Go ahead. Spin this metal bicycle wheel if The Museum of Modern Art will allow it. Then, stand back and contemplate. Pretend you're Duchamp. You also like to watch. Don't expect any surprises. It's all about the idea and the art of criticism, or not. Attitude is everything. Wear a bow tie. Carry a small notebook. That's all that's left and a sense of irony. Slowly walk around the object. Inspect this upside-down bicycle wheel on its fork that's wedged into a painted and chipped wood stool. It's a piece of art now or a flower or a found river rock with a signature in green paint on the underside or the third of seven recently unearthed Venus de Milos. It can be anything the artist says it is. But take my word for it. Taste has nothing to do with it. Ignore the guard who taps you on the shoulder. Ignore his coughs. Ignore the museum lights as they begin to fade. The logic of the everyday doesn't belong here. You've seen this image somewhere before, perhaps in a dream.
you taught me how to write
you taught me why to write
then your body betrayed you
i held the pen for you
then i held your mind for you
i tried to be the poet you imagined
i tried to assuage the pain
you no longer felt
your lips barely moved
as you ended the poem
with your eyes transcribing
while i shakily scribbled
the last of you.
Wind strokes us,
a gull cries, tilting
at lake's edge.
On a wayward afternoon,
oars measured like wings,
we sail in tandem over
the lull of ripples,
Evergreens steady us
from a distance.
Ashore, walking in down boots,
I unspool my memories
of his breezy smile.
Branches, scented yesterday
with cherry blossoms, are
Sunlight sails over
piercing the ice ledge.
Sunbeams change course,
soften my stiff face,
awaken my dark eyes.
I melt into winter.
They arose early not wanting to miss
the sun's painting the river shades of yellow
fringed in green; not wanting to miss
the sheen of sawgrass and water lilies
and the purple sky mixed with blue
and the river's bend and the distant
call of loons and the splash of fish
yonder past the boat's bow as she
lay anchored in a little cove. The men
say not a word as experienced hands
slide worms on hooks and rig fly rods
with light-as-feathers homemade baits.
All of this, their summer ritual, for them,
something like going to church, only better.
He poised the knife at my life line
but my mother denied him.
In her momentary despair
didn't care for her own life from there.
Was unaware she'd saved
a delineator of the words here and there
and mine and theirs and sometime and whenever.
But I in the warm niche of her body
was waiting to be spewed
forth into the world
as a life-giving liquid,
from a plover's wings.
Spring comes at a time of its own convenience
it does not acknowledge our impatience
it does not care that we've cast off our woolens
and heavy socks
We may long for soft breezes and leafed-out trees
for blossoms that tease us with pastel hues
and then, the bright colors that shock us to joy
proving the worth of waiting, of wishing, of hoping
...first line from "High"
(Billy Collins, "Ballistics")
In my upholstered chair by the window,
sitting grows tedious. Hips complain. I
cruise TV offerings and come up empty.
If only I'd paid attention when my mother
and Grandma demonstrated tatting. If I'd
taken that art class, asked a sister-in-law
to teach me quilting, kept up piano lessons.
Too late now. Arthritis slows fingers. Brain
cells feel like slugs slithering uphill. Too tired
to learn the new. Besides, scientists authenticate
at a certain age, our head is full, slots overflow.
Unless — I could write more letters, phone
a few older folks who are stuck at home. I could
learn to bake bread. My banana cake is a hit
at potlucks. Certainly, I could pray for others.
The list grows. Sell some items (need to downsize
anyway) and donate to missionaries; spend more
time praying for our country; write more; research
new writing markets; ask God for direction daily.
The world is changing fast. Researching data
on computer is beyond my pay grade. Yet, ever
so slowly, I could step up my pace, be alive.
where nothing else will grow.
It loves the roots of trees
with which it shares soil
and rain. It survives the hunger
of rabbits, the sucking greed of slugs.
No roadside wanderer, it prefers
the domesticity of yards,
the hidden corners of old houses
that lean unfashionably into the dark.
