Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
June, 2018
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Poems on this Page:

Smoky Mountain Morning

by Michael Escoubas
From the veranda of my
A-frame chalet, I'm greeted
by Carolina silver bell, basswood
and the dogwood's chiffon wings.

They join with the hemlock
on stream sides and on shady
slopes drinking draughts of cool
water that nourish deep roots.

High on hillsides rhododendron,
blueberry, huckleberry and
sand myrtle decorate the heath
bald. Blue mountain ridges

stretch like giant arms among
the clouds. The clouds themselves
are fluffs of whipped cream. Spruces
glitter in the distance warmed 

in the sun and moved to dance
by the wind-play of music kissing
the leaves and needles as boughs
sway in time—they take me with

them, raptured in my spirit, riding
on dogwood's wings of blue smoke
on a day when I wanted nothing,
asked for nothing, did nothing.

Green Grow the Mountains

by Bonnie Manion
The mountains of Trollstigen grow
green under summer solstice light,
shine boldly without a hint of night.

Aurlandsfjord skies glow fire-green
under aurora lights but slate, purple,
and indigo in the shadows of twilight. 

Hardangerfjord cuts boldly iridescent 
to the sea, gouged by an ancient glacier,  
home of perpetual winter.

Verdant pinnacles laced with waterfalls
dive the depths of Gerangerfjord which
mirrors chartreuse walls, sailing clouds.

Towering under a midnight sun, spruce-
covered Stalheimskieiva teems with
shadowy, shy and elusive wildlife.

Arctic wolf and polar bear, white fox and
northern hare haunt endless evergreen
slopes, or hunt solo from lonely ice floes.

(Published in The Penwood Review)

Blown away on Memorial Day

by Mark Hudson
I was in Florida during Memorial Day,
with family in a condo where we stayed.
Doing Disney, for my niece and nephew,
for the kids enjoyment, things to do.
On Memorial Day, we made a start,
to go to a waterslide park.
My dad had purchased a vacation deal,
that had an international appeal.
But my poor father must've misheard,
we got to the park and heard these words,
"This package you have has Disney covered,
but the water parks are something other."
So my niece and nephew were a bit sad,
but we went to the pool which made them glad.
We got there and a teen was making me mad,
he was doing something that was bad.
On a vapor e-cigarette he would toke,
and in my face the wind blew the smoke.
Each time he smoked, he had a grin,
letting the smoke blow into the wind.
He must've thought that vaping was cool,
but there were plenty of kids at the pool.
My niece and nephew began to swim,
the kid smoked and I resented him.
Smoke kept creeping out of his lungs,
blowing in my face like the smell of dung.
Then he went swimming, I was relieved,
I thought that I might get a reprieve.
So I bought a hot dog in order to consume,
he came back smoking and I smelled the fumes.
I went inside before I complained,
I could barely keep myself restrained.
I came back out; the smoker chose to leave,
I felt more confident I could breathe.
My father ate a salad, lettuce and all,
when the wind blew the salad, and it did fall.
Right on the ground, the salad collapsed,
my dad picked it up and put it in the trash.
Then the wind grew stronger, blowing hard,
it almost blew the table extremely far.
The umbrella collapsed behind my dad's head,
the table almost fell on his lap as wind sped.
A kind-hearted man pulled the umbrella up,
then the rain started pouring as if God spilled a cup.
You should have seen people run for shelter,
I felt like I needed an alka-seltzer!
I could've complained about my memorial day,
but soldiers are overseas, not here in the U.S.A.
So I pause and reflect for a minute or so,
to think of all of the soldiers serving we don't know,
The unknown soldiers who're serving abroad,
come home soon, we salute and applaud.

