Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
June 2010
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Poems on this Page:

To My Unknown Cousins

by Donna Pucciani
In suburban Chicago,
when night is at its deepest,
owls unblinking, fireflies asleep
in the buckthorn, moths clustering
around porch lights of sleeping children,

you forage the place between my ribs
where nothing grows.  Your shadows
follow me, footsteps in the street,
a sparrow's flight, the music
of blood and chestnuts, fingers of night
stroking the moon large as a lemon.
I am oil for your bread.

When snow comes, the stars
pour themselves into your invisible
footprints, melting the soul of memory,
your voices the remembered songs
of  birds feathering their nests
in another country of mountains and sea.

You were born in a land 
shaped like the peasant boots 
my grandfather wore in the Mezzogiorno 
where he packed a suitcase of carpenter's tools 
to seek a woman with a torch held high
above a city bought with a handful of beads.

I hear you rustling in the garden,
summoned by the wind.
I taste your fine figs, limes that sing of sun, 
and tonight, I feel your hands in my hair.
Summer again.  You plant flowers in my eyes,
feed me bitter fruits that lodge in my throat
like lost dreams.

(Previously published in International
Poetry Review)

Send Away the Clowns

by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
Send away the clowns and the vaudeville acts
I need someone that will have my back
Send home the bearded lady and the smallest man in the world
Because I am so tired of this side show I'm not a little girl
Send the tallest man in the world home and the contortionists who 
bend the rules of love to fit their own lifestyle
My heart is not a circus
All of this bouncing and juggling isn't worth this
I don't want anymore cotton candy or sweet nothings whispered 
in my ears,
I don't want to lie in bed at night alone and cry clowns tears.
Please take me home...I don't want to go anywhere near the kissing booth,
I don't want to get physical until I know the TRUTH...
So send home the trapeze artists and the two headed babies
I am a woman with a beautiful heart... a lady....
Who needs a one man show all year around...
So I am asking again.could you please send away the clowns...

New Apartment

by Mark Hudson
I left my apartment at 328 Custer
It took all the strength I could muster
13 years in the same neighborhood
Now I've got a new place, which is good
I'm closer to the lake, that's cool as can be
I can always go there and do some tai chi
I moved out over the weekend, with some friend's aid
Now I'm home and I've got it made.
Monday I went to the grocery store
Got some groceries, quite a chore.
As I left the store, I missed the bus
And pretty soon I started to cuss.
I had two jars of pickles in a bag
And they fell on the sidewalk, what a drag
The jars broke, and the pickles scattered
It seemed like nothing else mattered
So I left them there for the people at Jewel
To clean up, I felt like a fool.
I got my groceries home, at least I had some
No more need to feel so dumb.
My phone was not working, so I called ATand T.
The man came, and put it in for me.
Battling dogs barking,
There ain't no parking!
This building has an exercise facility
I can use it to my best ability
My material things are in disarray
But this is such a lovely place to stay.
I'm getting a guinea pig Saturday
Things are starting to look okay.
The carpet here is perfectly white
Got to keep it bright and light
I got a coffee grinder that spews out grounds
I have to sweep it up in mounds
I'm getting a DVD player and TV
I'm getting the internet on my computer to please me
I got my art supplies in bulk
This is no place I need to sulk
I'm across the street from the coffee shop Brothers K
I'm glad I moved in the month of May.
Here's a toast to future creation,
I hope it brings real great elation!
The Bible says, "If you have enough food to eat,
Clothes, a roof over your head, that's all you need."
So I'm grateful that my Lord does provide,
And the whole universe is opening wide!

The Tree

by Karen H. Honnold
The tree stands at the end of a boulevard
where violets and wild onions grow.

Barefoot, I run out the door let it slam.
On my way, on my own,
hopping to miss the honeybees working the clover.

Down the alley to the sidewalk a turn left
stands the tree so large it'd take four grown men
holding hands to circle its girth.

Old roots have pushed a square of concrete 
sidewalk up at an alarming angle.
It's been repaired time and time again.
Still a depression remains where a child can sit.

Legs pulled up to chin hugging or cross-legged, either is perfect.
Seeking a place once familiar but long gone.