How is it that you and I
have weathered the dubious grace
of age, leaving summer light
to swooping robins, cabbage moths
hovering in sunny lavender, squirrels
with their nearly human hands holding
bits of fruit to bury for the winter?
We spend the shadowed nights
imagining the unfinished business
of days not yet born.
(First published in SANSKRIT)
I want to merge so far over into the left lane
So that no one can see my tears or my pain
So that no one can hear my incessant cries
I want my hair to blow in the wind to cover my eyes
After our breakup I thought I'd be better off living in solitude
But this silence is overbearing and
all attempts to fill it have been crude
It seems that nothing is ever going to fill this void in my heart
I feel like my life was being destroyed from the very start.
Because we never came together on common ground
I wanted to make a home and you wanted to paint the town
Now all I have are memories of days gone by
Day where I jump into my car and hit the road and cry
And merge so far over into the left lane
Where no one can see my tears or my pain.
one may possess
by boat or on the shore.
Low laps express
a balm's caress-
Yeats poetry and more.
To some degree,
a heart's esprit-
the water of the isle
flows by decree
inspiring all the while.
Oh, great Virgin Mother from far out at sea
You have really inspired the Hell out of me,
Grant me the grace of a happy death for free
So that I may be with my loved ones to be,
This is my prayer that you may convey to see
Your image everywhere and instill in my mind
To live in the halls of life everlasting so refined,
To see your spirit before I send my spirit
Would inspire me to go to that great poet
In the heavens has for me my rest as I know it,
What is compassion? What does it mean?
It means a love for others,
A willingness to give of ourselves
For our sisters and our brothers.
Compassion sometimes can be shared
Simply with a smile.
A sympathetic face may help them
Walk their toughest mile.
Most always, though, it requires effort
And often self-denial,
As we generously give of our means or muscle
To help others through their trial.
My husband is definitely a man of compassion
And that's an absolute fact.
Generous deeds of compassion are always
Found in this man named Jack.
So when you observe the misfortunes of others,
Let your kindness be like the rain;
With a benevolent sacrifice of self
To wash away their pain.
My husband tells me
about berry picking he did as a boy
on a farm in Southern Illinois;
the scratches from blackberry thorns,
prickly little barbs cutting
into preadolescent skin,
the unripe blueberries,
tart like lemon acid
and his sour relationships
that would follow.
When I met him
he was sweet like a strawberry,
red and juicy. His pulp,
although burned from past experience,
still covered a somewhat
Today, one could say
sour grapes have eaten
through his core.
And, I am still here
picking up those little pieces
of pulverized berries,
with the hope
not all of them are rotten.
My husband was a smart,
talented man, used to being
In charge wherever he was.
He was the driver who got us
safely to any destination. He
paid the bills, figured our taxes,
chose our investments, even
Leukemia took away his wit, his
knowledge, and his confidence.
It took his sense of balance and
his ability to tame a checkbook.
It took his knack of finding his way
around town, even to another room.
It took away his mental concentration,
and determination to figure things out.
Finally, it took away his will to live.
And his desire to stay here with me.
Families now gather
Friends make dates
Stores still hesitate
Masks some mandate
No shot some rather
Encounter their fate
A vaccine too late
Mask wearing a hate
Can leave all tethered
Young, old and mates
Seeking balance wait
Watching vaccine rates
Benefits and costs weigh
A dance of sorts takes
Some resume to isolate
Choices continue to make
A new normal is whether
Friends are playing safe
Hope is stronger each day
That we will find our way.
there was a smorgasbord
of poetry that was inspirational,
I found it rather sensational.
A poem by Doreen Ambrose Van Lee,
really had a message for me.
It was called Something Beautiful Remains,
with beautiful rhyming refrains.
She wrote she lost her car, they foreclosed her home,
she wrote it into the very first line of the poem.
But her father God protected her from fear,
because she felt God's presence near.
To me, this poem made me feel humble,
because recently, I started to grumble.