The Long and Winding Flow

by Rick Sadler
The Ohio River
The Ohio River is a peculiar river with a personality much all its own
It shines at night under a full Moon Bow like a precious Gem stone,
Or the Ohio River can also become a violet rage from a torrential flood
Also the Ohio River can a gentle giant a highway for our life's blood,
I remember as a boy in Southern Illinois and was curiously growing
Up there as I was so fascinated by all the activities there to be knowing,
All the Fish Markets that were anchored there by the river banks
Floating on the water that was connected together by wooden planks,
I can still smell the muddy water and the everlasting aroma of fish
As I always loved to eat Catfish that my adopted mom put on my dish,
Little brother and I liked to play all day there in the shallow waters
Were was splashing around gleefully in the Sun like two young river Otters,
To watch the long River Barges slowly navigating the water all day
Also riding on the River Ferry as it crossed the water on its crooked way,
In the heat of Summer time I saw Speed boats racing back and forth
Thus the Water Skiers were having so much fun in the Sun for all its worth.
SSSHHH! I could hear the Whippoorwill call to its mate at night the distance
The rugged Bluffs towering over the Ohio River banks there were as though
They were guarding the Ohio River flowing there oh for so many moons ago,
Reminiscing my adopted Dad telling me stories of his boyhood about river life
Oh how I would like to see again that little thing he carried called a Pocket Knife,
I could hear his Violin playing on the mist over the Ohio River in the Twilight
I'm still missing him that not a day goes by that I don't think of Dad on this night,
Like a long silver Ribbon gliding through the landscape would start to shimmer
God put the Ohio River on this Earth for a good reason for all our four seasons.

Look at the Birds

by Idella Pearl Edwards
The birds of the air neither sow nor reap,
Yet God makes sure they are fed.
How much more valuable are you, my friend?
He supplies your daily bread.

Look at the birds of the air and know...
God's love is far beyond measure.
The Lord has compassion on all He has made.
We are His joy and His treasure.

So, why are you downcast, O my soul? 
Why so disturbed within me? 
My hope belongs in the God of all gods
Who sets my spirit free.

Be anxious for nothing, O my soul,
There is no reason to fret.
All things work together for good,
All of my needs will be met.

When I wonder how I'll get through the day,
I look at the birds in the sky,
Then I ask myself the pertinent question —
How much more valuable am I?


by Tom Chockley
the chalky squeal
of dusty wheels

Your Loving Touch (2017)

by David LaRue Alexander
I remember
our first dance
Your turn away smile
flirtatious glance
Soft whispered words
a possible chance
at a romantic rendezvous
Our long walks
hand in hand
Our deep talks
where we planned
Our life together
To be so grand
but neither of us knew
Oh, how I miss
your loving touch
Those gentle caresses
that meant so much
Or in the night
how you would clutch
me tightly next to you
Oh, Dear God
I swear it's true
If I but only
had a clue
There isn't anything
I wouldn't do
to have her back again

Kindness and Coffee

by Frank Hubeny
One kind word and coffee will
Open up my heart to you.
If you're out of coffee, love,
That one kind word will do.

Little Girl

by Jill Angel Langlois
Little girl,
I tied you with your jump rope
and made you sit in sand.
Tears streaked your chubby cheeks
as you tried but couldn't stand.
We all held hands and circled,
chanting hurtful words.
Your arms and legs were pocked and marked
but these weren't your only scars.
I sprinkled apple blossoms
on your head for a crown
and laughed as I walked away,
leaving you in the playground.

Twilight in Winter

by Charlotte Digregorio
After the holidays,
hunched in my leather chair,
the lap robe shawls my back. 
Feathers of snow fall quickly 
filling the tattered basketball hoop. 

Cradling the white cat 
nose-deep in his fur,
I remember our old spaniel's
hot breath on my knee.

On the coffee table, 
a cranberry candle melts,
dribbles on old china.
I see silence.

The sewing basket, 
once holding family together,
half full.