Butt meets earth, backbone meets bark, a haven on all sides.
Nestled in tiny, alone.
Part of the tree, part of me.


by Patricia Gangas
                              "One dark night
                              Fired with love's urgent longings
                              I went out unseen
                              My house being now all stilled."
                                  St. John of the Cross

One long year like a falling star
swept beyond my window, 
just as the nights grew long
in autumn's face of crimson leaves.
To the deepest place in the advancing winter
music of the divine played upon my heart,
melodies before unheard
note upon note
softly thrummed the fine strings
of my insatiable soul.
Lord, I cannot still
nor hold Your songs that overflow night
and drench moon and earth.

I'm left, at last, with burnt-out longing
a homesickness for You
I cannot bear.
The night comforts me with its thin quilt of clouds
but I toss and turn upon my bed-- 
In the midnight hour
You come again like a lone lantern
so bright it takes my breath away.
Within that light
the splendor of Your gaze fills all horizons...
I sink deep into the silvered silence.

Will I still find you on the islet of the dim approaching dawn?

Holy Grail

by David McKenna
The wealth of your Soul   and therefore   by far 
the most essential of all   is measured 
by your ability to love      Thus are
those existing in all that's deemed treasured 
not guaranteed to be the richest   then
since love can't be bought   nor birthright ensured
When we are born   out hearts are an open 
chalice filled to the brim with the essence 
of love   that golden   liquid light taken
from the universe   the omniscience 
of creation      It contains purity 
a harmonious magical presence
that each of us gravitates toward    that we 
set our hopes and dreams to   eternally

There is a chapel within each of us   deep
inviolable   where we place our glass 
of sweet soul nectar      Most will try to keep
it from harm and yet   let the fluid pass 
to and fro   enabling the give and take 
of love   like a heartbeat      If we surpass
our intake with our offerings we make 
our capacity grow      If we swallow 
more than we give   we retain      To forsake 
love   though   decreases   makes a cup shallow 
or barren   which cannot be replenished
That's something you should never allow
The more you waste the more you're diminished
too much loss and your soul love is finished

You'll rarely encounter a human whom
has no more love to offer      Such are cold 
and heartless beings      You look in the tomb
of their eyes and see emptiness   a sold 
out look      The vastness of the parched meadow 
within is drier than draught    beyond old 
Though they are hard   they are but an echo 
of pathetic   vulgar and meaningless 
lies that used to be lives      They are hollow 
shells with small chance for growth   or to progress 
Having forsaken the beauty of life 
they cringe from loveliness   in bitterness
and envision truthfulness is a knife 
meant to cut at their hearts and cause them strife

If    in your lifetime   there has been but one 
who shared an abundance of love   one whose 
chalice grew with each act of compassion
you should count your blessings      Souls such as those 
have been placed on your path to be a guide
to demonstrate miracles      If you chose 
to live by their example and abide 
with love's wisdom in your heart   and thus spread 
the flow of the sacred wealth from inside 
you also will be acclaimed - beloved - 
and remembered    revered as a lover 
for generations after you are dead 
Oh  grave!       Let it be said on your cover: 
"This one loved!       This soul's cup runneth over!"

(Terza Rima)

The stars still shine

by David LaRue Alexander
I hear
the car,
as it screeches to a halt.
The dog barking.
and the shrill cry
of the door hinge.
I feel
my heart pounding,
as foot steps
stumble up the stairs.
A shiver
runs down my spine.
I can't breathe!
In the hallway
keys jingle
as they hit the carpet,
then silence......
I see
the shadow
lurking beneath my door,
as a tear
runs down my cheek.
I pull the covers over my face.
Squeeze "Teddy" as tight as I can.
Pray the same prayer I always pray.
The only one I know.
Try not to move.
Pretend I'm dead!
I hear
the muffled ring
of a cell phone.
Then muttering,
and cursing.
I peer
beyond the covers.
The shadow passes.
The sound
of foot steps
fading away.
At last I exhale.
Through my window
I can see
the stars still shine.

Frolicking Footsteps

by Michelle L. W. Utendahl
As I look out across the horizon,
I see the world in front of me.
I am the sky as it touches the ocean.
I am the ripple that flows through the sea.

As I look out across the horizon,
There is no place I can not go.
Though storms may swirl in the waters,
Like a river, my stream will just flow.

As I look out across the horizon.
My future, I truly can see.
It's endless and has no boundaries.
Success is there waiting for me.

As I look across the horizon.
I see my future ahead of me.
I am the sun that rises each morning.
And the moon each night that shines on the sea.

Goals set as far as the eyes sees.
A limitless world stands before me.
Horizons bound by no distance or ending,
- Many footsteps ahead of me.

