Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
August 2005
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Too Cold to Snow

by Steven Schroeder
Old timers used to say
it was too cold to snow
on days when cattle
lined up along the fence,
noses down backs to the wind
bracing for impact. When
snow came, it took the chill
off while it settled, then
doubled cold light until
it melted in its ice mirror
under pale blue sky.

(published in Revolutionary Patience,
Virtual Artists Collective, 2004)

Thoughtless Moment

by John Quinn
You were conceived in a thoughtless moment
and died two months later in a doctor's office.
I don't know if you were a boy or girl,
but it doesn't matter now,
because you are dead,
with other thoughtless moments.

I will be spared midnight feedings,
diapers, rashes, measles and croup.
Evenings will be my own.
I won't have to read to you,
throw a ball to you, or clean up after your dog.
I won't have to attend school events or little league games.
I won't have to worry about you learning to drive
or getting home on time.
I won't have to be a role model,
save for college, accept your friends
or suffer separation anxiety when you move out.
I will be spared the travails of my thoughtless moment.

2003, San Juan Comalapa, Guatamala

by Wilda Morris
massacres     mass graves
massive numbers of missing persons

decades of denial

down a steep slope
near the pines
at an abandoned army base,
forensic archeologists dig


dirt-caked skeletons appear
face down     hands tied behind backs
roots and soil inside stiff shirts and pants

all thatís left

a brotherís gasp
a wifeís keening
a motherís high-pitched moan

pine needles     flower petals
are formed into altars
candles burn at the lip
of the excavation

but no one knows if even now
they are safer than those who lie
in this macabre hole

(First published in Prairie Light Review,
XXV:2 (Spring 2005), p. 67)

Cowboy Boots

by Donna Pucciani
The auto parts store in Pittsburgh
where he punches a cash register
has just released him to Jenny's Bar
for beer and sunset.

No spurs, just old brown leather
clicking down the sidewalk
past McCane's hardware, First National Bank,
and the red brick post office, ignoring all

but his own strut, hips tucked under,
clenched muscle packed into Levi's
pushing down through taut legs
into two-inch heels narrowing from stitched cowhide,
where all his body weight slid years ago.

The ranch returns with the swill of pigs,
the smell of rawhide in the saddle
and the beginning of rain
smouldering in Oklahoma dust.

He puts away two cold ones,
dreaming of Tulsa.

(First published in Clark Street Review)

Under a White Umbrella

by Susan Donahue
I first saw you at a table, shaded by a white umbrella,
and fearless of what you might think, I walked up to you and smiled.
I arrived before noon, a little early for the afternoon jazz concert,
There was a flutter of music, a gentle riff, woodwinds and brass.
And fearless of what you might think, I walked up to you and smiled.
You nodded when I asked if I might join you, and then you spoke.
There was a flutter of music, a gentle riff, woodwinds and brass
Had the musicians taken their places? I didnít notice, did you?
You nodded when I asked if I might join you, and then you spoke.
I am not sure what you heard, but you knew I was not from here.
Had the musicians taken their places? I didnít notice, did you?
Strangers from exotic cities, and kindred spirits here

I am not sure what you heard, but you knew I was not from here.
That sunny afternoon, I was more than glad that we were
strangers from exotic cities, and kindred spirits here.
I first saw you at a table, shaded by a white umbrella.

A Small Press Poet

by Todd Possehl
I know it now--
that's all I'll ever be.

The evidence is presented,
here, in these dull and middling

I'll spare you figurative language,
a metaphor you've seen before--
most likely mixed - in need of fix,
and give you jarring rhyme.

Because without degree or pedigree
(I don't speak French, you see),
I compensate with overwrite and borrow
from romantic lore - with just enough

left unsaid

to make you think I know
what I'm doing.

Then I give you, my readers, a Salieri,
a big bang at the end,

to let you know
I'm finished.

Another Brave New World

by Beth Staas
The sands of plenty dust my feet,
my trudging scarcely noted.
Up ahead I see trees
with branches stripped
of concepts and conviction,
the fruit of what's known.

Further along a pond reflects
vapid supposition,
the waters dark and serene
dispelling data that bubbles up
under the guise of truth
to muddy the waters.

Here and there shrubs of ambition
are pruned beyond critical mass,
for growth implies expectation
as well as longing and love.
No need for splendor here
where all is snug and secure.

This is a tranquil island,
its people burrowed in caves
to echo their preconceptions
and differences hide in darkness visible
where all is given
but nothing is earned.