Ariadne's Letter to Theseus

by Jenene Ravesloot

Dearest Theseus, may I be blunt? You don't have a clue! You think you can march right into my Daddy's Labyrinth at the Minoan Palace of Knossos and kill that monstrous half-brother of mine, that bull-headed man with a tail who spreads his clew in the Labyrinth, without giving a second thought to it. You'll never get out of those shrubs alive, even if you kill Minotaur. Daddy and I both know that. You have a bad sense of direction. But I have an idea and Daddy won't have a clue. Take this clew, this ball of red yarn that I've saved. Take it with you when you go. It's enclosed in a large package my handmaiden has brought to you, along with this letter. Keep the clew and read this letter over and over. And, when you get to the Palace, when you begin to walk the Labyrinth, unwind the clew as you walk through the maze. Then, if you're lucky enough to kill my blood-thirsty half-brother, that monster who is waiting to eat you if you don't kill him first, follow the red thread back out again. Daddy will be furious. But, like I said, he won't have a clue that I've had something to do with my half-brother's death until we have set out to sea. Hurry! Kill the Minotaur. Afterwards, we will celebrate with our friends and get drunk on red wine before the sails are hauled up by the clew-lines.

(First published in Monsters, Myths And Other Matters)

the -itions of it all

by jacob erin-cilberto
you were simply
an expensive imposition
a juxtaposition
to happy
for me an exposition
into giving endlessly to the cause
cause i loved you
and then 
you were simply
an expensive imposition
i could no longer afford
to subject my verb to
an object of your own affection
an interjection
into my life
and then, 
you were simply
and my intuition 
turned supposition
that my life without you
becomes an alluring
a proposition
i simply
welcome with open arms.

High Noon

by William Marr
no sooner have the skyscrapers
withdrawn their front paws
than eyes of the unemployed 
witness in shock
a tail
stretching longer and longer
from the employment agency

Sweep around Your Own Front Door

by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
They say that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones or;
Instead of judging others sweep around your own front door.
My life is not a game of Chess or Checkers 
Don't look at my frailties and try to put me down,
Or see where you could have made a jump and received a crown!
Look at my life and see that maybe I was doing the very best
	with the cards that I've been dealt, 
Or take a walk in my shoes and let people place you under a
	microscope so you can feel how I have felt.
You are not the President or CEO of a Fortune 500 Company or
	even a convenience store,
So please I am advising you to stop looking at my life in a
	vacuum and sweep around your own front door!
But if judging others is how you make it through your life
	and it is your sole reason for being at it's core,
This poem will fall upon blind eyes and you will never sweep
	around your own front door.


by Arthur Voellinger
High school
lost class

When parents
and friends
became crass

By shouting
names or
blasting horns

Causing others
to question
from the start

Why an
set rules

to be abused

prevailing wind

by Steven Kappes
I could sit on the front porch
of the old farm house
on the prairies of Illinois
watch rainstorms advancing
eastward across cornfields
pushed by prevailing winds
a solid line of water
moving row by row
in my direction
as the wind chilled
and swirled standing stalks
knowing with certainty
the storm would come
today at my Florida home
I stood and watched
advancing storm clouds
move this way and that
some going west
some east
merging to go south
lines of rain narrow strips
some no wider than a city block
soak the ground
while feet away it remained dry
I marvel at a place like this
where there is no anchor
no way to build a wind break
how like the trees
the souls of people
are blown this way and that
how humans everywhere
desire the consistency
of a prevailing wind


by Susan T. Moss
I am comfortable standing
among giants,
time's arboretum
higher than my reach
and wider than my grasp.
Their thousand years
of silence speak
relative eternity,
something beyond
what history easily
of sovereign relics
and survivors
of chop and hew.

Unless I leave the path
and step into the light,
the needled boughs
are hidden like Olympian gods
impervious to dancing 
mayflies below.

Last Night

by Barbara Funke
	The primary function of negative dreams is rehearsal
	for similar real events. —Finnish researcher Revonsuo
I dream my after-dark departure
to a furnished garden apartment,
its flowered patios lantern-lit,
inviting, exotic.
Inside, new chairs open
strange arms,
fine hardwood chests of drawers
stand stoically.
You set down cartons,
shrug when I claim the small TV
you say you'll throw away.
Instantly, I miss what we've amassed
in years of careful choosing,
my address book and calendar go blank,
photographs fade.
Your pale face turns from me
with downcast eyes:  Greek coins.
A cheerless incandescence
closes in.
The door clicks and rattles its chain.
A rift widens,
the room splits in two.
I wake to you, your smile,
a joke, your kiss when you go out.
I listen to the door bump,
garage door grind.
I smile for garden weeds,
that breakfast dishes beckon,
that sunlight lifts my day.

