollo

by William Marr
every marble column stands erect
reaching to heaven

day after day tourists
gather in front of the temple
to hear young guides
give the oracle

Fowl Philosophy

by John J. Gordon
Scurrying wildly
about a yard
searching for the pan of food
placed in the same location
magnifies the myth
that chickens awake
to a strange undiscovered world
every single morning.

Whether myth or truth
how tantalizing for some
to ponder
greeting each dawn
with their slate
wiped completely clean
by previous transgressions
freed from troublesome memories
beholden only to ephemeral impulses.

Others radiate
pulsating awareness
rewarded for savoring
the aftertaste
of bittersweet experience.

A chicken has no choice.

The Baby of the Family Grows Old

by Jim Lambert
My sixty-seven year old bones
Strain against the ravages of gravity
Surrounded by a sack of skin,
Torn, wrinkled, pulled and mottled,

Rampantly hairy in places,
Follicles dead or dying in others.
My muscles sag lower and lower
As my spine shrinks past two inches.

Some body parts are gone,
Others forgotten or currently on hiatus.
My blood endlessly circulates,
Carrying sustenance, heavy-duty cholesterol,

And hormones, spitting and sputtering
Like out-of-tune lawn mowers starved of fuel.
Short-term memory falls like spitting snow
On long gone events remembered perfectly.

Imprints of hope, disappointment,
Failure and success
All boil around in the creative stew
Of my ancient brain.

And even on the days
When pain, regret and loss
Tear at my attitude,
In my heart,

I am twelve years old.

Nude Descending a Staircase no. 2

A painting by Marcel Duchamp
by Beth Staas
A visual cacophony of movement,
one sees neither nude nor staircase,
nor for that matter descent.
Instead, multiple exposure,
rapid-fire chronograph
in bronze, brown and umber
that might be tin or steel,
shapes forged by swirling arcs
staccato lines
like saddle bags or broken violins
crashing helter-skelter across the page,
first seen as a cubist exercise,
a disguise for the French misogynist
who hated woman's form
and now held as masterful
for those willing to look.

Summer of 1973

by Caroline Johnson
You could hear them coming
    before they arrived.
Burrowing underground
    like brigades or bunions
they battled their bodies
    into 17-year bliss,
and one summer we found them,
    the locusts, invading our home,
our driveway, our sanity.

My brother dissected them alive.
    We watched them float on the pool,
ooze and burn on the grill, crack
    like popcorn, then spin and hiss.
I walked home from the pool
    all the way on my heels
to avoid stepping and crunching
    their dark shadows.

We would eat bowls of
    Butter pecan in our basement,
watching the Brady Bunch,
    and a cicada would crawl
next to us--beady little eyes--
    it slipped through our damp stone walls.

It was a part of life we would
    easily want to forget--
like 45 records, 8-track cassettes,
    long hair and wavy shirts.

Yet afterwards, when they left nothing
    but empty husks and carcasses,
we missed the smooth easy
    rhythm of their chatter,
the drowsy inebriated
    way they flew,
bumping into the nearest object
    like ionic radar,
clinging in a desperate plea
    for just the moment
to abandon the years spent
    in an underground dungeon, as if
they had waited all their lives
    to revel in a moment
of grotesque communion--
    a cacophony of mutant spirits
who, like Kafka, knew they
    could not change their fate.

To us, though, they were
    simply nuisances,
getting lost in our lemonade stand,
    interrupting our softball game,
feeding our impoverished minds with
    a sign of nature's decadence.