I got a bill sent to me I already paid,
and I promptly began to explode rage.
Yet this poem spoke to me about trust,
that God wouldn't leave me in the dust.
My body will eventually be ash,
but why be all worried about cash?
Then on a PDF called the Pennescence,
I found a poetry renascence.
"Non-descript," by Lynn Fetteroff,
talked about when we wished we were better off.
Medium height, medium weight, medium hair,
no individual seems to have a life that's fair.
But then she used the poem to discuss,
the comparison that goes on with all of us.
Some are good at math, some can spell,
but everybody does something well.
But we always covet someone else's gift,
as stated in her poem, "Non-descript."
It concludes by saying to us all,
how fortunate we all are, not small.
Oh, what lessons we learn from those,
that pass on their wisdom in prose!
You never know whose poems will inspire,
but I better not ever write as a liar.
Our poems published is a great deal,
publishing thoughts we choose to reveal.
House, weathered, bashed in grays, spiders,
homespun surrounding yellows and pinks
on a Kansas, prairie appears lonely tonight.
The human theater lives once lived here
inside are gone now,
buried in the back, dark trail
behind that old outhouse.
Old wood chipper in the shed, rustic, worn, no gas, no thunder, no sound.
Remember the old coal bin, now open to the wind,
but no one left to shovel the coal.
Pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hayrides all gone.
Deserted ghostly children still swing abandoned in the prairie wind.
All unheated rooms no longer have children
to fret about, cheerleaders have long gone,
the banal house chills once again, it is winter,
three lone skinny crows perched out of sight
on barren branched trees silhouetted in early morning
hints of pink, those blues, wait with hunger strikes as winter
that snow starts to settle in against moonlight skies.
Kansas becomes a quiet place when those first snowfalls.
There is the dancing of the crows—
that lonely wind, that creaking of the doors, no oil in the joints.
Hour topples hour, days domino to years,
and still, clockwork, I come to you:
simple chair, set-aside silence,
come to sit in your sixty-minute sliver
distanced from pervasive percussion,
come to fold my fidgety hands—
stillness giving no purchase to drumming fingers,
toes tapping to the marching band
of thoughts that roll-step down my boulevards,
scuff the old troubadour footpaths.
Who imagines that a single hour
is peace, is enlightenment, is enough?
You are no resting place.
I come again, again to the sweatless work
of emptying, slow osmosis of quiet,
unbendable calm calcifying straight-back bones.
You, simple chair, set-aside silence,
are my practice of steadiness,
a rehearsal of inside balance
tested on the tightrope and crowd of noise
inside and out.
(from Common Ground)
false alarms suck. 'specially repeated
cries for community crying when all
face the ravenous wolves without a caul
of wild irksome tales so loudly bleated
sheep munched with crier once belief fleeted
memory clings of truth's loss to lies' thrall
prisoned notions of false safety a pall
linguist's cries unheeded, wolf rights meted
established through culture of disbelief
in games of shout, bloodshed lists perfidy
paid when the unchecked enemy brings grief
and woe casts over lives quelled wrongfully
accused encouraged to turn a new leaf
shooting straight to the hearts of you and me
I'm suffering from entropy
along with the universe.
That's some sort of sympathy.
Consequentially this verse.
Each letter will say something.
Words and sentences more so.
I burst out, dance and sing!
A gift from the get-go.
My nose starts to run.
Why catch it in a pocket?
Nature's having fun.
Society can sock it.
Then from feet spring.
Nails on their way.
The blossom's on the wing.
I'm hardy as I play.
What rules entirely?
I can't think the least.
Maybe it's String Theory:
new universe released.
But that's not the problem.
Will I never know what's up?
I blow the nose a goblin.
Is it breakfast or sup?