Baseball Before Little League

by John J. Gordon
It's hard to believe there was no Little League:
no manicured fields or aluminum bats,
no endless supply of new baseballs,
no helmets, wrist bands or batting gloves,
no fancy shoes or uniforms,
no one had any jewelry to wear,
no coaches, umpires or mandated rules,
no scheduled practices or all-star games,
no parents, relatives or sponsors screaming,
somehow baseball games were played.

There were fewer diversions then.
Games started when kids showed up.
The field was a prairie, schoolyard or street
with teams picked by captains on the spot.

Kids knew who the best players were,
insuring they would be chosen first.
Survival of the fittest prevailed,
providing major incentive to improve.

Creative minds came up with rules,
insuring a game could always be played.
Lacking full teams each batter chose
to hit to left or right field, never both.
Invisible runners roamed the bases.
No 1st baseman made pitcher's hands out.

We had to agree on every close call;
the umpires were also the kids playing ball.

Classroom Assimilation

by Judy Galati
The apple tree hangs wet with summer rain
The skies have finished booming their disdain
Puddles full of sparrows
Dogs below the porch

     What's she mean by "syntax"?
     I can't guarantee she's gonna get it out of me

A clucking hen is scratching wormy pain
A rooster ruffling feathers looks insane
Mother's bathing Linda
Cool the baby off

     Why's she talking "texture"?
     Makes me lie awake and think of German Choc-late Cake

The creek is running brown with muddy stain
A redbird flits his tail along the lane
Linda needs a diaper
Ringlet hair all clean

     Where's the place for "rhyming"?
     Ev-ry bloomin' line is sure to take a lot of time

The earth is playing summer's warm refrain
All life is breathing slowly to sustain
Linda's getting sleepy
Lay the baby down

     When's she wanting "rhythm"?
     One, two--two by four--it's just like dad would frame a door

On top a quilt of cotton Linda's lain
With pillows circling round her to retain
Mother's reading Bible
Rest here--near the foot

     How's she figure "finish"?
     Finish with a snake . . . then I could chase it with a rake

The hum of Mother's voice is oddly plain
And sleep is something I cannot detain
Eve is sharing apples
Adam wants a bite . . .

2nd prize in the International Narrative Category
of the 2000 Chicagoland Poetry Contest;
As presented in the Spring 2002 issue of
The University of Iowa Undergraduate
Online Literary Journal:

Social Event

by William Marr
from the sterile suburban life
to the drastic climate changes
they try desperately to find excuses
for a loud

and he, the originator,
just stands there
nodding and smiling
as if nothing
has ever happened

greek to me

by Steven Kappes
there are common men
well maybe not so common
as uneducated
in the classical sense
too busy studying mechanics
overlooking the Greeks

who sense and understand
there is more to life
but the allusion to mythology
means less
than the formula for
finding the square root of zero

their search for meaning
goes right by poetry
written by the learned
for the educated
who nod in understanding
at the wisdom of their peers

it takes the unschooled
to write for the uneducated
allusions to the everyday
they can understand
no greek geeks need apply
I've got the job sewn up


by Gwen Ames
Herculean forces wheel
me around in degrees.
Strangely I find you suspended--
     an astral light.

There in the eye of the storm
I ingest everything,
not knowing if, or how.
     But somehow, yes,
and even the belly of the winds are filled.

I clutch you fast upon my breast
for you are blood, food, water,
poetry for a flailing soul.

Ground Zero

by Larry Turner
This dome topping some
regional trade center became the
symbol of the twentieth century only
because it was so well constructed it
remained standing while all else
on surrounding acres was swept away
that morning the first atomic bomb
to fall from the sky
exploded above it.

The terms Paleozoic, Mesozoic, Neozoic
were judged too advanced for fifth-graders,
so the textbook called them
The Era of Ancient Life,
The Era of Middle Life,
The Era of Modern Life.
To these, our teacher Mrs. Keck told us,
we must now add The Atomic Age.
How could she be so far-seeing?

The blast tearing a hole in the very air of Hiroshima
ripped history in two more than anything
since the BC/AD divide.
Compared with this:
The killings of Hitler, Stalin, Mao?
Just more of the same.
Pearl Harbor?
Just another battle.
Just another murder.

Along with buildings and persons below,
the blast obliterated any
rationale for war as instrument
of national policy, any credibility for
claims of national sovereignty.
What Mrs. Keck grasped so quickly,
so many leaders still haven't learned.