(Previously published in Prairie
Light Review
in 2002)

The Therapist

by Deborah Vitello
He was a soft spoken man
Calm and low keyed
He came into my shattered life
His office became a sanctuary
To get out of the storms of my life
I'll never forget him for piecing together
My splintered confidence
Making me believe it was safe to go on
That I was worth saving
I put him in my Hall of Fame Of People
That have touched my life and made it better
His insights enabled me to see
Who I had been and who I wanted to be
Not what everybody else thought I should be
The many hours that we spent together were priceless
There is no way I could ever thank him
But I want it to be known in my 9/11 crisis
John you were my hero


by Tim Breitzmann
Humanity, can not give equality through legislation
For equality already exists, as a birthright
It can only be accepted, or taken away
Legislation, is created by those who accept it
As protection, from those who wish to take it away

Cutting Out the Cancer

(for Dr. Mark Connolly, August, 2005)
by Patricia Gangas
O, Santa Claus surgeon,
the disquieting hour has arrived--
and I am needy as the burnt grass in this summer of drought.
Bravely I climb the surgical table
closing the smudged windows of my mind
and I lie quiet in my moon-white body.
Even my chromosomes tell me
this cancer curves above my heart,
ready to dissolve my days into dark detours.
So, come with your syringe, swath of scrubs,
the scalpel suffused with a grace of movement.
Carve out this cancer, layer upon layer
as my lifeblood rushes toward mystical healing,
perhaps a Magi moment.
Wake me up when your zigzag stitches
have sewn me together again.
Let me be obsessed with life once more,
for I am a romantic poet
with ceaseless yearnings,
who knows God sows love, heals where He wills,
and dispenses fiery hope in the midst of our most dire defeats.


by Mardelle Fortier
I write to hold the joys
Whose incense would be lost
Except for fragile paper.
I write when I am held in a spell
Like the only rose in a walled garden.
I write my way through loneliness
With my pencil a silent
Uncomplaining friend.
I write through desires that must
Die without breath under a glass bell.
I write in a love and grief
Too strong for this world.
I write in dreams like sea dragons
Too strange for the world.
I write while my life scatters
As a marigold pressed in
Some lost ancient book.
I write through silences, spaces,
Through tears and wonders flown.
I write through joys
That blow away like lilies
And in the end I hope
I will write my way home.

(Previously published in
Quantum Pulp, SP '07)

Wings II (Flown Away)

by Bonnie Manion
Alas, he has gone.
Flown far away.
Not to return for a year and a day.
Perhaps never.
How will my spirit carry on?
This dear son gone,
Perhaps forever.

His cheery smile has disappeared.
His footsteps, ghosts in my stair.
How alone I now feel.
Perhaps ever.
Foolish heart,
You know the words,
You can't cage wild birds;
They need to fly.

Hush, my soul.
Don't you cry.
Birds have wings,
But so do minds.
And so do I....
To fly to reverie,
To re-live the memories,
I too have wings.

Large Oval Badam Leaf

by Dr. S.V. Rama Rao
Seeing these large oval Badam leaves,
rich in deep yellow
with a faintly transparent hint of a
delicately brushed orange hue and
laced with finely designed
off-white opaque stem structures
shaping the contour
of the velvety leaves,
floating on the still waters
of the lake
in Palos Hills, Illinois,
transported me to
Bezawada, my maternal grandparents' home town
in India.

One had to see to believe
my maternal grandmother
beautiful oval face.
She used to apply to her face
freshly ground turmeric root's
stark rich yellow paste and
would leave overnight,
to let the paste color sink into the skin.
Next morning
after the face is washed
in pure cold water,
the face would literally compete with
the early morning
raising sun's heavenly glow.
It would look like
a white Kabuki painted Japanese face
only on the stage for actors
where as it is a daily routine
for my grandmother
and many of her generation
to have this kind of a make-up
in yellow glowing color on an Indian face.
Face with fine folds
and finer lines,
just like the beautiful Badam leaf,
showing the graceful
contour of her face -
rich in life and
soaked in compassion.

Every autumn
I see her,
here in America
instead of in a oval Badam leaf.
I clearly see her
in an autumn maple leaf.
I wonder how she could
find a maple leaf
as she did not know
a single word of English, and
still it is a mystery to me
how she could have found America.
She never misses
coming to see her favorite

To Christopher Columbus -
Your Fifth Voyage and Beyond

by Wilda Morris
You'd be surprised, Chris,
how many people now live
on this earth you concluded
is shaped like a pear,
astonished at cities
along coasts of islands
you thought Far Eastern.
But would you be surprised
at the fuss made over what remains
of your once red hair,
strong hands, adventurous self?