I Never Looked At It That Way

by Tom Roby

When minds, grown old, are young once more, familiar things look strange and new. Which of these keys unlocks the door?

What got us to the grocery store? Long lists of things we have to do when minds, grown old, are young once more.

Love's not a list we're looking for—we built love's fortress with a view. Which of these keys unlocks the door?

We could do all we missed before like kids inventing love anew when minds, grown old, are young once more.

What is it we were looking for? Remember that our love is true. Which of these keys unlocks the door?

Just count me out my change once more—display my antique lock on you, when minds, grown old, are young once more. Which of these keys unlocks the door?

Woman, Dakota Territory

by Melissa Huff
with appreciation for Harvey Dunn's painting —
Dakota Woman — and for my family's history

She would sit for hours absorbing
all the colors of the prairie
naming them even     reciting them to herself
as though she knew repetition
would help her eyes remember

the honeyed blond blankets of wheat
the dancing bitter green of wild grasses
outcroppings of vivid cornflower blue     columbine red.

She learned to recognize the scarlet lake
of devil's paintbrush and the vibrant purple
of the sharp-tipped thistle.  She memorized
the plaited evening skies     smoldering gold		
dove grey pink     the surprise of deep periwinkle.

Even the dirt     though it darkened her children's clothes
called out to her     a rich peat shot through
with threads of blackened burnt ochre.

She gathered those days to herself
while her husband gave away land
telling eager settlers which parcel of prairie
they could claim as their own.

It seemed to her that the land belonged to the sky.

Her son didn't drown until after they'd gone back east.
He couldn't navigate the gaping hole     the sudden
unexpected pit     opening in the shallows of the river.

But for all the years to come     one image of him
always in her mind     always on the Dakota plains
his solemn grey eyes fixed on hers
behind his head a thin line     of amethyst
stretched     along a wide horizon.

Note: This poem was first published by Highland Park
Poetry in the book, "2017 Poetry Challenge."  It was
also published in 2018 by

Petrarchan Sonnet — Campari and Pomegranate Essence

by Emma Alexandra Kowalenko
Sundown's light shimmers nimbly through glass clear
Wondrous pomegranate color gifted
To crystal goblet sands of time shifted.
Life's secrets come into view, brought near
Unobstructed as an elusive deer
Mirage and reality with dawn sifted.
Until with sunrise boldness mist is lifted
Campari and pomegranate appear.

Bitterness and sweetness blended sublime,
Lovely mixture thrilling minds with delight.
Drink of gods, Mount Olympus timeless chime.
Twists, turns notwithstanding we ride this kite
Taking sweet, bitter chances, we climb, climb
Embracing joys of momentary flight.

The Kitchen Faucet Attacks

by Joseph J. Solberg
A small, moist mushroom cloud wells
Up and up and wider and wider until 
Physics propels it from the faucet to the sink,
Where it detonates like a watery grenade.
This incoming, incessant cascade 
Is not the happy gurgle of a bubbling brook,
Or the soft thunder of rolling ocean waves,
Or even the roaring din of Niagara,
But rather a mind numbing, torturous drip, drip, drip,
That no enemy combatant would be forced to endure.
Though slight in caliber, 
It pierces through every evasive effort.
The plumbing aisle at Menards offers no relief.
Raising the television volume to deafening levels
Does nothing to dampen this psyche shattering bombardment.
Like a cockroach through survives.
Like snoring from an adjacent hotel room,
All consciousness is consumed in anxious anticipation of the next
Drip and the next and the next, next, next, next.
After ten minutes it's impossible to think,
After an hour I'd confess to crimes I didn't commit,
After a day I'd surrender state secrets,
And no negotiations are imminent.

The Song and Dance of Lindberg

by Myron L. Stokes
Flings his head back
while flipping ribs.
Spins around like James Brown and hollers,
"Owwwww, I Feel Good."