The Saga of the Stone

by Sally Calhoun
Is a stone really heartless?
Maybe not.
That which is passive, or inert,
invites what sort of image or attribution?
Ask your nearest Pet Rock
or Michelangelo's David
or the statues on Easter Island,
or maybe the frozen spectacle
of "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima."
I noodle about this.
In human terms
I think of the psychoanalyst, as still as a stone (in the early stages),
the antithesis of surprise
pleasant or unpleasant
at least most of the time.
How does that heal?
How does that relieve?
Perhaps it does,
as a tennis backboard
takes a pounding.
And the one who pounds (or acts)
must sooner or later cease--
becoming, thus, truncated.
Does that make sense?
Is such a dichotomy an illusion,
and, if it's not,
just what else does it connote?
Action ends.
Passivity persists.
The analysand,
though speaking, waits
for something from the analyst.
Time stretches into hours.
days, months, or years --
and still there is a wait
rendering the analysand passive too,
at least beneath the verbiage,
as the growing ego lapses into meditation
in the presence of another,
and also in between the analytic hours,
until it becomes an almost permanent state of mind
as consciousness expands--also, perhaps intelligence.
(As Rorschach might put it, with the growing internalization of kinesthetic
Remember the fable of the Hare and the Tortoise? Think about that. How about
"Blessed are the Meek"
and the fact that ("passive") females outlive ("active") males
almost two to one,
suggestive, at least,
of the theme of the stone,
at least the ones I've been acquainted with.

What Is the Meaning of Life

by Tim Breitzmann
What is the meaning of life?
The answer to the question
Is the question itself

Questions are directions
Answers are rungs of a ladder, Steps of a staircase
The questions we ask
Decide where we go

Questions move us up or down the stairs
Answers stop us on that step
Unless, someone asks a question
And moves us up or down, or starts another staircase

Our strongest beliefs have come from faith & science
Because they believe in the power the question
And accept that the question need not be answered
But only understood

We seek to know our purpose
Never understanding
That is our purpose
To seek

Maybe to learn the question
We're supposed to ask
Instead of the answer
We're supposed to give

If mankind is judged
I think it won't be on the answers we gave
Nor even the questions we asked
But on the questions we never asked

Questions allow everything to be possible
What if we ask the right questions . . .
What if we tried to understand . . .
What if we believed . . .

What is the meaning life!


by James L. Corcoran
She comes to us a lace cathartic trace
like lattices in tapestries of motion.
For a moment like a sacred dolphin
she surfaces into the light with a
clear vision of beauty, and a clear
vision of hope. Entwined in gossamer
she whispers white light with a nuance
of color, a splatter, a splash of life.
She fits into cognition like a generated
crystal. Hard as a geode with twice
the depth in parallels. Focused even
smaller into the hearts of diamonds.
Chrysalis like the Monarch, demanding,
nothing meaner than a glimpse almost
punishing in brevity, but what levity.


by Abby Strasser
I am dead now
and I have shed
all the bruises that
your once-loving-hands-
turned-to-fists gave me
in the privacy of night.

I shine so brilliantly white
that the hairline
in my jaw you can hardly see
at all.

No longer do you have to
worry about my cries waking
the neighbors,
consider the wind my screams
and this ink my tears
for I am trying to
the next one to be beaten.


by Dr. Sarada Purna Sonty
The valor of Spirit
     Wear! My spirit! You will know

The strength of merit
     Bear! My dear pain! You will know

The depth of feeling
     Touch! My love! You will know

The song of restive lips
     Think! See the play! You will know

The only insight
     Stare! At the side lights! You will know

The serve, humble epilogue
     Follow the prologue! You will know

The Read! The real me!
     Remove the saint! You will know

The color of sorrow range!
     Adjourn at mystic veil! You will know

Katerina Witt Competes

by Mardelle Fortier
Katerina--bullets in her eyes
lipstick red as the edge of a knife

brain on a cool and vigilant watch
ready to snap shut.

Yet after competitors sit down
and she comes out on the ice flying

she dances flowing with the gold refrain
of the mellifluous, muscled violin

she floats inside the yearning of each note
married to each shade and shape of it

she leaps as the music towers over her
then glides with limbs stretched like a dancer.

Only when the singing comes to rest
does she end with an elegant satiny twist.

(Previously published in DuPage Arts/Life, Fall 2003)


by Alan Harris
At the far end
of this sun-dappled,
wisteria-draped courtyard
I see a Romanesque
wooden door, slightly open,
revealing light from behind.

This courtyard is a lovely place
but the door invites me further.
Do I dare approach this portal
and open it? Walk through?
Will my future change?
Why am I so beckoned?

I push open the door and enter.

Two attendants lead me
directly to an oaken podium
set before a large audience
of robed men and women.
I am asked to give a speech.

Quietly I say to everyone:
"A speech I cannot give,
kind friends. There was
an outer door I saw ajar,
and I came boldly through,
but I am no one
you would listen to."

The same attendants
help me don a robe,
then lead me to a chair
among the listeners.

We all sit and wait.

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