Now I'm off to start on my journey,
- Where the horizon meets at the tip of the sea.
And I will not stop on my journey,
Until I skip across the top of the ocean,
And SUCCESS frolics along side me.

(This poem is dedicated to my sons Gordon and
Gerard Utendahl and ALL of the other 2010
graduates this year. Congratulations!)


by Steven Kappes
for years we were
the go to people
the ones who
could get the job done
the ones to ask
where it was kept
how it was accomplished

we ran the store
paid the bills
dug the ditches
typed the letters
answered the phones

a new generation
has taken our place
as each generation
does to the previous
they are now
the go to ones
we are no more
than useless antiques

we prepare to leave
not knowing
how it will feel
to have no
nowhere to excel

no more   good job
no more   well done
only the slow decline
into the dust
of history

A Dog's Worst Enemy

(Or, concerning the dog fight games)
by Annie
Who is the beast – the trainer or the trained?
Perverted creatures who play this vile game while dwelling among the sane.
No conscience can such psyches claim,
whose passions be fueled by savagery and pain.
Who is the beast – the trainer or the trained?

Surely the four-legged captives are not to blame,
only complying because of brutality and chains.
Hapless prisoners of their tormentors who dwell among the sane,
secretly gathering in bloody, urine-spattered places
amid yowling and howling of bedlam's fame.
Who is the beast – the trainer or the trained?

At the loosing of the frenzied hounds
the raucous debauchers' pleasures abound.
When the vanquished lay whimpering in vain,
they callously count their losses and gains
and feeling no shame, dwell among the sane.

No noble Daniels to be found here to succor the lame,
only fools feigning the manhood never attained.
No longer need the question be asked:
is the beast the trainer or the trained – 
for the true beast is now unmasked.

Long-ago Ritual

by Mardelle Fortier
Deep in the forest
in a clearing secret
on a moss carpet
of tender virginal green
we let 2 dolls marry

Lily in a long dress
of crisp shimmering
satin in unbreakable sunlight

As she pled her troth
Lily's streaming blonde hair shone
over her bluebell bouquet
while she smiled her perpetual smile

The bridegroom shy
his doll lips
the only sexy part of him

Slowly the ceremony proceeded
while the whole family watched
from the gray vinyl buggy
all the little eyes staring
(there had never been a formal
engagement) round glass eyes

The tiny wedding
continued for an hour

before we got tired of it and 
unwed the pair
We knew
marriage would be a bore

(DuPage Valley Review, 2009)

Morning Rain

for Kelly K. Moran
by Jason Sturner
This morning there was much rain,
forcing the birds into trees,
the butterflies beneath leaves.
I stand at the open window,
listening for the cool silence
between raindrops.
I begin to wonder
about time machines,
about being fully absorbed into the future:
            The full view of a sunset
            from our porch chairs,
            a cat resting at our feet.
            Faces aged, a hand
            holding a hand.
                        And the wind
            comes down from flowered hills,
            filling the home with fragrances.
            Everything is golden orange
            like a softly glowing jewel.
I blink and turn from the window.
Another routine day begins.
The echoes of my heartbeat
will mingle with the rain.
(First published in River Poets Journal)


by Susan B. Auld
Pull up some radishes for dinner, my mother said. 
They grow next to the house under your bedroom window.

Afraid I'd pull up something other than a radish
I enlisted a sister, a brother
and we knelt in the dirt
under the screened window


at what we thought
to be a radish.

Its leaves so new  so green
our hands  so hesitant   so unsure

we reached and pulled—

Earth clung
to our fingers
to the fleshy roots
quivering in the summer sun

we pulled up radish after radish for dinner
handing them, a bouquet, to our mother.

She no longer cares for radishes.
My sister, brother and I tend our own gardens.

But, I wish everyday
to kneel again
under that window

feeling new and green
hesitant and unsure.


by Chris Holaves
Captivating to view spider web designs,
so geometric and so deceptive,
too subtle for any to see the thin, silver lines:

Interlaced threads entice and enslave
till the garden spider kills its victim
and waits patiently away from the nave

till another is trapped and struggles to be free, 
but too late. The mesmerizing nature of the web
is too inviting to let any clearly see

its dangers. Invisible wires sprawl out to grab,
connecting thought to thought, server to prey,   
forming fractal worlds of Queen Anne's lace to nab

the victim's curiosity, then heart.
On this imperceptible, viscous net,
the predator scrambles, high-speed, to devour its mark.