A rushing torrent of feelings
Has quieted to a calm-flowing stream
I can see myself there now
Lying in the grass, content
Time stretched out against the sky
Underneath I turn over and pick a flower
Just because I can
I breathe in the calm and smile
All is not right with the world
But it's still good
I can find good
The ground I lay upon is holy and sacred
I want to melt into it
To feel it around me
And hear the water
Keeping time with my pulse
My soul is thirsty and anxious
Satisfaction comes in small doses
A day off
A warm smile
A knowing grin
When you were one
we spent the day at Disneyland.
Your mother, my uncle, and I
took turns watching you
in your stroller
from ride to ride.
That night in your crib
you gazed wide-eyed for an hour,
digesting, I guess, what you'd seen,
and then smiled sweetly in your sleep.
You won't remember, but
we speak of it still.
It's early in the fifth
decade since that day.
Your son is back from his war,
just as I was from mine.
His gaze across the dinner table is
I hope when he's a father
he'll dream of wondrous times,
and fear when he's a grandfather
he'll scratch at hidden scars
and remember his bodies
at the end of the day.
Not a bump of high ground to break the horizon,
give some perspective,. . . . It scares [people]
because they wonder what is next.
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
Recalling Arctic desert is the tomb of tropical plants,
Mojave Desert once cupped ocean,
the Dustbowl's parched tan farmland
once cradled rain and promise,
I mourn a different drought that threatens the West.
We suffer its unchecked creep across the country
to clench a deadly chokehold on the Capital.
Pacific to Atlantic dry and desperate,
cooperation strangles in the public square.
What's wizened calls to question what is wise.
The sky's deep blue devoid of generous rain,
sun's eye will scrutinize
while blistering the evil and the just.
Its lamp interrogates
while searing good intention into sin.
I mourn the stifling dry that
is not humor,
sucks up civility,
shrivels cloudy promises,
would shrink the Golden Rule.
A skin-deep dryness is the least of it.
I dread what's next,
a dire evaporation
when minds and hearts contract like hardpan ground,
sharp cracks that widen
upturned black dirt gone airborne, viral, choking
our very voice and breath.
Divisions Street bridges repaired to host,
hikers, bikers. famous sites seekers, tourists.
Bridges, widened, reshaped to match
Lake Michigan's undulation, advancing.
Lake Shore Drive progress moving forward
changing land uses, usage, demands.
Giving space, breathing, walking, rolling, driving
places, under the heaving high, higher than sky,
high-rises. Concrete and steel housing offices,
apartments, sold and rented, homes to families,
living, working, eating, playing, in taller than tall,
swaying structures outlining Chicago's sky,
sunrise, sunset, sunrise...
Division Street stretching east to west, part of
Chicago's flat, web patterned, streetscape. Crossing
Native American paths. Ancient angled, curved,
deviating from the east, west, north, south grid.
Essential Indian trails, renamed, moving forward.
North Michigan, Grand, Elston, and Archer Avenues,
Clark Street; origins forgotten, renamed.
Origins forgotten, sunrise, sunset, sunrise...
Plucked from the pages of long ago,
brought to life in regal colors,
are history's royal queens, dressed
in delicate lace and brilliant gowns
sewn with silver needles
and the finest strands of gold.
Larger than life, the images so majestic,
the lands so lush. I wonder
what really happened in those times.
Reality now is at the touch of a finger.
I dare not look, preferring to believe
that they were all truly beautiful,
holding their heads high in knowledge.
Preferring to believe the wearing of lace
or a piece of jewelry made with nimble fingers
can be worn around my neck
or to enhance my hair. To look regal,
possibly to be just once, Queen for a Day.
there is no point in arguing with a mountain
he looks like a lofty sage
or a merciful saint
regardless of your passionate arguments
he remains silent and motionless
as if in meditation
occasionally you hear something in the air
but find out it's only a hollow echo
of your own voice
I look to the open path,
excess stripped away.
I trace the clear trail
into the woods—the detritus,
the dryness, the pulsing life
beneath the carpet of dead foliage,
the turning inward,
the pulling away, the slow
retreat brought by cold
and loss and descension.
Can I bear the expectation?