Chris, it seems your bones
were as restless in death as in life.
Vallodolid could not hold you
for long. Diego took you back
over that four-hundred mile trek
you'd made by mule when you were old
and infirm, laid you down again
in Seville. It must have been too quiet
there in the monastery of Las Cuevas
de Triana for a wanderer like you,
too lacking in honors for one
whose demands had been so extravagant:
to receive a tithe of all transactions
with the Indies, to be Grand Admiral
and Viceroy and pass these titles
to your sons through all time to come.

Your fifth voyage across the sea -
three decades later - took your body
back to Hispaniola. Did you sleep well
as the ship rocked on those waves
you'd loved? Were you happy
to be stretched out in a lead tomb
on the Gospel side of the main chapel
in your new cathedral home
in Santo Domingo, Chris?
Did politics or your internal discontent
lead Archbishop Portillo to exhume you
- or part of you - once again,
send mold and bone to Havana?

Was it a final indignity, Chris, or a ploy
devised in your deteriorating brain
that caused your disintegrating remains
to be divided - some retained
in Hispaniola when the rest were taken?

Almost a century later,
were your bones turning,
struggling to escape, suffering
from too long on one side of the ocean?
Did you haunt the Duke of Veragua,
give orders, till he arranged
to sail that box of bone and dust
back to old Seville, leaving
the world you wanted to govern?

Do you laugh when priests
and scholars argue
which is your real resting place?
Chris, are you forever restless,
awaiting your next stormy voyage?

(First published in Prairie Light Review)

West Nile Queen

by Donna Pucciani
The female, hungry for blood,
frets on the neck of a Rhode Island Red,
searching through combs for the right place
to suck.

Later, humming her casual dirge,
she lights on the tanned bicep
of a construction worker bending to his drill,
punching the sidewalk, shattering cement.
Absently he slaps his arm
where the biter has left her mark
on the inky outline of an anchor, cross and heart,
pushes his hardhat backwards
and wipes his face in a single gesture
under the noonday sun.

She delivers her kiss of death
with no warning. No trumpets
herald the battle ahead
on a field of white sheets
that cannot cool a fevered brain.

No fanfared entrance into heaven
for a man who for thirty years
so loved the judder of a jackhammer
that he failed to notice the light
whisper of her body as she entered him,
tracing the heart-shaped indigo
of "mother."

Lovers Euphoria

by Mariana Al.Far
When words are absent
It's not awkward
With joy he holds her
Walking down the streets
Hands clutched
In a euphoria of silence

When words are plentiful
It's not crowded
With warmth she listens
Sipping slowly her wine
Pulses touch
In a euphoria of abundance


(For Ratleader)
by John Pawlik
I knew there were wolves
There always are

The pastures are no greener
And certainly not safer
On the other side

Yet I didn't stray . . . I ran away
As fast as my feet could carry me

Let it be said I had an epiphany . . .
What with seeing
My brothers and sisters
Up on hooks in the marketplace
As we were yesterday
Herded through town

But being born and bred
Unskilled to a submissive attitude
It surely would have been the miracle
If the dice had rolled and found me free

So here I am
Again in the bleating line
With that temple terrified Judas
Leading us on

Still no one can say
I didn't try

Mahler's 5th Symphony

by Alan Harris
Overfull fountain,
he rises abundantly
from where springs
are fed, creates from
why hearts must beat
timpanic against

His concerted breezes
blow confusing beauty in
through windows where
merely walls once were.

Triumph, sorrow,
fire, spirit,
love, joy--
all play and pray
in sonic sanctum.

After the applause
we bring our amazement
home and listen to
the wallpaper sing.

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