(First published by The Rockford Review,
Vol. XXVI, No. 1, 2007) 

Chosen Child

by Bonnie Manion
Far from home, under ragged clouds
beside the crashing surf, on vacation
at Canon Beach, Oregon, we told him
at age three he was our chosen child.

He stood there looking confused, black
afro a halo around his sweet lost face,
around those blank dark eyes. No protest.
No questions. No answering hug. Now
he knew that he was different. Chosen.

Busyness occupied him; he needed constant
entertainment. I was a mother who played
G. I. Joes every afternoon, each game my
chosen sacrifice. I often invited his friends
to companion my rowdy chosen child.

Michael found kindergarten fun, first grade
a rude awakening. Straitjacketed into a desk,
into sets of rows and rules, with a world of
abstractions and conjugations to learn and his
impulses denied, inside my chosen child cried.

There were always buddies, but some parents
tried to keep those friendships from turning
keen. Shooting baskets with him in the spring
of fourth grade, Mike's first girlfriend declared,
I never want to leave! He gave her his picture,
but she never came again. My chosen child,
was that when your sleeplessness began?

Putting Out the Word

by Susan T. Moss
One day a poet looked down and saw
that her fingers had sprouted
words from beneath neatly trimmed

nails spontaneously blossoming
into inky metaphors, iridescent
images and long stanzas

sending tendrils looped around
hands and curling toward the elbows.
And when wonder overcame concern

the wordsmith began to read
this garden of verses 
and imagined becoming 

the first human trellis supporting
creative thoughts reaching out
to a world beyond the written page

where she had grown lines into whole
books, painted pictures from the tips
of flowering stems and unloosed

a collection people could read or hear
at bookstores and cafes – places
no one had seen ripened phrases

spilling from digits that parsed
the stars, nourished the earth
and drank from the soul.

Character Study

by Sandra M. Bringer
She's like a diet soda,
  carbonated, artificially colored,
  flavors added,
  light, not heavy.

She's like a diet soda,
  metallic to the taste,
  and highly caffeinated.

She's like a diet soda,
  not a significant source of carbs
  or proteins,
  a drink of little value.

Summer in Antarctica

by Usha Mahisekar
Maybe   it is less cold than colder
Or little warmer than former
Everywhere windy white icy powder
Should we call it less colder than cold
Or may be little warmer than cold
Or maybe a degree higher than old
Lichens and algae growing now
There more sun surfacing now
Less ice rocks are forming now
Look at those penguins coming now
Dormant life rejuvenating now
See that Nature's splendid beauty Wow!
No matter how you say it
Or what you say it
Or what you think it
It is cold,
              very cold,
                            very   very cold


by John E. Slota
There was an old man from The Isle
Chased rainbows since he was a child.
And quite like a rogue
He spoke with a brogue
Damned end to a means takes a while!

A Prayer from an Ill Man to His Family

Memories Sprinkled Gold

by Ina Perlmuter
My darling bride, my wife, my lover
Sometime in life we discover
That challenges we rise to meet
Sustain us from emotional defeat
And children dear, oh so young
What plans I had for each of you
To stretch you tall as the sky
And make your dreams come true
To encourage you in ways untold
And create vast memories sprinkled gold
When my Neshama* is called to Shamayim*
You must realize
Man unwittingly must play a part
When the soul has need to depart
The when, the where, and the how
Though inherent in God's master plan
Is not privy to mortal man
Don't let sorrow be overwhelming
Nor loss overshadow living
Remember there is strength in family
For that is what we will always be
Your spirit will ever reside with me

*Neshama (soul)
*Shamayim (other world)

Romeo and Juliet

by William Marr
Shakespeare's quill has spent its ink
actors shuffle and shift
waiting impatiently to go on stage
here and there we hear chirps of birds
as the musicians tune their instruments 
while occasionally a few rays of dawn escape
from behind the curtain
all is ready except the innocent protagonists
embracing motionlessly in their sweet dreams
but as soon as the magic potion loses its power
they will open their eyes
the curtain will rise
and the audiences of all generations
will see with their tear-sparkling eyes
a beautiful love story playing
again and again
in the tragic world of suspicion and hatred

Who Are You?

by Jim Lambert
Scrambled soup of chemicals 
and electrical spritzers 
float between my ears 
bubbling up
"Oh my darlin', I'm cryin'
 boo hoo hoo hoo…."