The hope? The prospect of
daffodils and delight, seeds and
smells of fertility, of brown
gone green, emerging hues, winding
swirls of pastel, the outward swivel,
the gradual creak with each bounteous sprig
of emerald to what emerges beneath,
above and beyond the fallow forest floor.
Anticipation and fear and joy
and not just a little sorrow....
Can I bear it?
Mother of Saffron,
your delicate stigmas
have been hand-picked
for centuries on sunny
In my humble garden,
you do not flourish.
It's neither hot nor dry enough
but your silver-edged,
purple cup-like blossoms
still warm my heart.
(Published in ISPS Southern Chapter's
Poetry Month Collection, April 2021
The odds are there to beat...
— Leonard Cohen
A brighter ray of sharp perceptions comes to life—
comes from within, it's pondering and subtle
such imperfection of the clouds feeds all strife,
subconscious childhood resurfaces to stutter...
The year before Prague witnessed Russian tanks,
apparent spring succumbed to winter's echo,
our parents braved the cold (so many thanks!).
And we appeared to fill the void of murdered brethren...
First memory brought forth the BabiyYar
from those ravines, I seek the answers even now
my phantom burns from bullet holes don't get me very far,
the pain excruciating, as I bow...
Our genetic burden overall,
is of the sort one wouldn't wish as wind on willows,
don't even notice petty theft at all,
as our thoughts are on the march to Salaspils.
Not much has changed, equator measures still,
yet a brighter ray will always pierce the cloud cover
Who had forgiven, perpetrators, victims will...
Deadlock in rhetoric—there's nothing to discover.
Yet we appeared—the odds were there to beat,
our core peculiar, on verge of constant tearing
We won't give up the corner of our street,
Despite attempts of present Goebbels, Hess or Goering
The carpenter frames a table;
with no blueprints,
he creates by feel,
Like a poet,
a carpenter shapes
Table is gifted to a family
who places it in their dining room.
Many dishes will be served,
and the best meals,
as the tastiest poems,
will be the ones
that stick to your ribs.
Good riddance to
Social distancing —
Visual identifiers of
Compliance and safety.
Fade away quickly.
As summer approaches
We go back to
Fifteen lost months, and
Truthful vaccinated people
Are safe from harm
While liars, who haven't,
Settling down to meditate
in my book-lined alcove,
I gaze at Buddha on the shelf,
sitting palms up, cross-legged, calm.
What is he? Where is his mind?
Deep oceans roll between us,
the Buddha and me,
even though his cast iron likeness
is solidly planted before my eyes
among amethysts and books.
His sloping shoulders and benign face
reveal a radiant humility
surely possible to humanity,
yet seldom found in bodily beings.
Where is your mind, Lord Buddha?
Your focus seems a thousand miles within
as you meditate here
in silent serenity.
May I somehow join your journey?
What must I do to walk your path?
A sunbeam shines now
through the nearby window
and rests on Buddha's heart.
"Look within," he whispers innerly.
"Look within for a pattern of being
that will respond to your aspirations.
Consciousness is supple and supportive
if you discover and respect its laws.
"Bliss abides in every inch of space,
and will be found hidden in the obvious.
"Master nature by obeying her perfectly.
Examine her ways, ask her secrets,
and use her for the benefit of all.
Blessings accrue to the workman
who skillfully unfolds a subtle pattern,
then shapes from it a living temple to truth.
"You live in the pattern
and the pattern lives in you,
as the flower hides a seed
and the seed hides a flower.
"Proceed now into your peace,
into your meditation.
Leave my sunlit statue here
and turn to your inner light.
"Slip softly into the shining sea
releasing love into life
as life releases you into love.
"I will be here when you return."
From Inward in Words
Copyright Notice: Copyrights for all of the above poems remain with the individual authors. No work here is to be reused without permission from its author. To request permission, contact a member of the ISPS Web Committee.
Note to ISPS poets: Poetry posted on the Internet may be considered "published" by some publishers and agents.