Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
August 2003
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Poems on this Page:


by Mardelle Fortier
for Dorothy Hamill
Silver roses of the ice, petals cool and still
provide the bed from which she springs
delicate and fragrant

Ghosts with slender limbs--Sonya, Peggy--
breathe life into her silent, trembling soul
as she flies down dreaming frost

Each arm a perfect world
she spins in whispers of mysterious grace
blossoming pure white

Her spiral blends with wind and fantasy
to waken buds of other girls
for other flights

Toward royal red of sun she leaps and whirls
then is blown down to the ice
a bouquet thrown

Violins call; she stands up with a dewy smile
unfurls again her perfect pose
floats lightly as a miracle

so that hopes rise wherever petals fall


by Marthalyn Dale Smith
As we age we become withered and loose the spring in our step,
The shine in our eyes becomes dim,
And our hair turns white.

As we age our mind goes back in time,
But we hope our hearts stay filled with love,
Given and received.

Our minds can hold on to memories we have shared with loved ones.

We also measure our lives like a scale to see if it balances out.

Like me, I have a daughter who will love me till my last breath.

I have a son who made me a Grandma but wouldn't let me be one.

So, my scales seem unbalanced till you add the man who loved me through it all.

So, my scales are even now as I wither and grow old.

The New Year's Message

by Barbara Cagle Ray
At the homeless shelter each New Year's eve,
Grace was asked to deliver a message of cheer.
"At ninety, I'm too old for this", she said.
"You'll have to find someone else next year."

After dinner, she was escorted to the podium;
Her trembling voice was humble and calm.
"Tonight is the last year I'll speak", she said;
"I will leave you with the Twenty-third Psalm."

"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want"--
Her eyes began to glow like a beacon of light.
Before she was finished, a hush filled the room;
You could have heard a pin drop in the night.

A gentleman in the corner was moved to tears;
Grace was escorted off the stage to the floor.
She moved toward his chair and asked of him--
"Have you not heard the Twenty-third Psalm before?"

"Oh, yes, I've heard it many times", he said;
His hands were shaking, and his voice was frail.
"But I've never heard it quoted by one before,
Who obviously knows the Shepherd so well."


by James L. Corcoran
When cartwheels and catapults combine
I feel the distance to the earth
all around me
I am weighted by my jacket
white as night
to the known universe
existing around me
in the gravities of stars
coerced by liberty
to unite and shine
effortlessly combustible hydrogen
in the molecules of time
dug into with teeth
on the edge of a spoon
that keeps us edging closer to
our greatest fear
the black night
at the same time we are repulsed
aware by the signal
like a beacon on the mountain

A Polish Village

by John Quinn
It is Oswiecin now,
wood and stone homes,
ashes and asphalt,
and plots of cabbages and potatoes
along a lane that runs with mud each spring.
It has been scrubbed clean,
faint scent of lye soap,
of wood smoke, boiling cabbage, sausage.
There has been fresh whitewash splashed on old bricks.
It is ordinary, sterile, chaste, unoffending

But in the froth of winter
from the mottled granites of the Carpathians,
who for centuries have crouched
as stark gargoyles -- sentries,
there are ominous shrouds of slate clouds
that roll over Oswiecin,
then, as if they realize where they are,
they rush in a boiling tumult -- to get away.

There, cold, amid winter birches;
distant, beyond the wide platform;
abandoned; at the end of rusted tracks,
heads shaved,
fresh numbers in blue tattoos,
all they own in a stained kerchief,
still stand in queues.
For it once was Auschwitz.

The Night Is Once Before

(NYC, 1998)
by James Conroy
I lean against a bulkhead
of a ramp for the ferry;
moon randomly obscured by mists
of rain
infiltrating stars' gallery strung
between shores.
The purple carpet of harbor
runs out from below
flaring the island woman like the train
of a fashionable lady stopped dancing
to catch her host's attention
with a demure gesture.
It is hand gestures, always, that catch my
barely discernable movement as when I saw his knife
before I saw him;
now unblinded moon catching its edge,
hammer to forge, the impending sparks' explosion.
That second,
torch to blade:
the mistake of looking down too fast
to see the moon in water
diving for the sky.