Call it a ditty, perhaps? 
Music to ignore tomorrow by
from the pre-rock vinyl stone age?

Why does it rub
my memory's grain, 
bump into obscure facts,
memorized poetry,
social aches and pains,
and still fail to produce
your name?

I've known you for years
as the song has played on:
"It was your fav-o-writ pastime, 
makin' me blue…"

As is your small talk
and the mystery of who you are

And then you turn and walk away.
"Last week was the last time…
I cried for you."

Then I forget the song
and remember who you were
and why you weren't.

For Your Convenience

by John Pawlik
For your convenience
We have built a white ship
With white masts white sails
And no anchor
For your return home
We have made a blue sea
With white clouds in
A blue sky slowly surely
Showing the way
At the dock
There is a whole orchestra
Honeyed speakers reciting poetry
And sensitive people throwing
Toward you full bouquets
Of their last summer flowers
They all have brought
Small white handkerchiefs
That will flutter like butterflies
From the Garden of Eden
And as you go
They will smile and cheer
As they wave goodbye
Happy for your departure

Dance of Life

by Syreeta L. Williams
Melody in my ear, songs to draw me near,
growth with every tear, Dance of Life.
Music that touches my soul
Your love that makes me whole, Dance of Life.
Soft healing tones, The Holy Ghost shut up
in my bones, Dance of Life.
I worship you with a timbrel and dance,
Your sweet presence, as Holy romance,
Dance of Life.
Your touch fills me with joy, and that's
something I will cherish forever more,
Dance of Life.
(Published in Woman of Words, 2002)


by Judith Tullis
…in her white peony hairdo,
taught my small hands to
dirt scoop the potatoes,
carrots and strong white onions
for her Irish garden stew

…with iris blue eyes,
in smudged spectacles,
welcomed the cardinal come
to our ripened sunflowers
whistling his appreciation

…in the pea green glider
with a cat-torn cushion
sipped lemonade with strawberry lips
and sang me to summer naps
with old "tura-lura" lullabies

In Her Own Time

by Camille A. Balla
Tall and lanky, she stands behind
her sunny neighbors of summer—
a backdrop for their zinnious beauty,
waiting for her time to come.

Quietly, amid late August goodbyes,
she shows her face.
You may even pass her by
as gently she nods
while pansies bow out.

Right on time, she greets September
in purple straw hat,
swaying with lifting breezes,
savoring short crisp days,
knowing Autumn waits in the wings.

Like a petite purple star, grounded
in a chorus of plenty, she watches green
turn to crimson and bronze; listens
to the crunchy steps of passersby; feels
October winds twirl around and about her.

Through sun, rain, unpredictable days
and frosty November nights,
she lingers for 'the last dance'.

Her name?  just Aster.

from Simple Awakenings,
Poems by Camille A. Balla
(Linebyline Press, 2010)


by Wilda Morris
My first train was a line
of wooden chairs
Sis and I engineered
across the living room,
crossing imaginary landscapes,
shoveling coal, blowing the whistle.
When older, we waved at engineers,
passengers and hobos
as long strings of boxcars,
flatbeds, tankers, sleepers,
zippered earth to the horizon
south of our house.
Our porch became
a caboose in which we rolled
across the prairie. Each time I see
a train, I want to board.
I saw a different train today -
a row of seven wheelchairs
pushed through halls to Sunday worship.
If someday I ride that train
will I smile and wave?
Will they let me blow the whistle?

(First published in The Rockford
Review, Winter-Spring 2010).

The Advocate

by John D. Evans
It's hard out here for an advocate
On the side of the children
Of the parents, the
It's hard out here for us
With the economy
Bleeding like
It's hard out here for an advocate
Being treated like enemies
Like we're not needed
It's hard out here
It's so hard for us
That we suffer
Do we fight
Or die?

Rolling with the Thunder

by Alan Harris
Why I was angry matters not,
but fury had blossomed in me,
and I was it--no turning away.

Fingers atremble,
voice ashake,
heart apump,
I challenged a present wrong
yielded up to me
from some chasm of an obscure past.
I stood resiliently firm,
arteries turgid with love and law.

It is over, and I did not lose.
No one lost--or won.
The conflict was as imperative
and brief
as a summer thunderstorm.

I sit now electric with leftover adrenaline,
images of the struggle
reverberating in my thoughts--
but already a silence in my blood begins
to bathe me with merciful forgetting.

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