Dances the Robot and the Jerk so wildly
the needle skips on the Magnavox.
Momma shakes her head,
body jiggling with laughter.
"Your daddy's a hot mess," she chuckles.

Cuts my hair in the kitchen,
shrieks, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find Out What It Means To Me."
Nicks the back of my neck,
clippers buzzing in my ears.
"Ouch, Daddy!" I yelp. "Be careful."

Sits at the Formica table,
mirror propped up 
by a Folger's coffee can.
Tweezes ingrown hairs
from his apricot cheeks, humming
"I'm A Soul Man."

Family reunion.
Daddy struttin' and shimmyin'
down the Soul Train Line,
grabs Momma, dips her low and shouts,
"When A Man Loves A Woman."

Daddy shaving in his boxers,
hair slick with Dixie Peach Pomade.
Hot water gurgles down the drain.
Plops shaving cream on my nose,
chants, "Pride and Joy."

In the Buick, heading South.
Suitcases, meatloaf sandwiches,
Chips and Pepsis in the cooler.
Eight track blaring, Daddy belting,
"Hot Fun In The Summer Time."

Daddy chomping 
into Momma's fried chicken.
Licks his fingers loudly.
Closes his eyes and lilts,
"Ain't No Woman Like The One I Got."

Rain thrashing the house
on Saturday night.
Dominos or Monopoly
on the glossy dining room table.
Daddy winks at Momma and croons,
"I Got Sunshine On A Cloudy Day."

Hawker on Jackson Boulevard

by Wilda Morris
He stands tall, ebony eyes
greet passersby, no shoulder
drooping or face to the ground.
He's young, with a physique
that spells vigor. Unlike so many
on the streets of Chicago
asking for handouts or hawking
snacks to make a buck,
he wears clean blue jeans,
a collared shirt beneath
an untattered navy blue jacket.
The sign he holds in his box
of candy bars doesn't claim
he's a homeless vet, doesn't say
he needs food to feed his kids.
I pass him by, but then turn back
and ask, How much? I pull
from my pocket two dollars
I'd set aside for a copy of Streetwise,
purchase a package of Reese's Pieces.
Got a date lined up? I ask. His grin,
as wide as Michigan Avenue,
accents his words, She asked me!
She's lucky you said yes, I think,
but only say, Good luck!
I go on my way, my smile
almost as big as his.

(Published in Prairie Light Review, Spring 2018)

To a Young Buck

by Candace Armstrong
Stay in my yard, hide in our woods,
you of velvet nose and slender ankles.

Your spikes, only a few inches tall
already borne proudly, you are so young.

Your majestic stance as you scan the horizon
is fearless, eager for life's adventures.

But the season of shotgun is here to overpower 
your only protection—that smooth tawny coat.

I fear to find it stained with red, to miss
your bobbing white tail streaking through darkness.

So stay in my yard, hide in our woods
until danger has passed. 

To an Acquaintance

by Keith Skilling
It is deep in the soul,
Down deep where men and situations cannot take hold,
It is something felt and experienced which cannot be scientifically,
Proven with theories or degrees.
It is something that cannot be explained with words.
How can you and I explain something that is perfect and pure?
Since we, ourselves are not.
But it is like the air and the sun whose presence in my body are caught,
While I live from their oxygen and light.
Just the same, my redeemer I do not see,
But the essence of his love I breathe and whose reflection guides me.
And with that same care he imparts these gifts to those,
Who laugh and mock and consider him a foe.
So unselfish is he that he disregards our rejections,
And through his eyes he saved us so precious.

You see, in your position I have been,
Since I once doubted just as humankind.
I questioned and searched for satisfaction
And I could only find a few.
But those soon also were not enough.
Wasn't there something else in life more meaningful?
Something that could fill the void inside.
But I am not the only one who has encountered the Holy Master.
There was Paul the persecutor of Christians,
Those who have spat at believers, threatened missionaries,
Those who simply laugh and mock.
In these actions alone is our own faith strengthened,
While others curiously and confused question what has happened to the
Person whose life has so been changed.