Snow in July

by Pat Petros
Heat bench-presses the town,
waves of smog cover houses
and we cower in our cool caves
    like bats at high noon,
    only to emerge at dusk,
and find that cottonwood trees
    have fogged our world
    with floating camouflage.

I Dream of France

by Barbara Eaton
In my dream,
you live in France.
Always in France, my love.

France is so far away…
Why France,
my love?

You write your books in French.
You are married again;
this time to a Parisienne,
and you dedicate your books
to her.

In my dream,
I am in Stratford-upon-Avon,
trying to cross to France.
I am at the train station,
I have lost my luggage,
And I have missed the last train.

France is so far away…
Why France,
my love?

The Royal Shakespeare Company actors
advise me,
"Leave him alone.
He is happily married.
He loves France."

France is so far away…
Why France,
my love?

In my dream,
I never get to France.
J'ai oublie tout mon francais.

Why France, my love?
France is so far away…


by Sally Calhoun
Leaving home produces new light.
You're not aware of it,
only it follows you around
while you're busy making your way,
awed and struggling,
homesick sometimes,
reaching out from normal, everyday sight
to touch the newfound whispers of your now embellished but sometimes aching
moving along sometimes in circles with the occasional wistfulness
                                                            of idling dreams.
Then comes an age of glory, joy;
the scene turns, as into a kaleidoscopic reverie,
spinning with colors spawned by hope, good will, and problems solved,
and, after seasons of working through the patterns' sudden shifts,
there is a homecoming for all that's new
as splendid and as hospitable as the dawn.

Heaven or Bust

by Ken Cook
As I sit in the quiet
And allow my thoughts to be.
I try to picture my God.
A thing I can not see.
The Heavens he lives above.
Represented by the soaring dove.
But here below
I must know
Does He care for me?

As I sit in the quiet
My soul (?) full of bother
For I try to picture my God
As my father!
My Heavenly Father rules above
But from so far to hold his hand, to feel his love?
Well of no import.
My own comfort?
They say he's like no other!

As I sit in the quiet
And stare out at the Sun.
I try to picture my God
And see him three in one.
Why am I to believe without seeing
This wondrous, mystical, magical being?
Father! Son! And Holy Ghost!!
Of His power which has the most?
Which One?!

As I sit in the quiet
The worst part of day.
I listen for my God.
Nothing has he to say.
They say me deaf. His voice all around!
In every bird that sings and beast that crawls the ground!
Their song sweet and uplifting true may be
But of the Human Spirit does it speak to me?
I say thee nay!

As I sit in the quiet
Remembering Abrams near sacrifice.
I try to picture my God
As instigator of that vice.
No must have acted of his own accord!
Impossible act of kind and gentle Lord!
But to protect a fantasy so strong
Would he do what he knew wrong?
And not think twice.

As I sit in the quiet
I come upon a plan.
I see my God
As created by man!
All that happens part of design?
Laid out by Him. His will not mine!
Lack of responsibility we crave.
Wholl give it cradle to grave?
Hallelujah! He can.

As I sit in the quiet
I think of me.
After death has had its turn
Will I be?
Or as I breathe my last
And mind goes over past
I hear the hellhounds bark
And all around goes dark.
The end of me?
As I lay in the quiet
My bones go to dust.
Thinking no longer of my God
In whom you trust.
Death: nothing but the end of life.
A final rest from all our strife.
Or the beginning, some will say
Of journey new. On their way!
Heaven or Bust!!

Art Gallery

by William Marr
looking silently into each others eyes
we find the entrance
to a gallery's deep corridor

on display are portraits
of our souls
transcendent, beyond desire


by Alan Harris
Soon after sundown tonight
leftover orange fades upward
into night's deepening blue
above our row of poplars.

How does a sky do this?
It looks so easy.
Such beauty is free to see
yet invites a seeing into.

Who is living behind this beauty?
No name is being spoken to me
but there's an inner rush as if
some Friend from space is near.

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