One thing I also wondered was how the believers of years past,
Endured the hardships and perils.
The ones who were fed to the lions in the Roman Coliseum,
The ones who hid in the dark and humid catacombs,
The ones who were persecuted in the Soviet Union,
The ones who are still being persecuted in China and North Korea,
The ones who wait for years to receive a single Bible in Cuba,
And now those of us who have our individual struggles.
But now I know it is faith that sustains.
It is not faith in an idea or church,
It is not faith in the spiritual leader or minister,
It is not even faith in religion or an image.
All of these will fail or pass to be,
While the faith in the Savior is what sustains.
Obedience and faith to the one who rewards with peace and comfort.

My friend, I do not expect you to understand,
Just as a child born blind cannot comprehend the blue color of the sky,
The delicate formation of a rose,
The ripples of the ocean tides.
But even this child can feel the presence of the sky,
The warmth of its sun.
The child can feel the gentle touch of the rose's petals,
Smell it sweet odor.
The child can feel the refreshing water over his feet and on the skin.
Through experience she can see not through the eyes but the heart,
And through the heart she believes.
But this cannot be obtained if the child does not walk out to sun,
Or if she does not extend her hand to feel the petals,
Or if she does not want to submerge her being into the water.
As you and I know, all these things exist,
But to the girl they will remain foreign and strange,
Until they are experienced.

You have said you have not learned from me,
As for myself, I have learned a lot from you.
I have learned to share my most precious treasure,
Besides the rejection which I have to encounter.
I am thankful for your friendship even through the disagreements,
But because of it I share with you my joy in Christ and deepest feelings.
I cannot imagine my life without him now,
So, I cannot help caring about yours without his love.
But keep laughing and questioning,
Keep searching and doubting.
You have not been the first, who he hears,
And definitely not the last.
You have never thought about him,
While in his heart your name remains.
In time, I know, your search with him will end.

My Firstborn

by E. Izabelle Cassandra Alexander
You're so fragile
Yet you give me strength
Crying helpless
Yet dry up my tears

Force me to move on
For a better life
Clean, meaningful days
Successful, abundant years

Just a little light
Within the dark
Loneliness of my heart
Making everything right

All I want to be
All you ever need
Till you grow up
And ready to leave

A mother, a friend
A voice to defend,
Protect and teach
Nourish and lead

To show you the path
That leads to complete
Love, honor, and peace

Reaching Maturity

by Carole R. Bolinski
We stood at the end of the concrete driveway. Our bodies awkward; arms dangling down by each side. Claudia, our witness, laughed.Then she said, "Begin." I raised my feet, tiptoed, so my mouth could reach his cheek. Claudia counted, "One, two, three," and so on. I got to 100, slowly, swallowing more after each kiss. When I finished, it was his turn, and we ended the day absorbed by the notion we were now experienced.

Sun and moon
repeatedly kiss
our aged earth

Spring Announces

by Gail Denham
Listen. Someone's trees, over on 6th St. 
quietly discuss when to allow their leaves
to pop. Under the ice, the river consults 
its rocks. Together, they decide the time 
is right. Cracks snap open.

At doorways, small boys put baseball
gloves in their backpacks, just in case.
Girls reluctantly don socks. Out of mom's
sight, socks are stuffed in pockets 
alongside jump ropes.

Dogs run circles around trees, making
mud rings. They proudly mouth sticks
they lost last fall when snows suddenly
covered everything.

Smell it. Spring has announced. Pay attention.
All signs flip around. They point to purple
and yellow crocuses pushed through crusty 
snow. Listen. Geese fly north, noisy dark vees.

Mothers crack open windows for ten minutes 
each day now. They flip tea towels to wave
out stale winter odors. They consider hanging
sheets on clotheslines. 

Honored Guest

by Alan Harris
Came on a thread,
you did,
to shine,
you do,
a warm beam,
you are,
from a sun
we all share.

Bless the thread
that brought us you,
and you that brought
the beam to share.

you seem,
and fresh,
as rainwater
seeking grass,
or daffodil buds
blooming for April.

Like a stirring of air
through an open
window, you freshen
the whole house.

(From The Wheel of Yes)

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