Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
August 2008
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The Park Bench

by John Tanner
There once was a torn and tattered man,
he sat daily on the park bench
feeding the pigeons.
He was a hero you see...
although he could not, for he was blind.
It was something he didn't mind.

He always knew the birds were near,
and could hear the children play...
he focused intently on what people would say,
without saying a word.
He was simply more comfortable that way.
It was something he didn't mind.

People would come and go throughout the day.
No one ever spoke his name,
it was part of the game... this charade.
He knew all the children by name,
their parents too... from years gone by
when they were children who played.

This man was not a thug, nor frightful to the eyes,
the years had weathered and bronzed his face.
There was only the shell of a gentle soul,
washed upon the park pavement...
to so many he was a disgrace.
It was something he didn't mind.

Until one day he sensed the birds a-flutter
as silently before him stood a single child.
Bravely the child asked,
"hey mister... what's your name?"
He cleared his throat as his lips could barely deploy,

Attentive as children are, he replied "you're blind".
Roy turned his head, it was something he didn't mind.
"That's true, my dear lad..."
Brad... with stately grace added, "why?"
By this time Roy's head was in the sky, he had a smile.
A short story he told without denial...

I was a bus driver once, I took children to school.
There was an accident... while trying to get the kids
out of the bus, an explosion.
Luckily, no one was hurt, thank God.
But the blast was so intense, I lost my sight.
It was something he didn't mind.

Brad's mother overheard the tale...
emotions swept over as if a
tornado's springtime gale.
She had lived through the catastrophe
never knowing who had pulled her from the bus.
It was something he didn't mind.

Brad's mother, Jen... told all her friends,
the tale of the torn and tattered man at the park.
There were other mothers and fathers too,
on the bus that day who came to the park
with their children to play... but today...
Roy had gone away, where he could see.

Brad is grown, with children of his own.
He tells the neighbor kids about Uncle Roy.
The bronze tin man sitting on the park bench.
Pigeons still flock to him... and he
sits quietly without saying a word.
It was something he didn't mind.


by Donna Pucciani
A grey oval, quite ordinary
save for a strip of mist on the edge
like a wisp of silver hair,

fits into the palm of my hand,
wanting to shine but pitted with age
and the elements. I hold it
when I want to smell the sea.

One late summer day, friends in Seattle
drove straight west to the water.
We wandered old-growth forest,
waterfalls and woods, touched wildflowers
scattered like confetti up Rainier,

and when the aging sun slanted tired
in the western sky, her rays diluted
by cirrus and oncoming chill,
the car coasted onto a bluff
over the Pacific. Pulling off my shoes,

I ran through driftwood and shells
to the shoreline, bent to pick up
a grey rock in seafoam, held it to my cheek,
and felt its silent breath suspended
in age and grace.

(Published in The Iconoclast, 2008)


by William Vollrath
Vengeful beauty
Raped by the gods

Violated nymph
Intent on revenge

Protective mask
Morphed into snake braids

Irresistible womanhood
Damning foolhardy souls

To gaze at her countenance
Summons death frozen in stone

Fortunate on the Fourth

by Mark Hudson
On the 2nd of July, went on a trip with mom and dad,
And heading to Ohio, I was kind of glad.
We went through Calumet City
And it didn't seem all that pretty
We just got out of Gary,
Then were eating grapes and cherries.
Got off the highway with my p's,
On Rambo road, and going to Mcy'ds.
Had a mocha latte in the car,
Then were in Michigan heading far
At my poetry book I was glancing,
And next thing I know I was in Lansing.
Got to Michigan, went to see my aunt
Greeted by dogs who bark and rant.
My construction working uncle came home from work
He had blackened fingers from his job, made him smirk
He dropped a brick on his hand, but he got better.
It was raining outside, we were getting wetter.
The brick landed on my uncle's hand, he wasn't cursing.
My aunt won the Daisy award for nursing.
In the kitchen, the thunder was rumbling,
They were cooking food, my stomach was grumbling.
We had steak, potato, salad and pie,
The thunder came down from the sky
The next morning we had eggs and steak
We headed for Ohio which route would we take
My uncle looked like he needed to see a barber
Now we're headed on that highway to Ann Arbor
There was a new complication on the trip
My dad was missing his turnpike slip
He was angry about it, he had to pay more
And I guess it's happened before
The lady at the tollbooth said it happened a lot
It was only $7.50, believe it or not
Then we went to meet Uncle Pete
But first we stopped to have some meat
We stopped at Wendy's so not to be rude
We didn't want to go to the relatives looking for food
Then we were going to Laconi's at seven
Ate some food that tasted like Heaven
We went and ate some pizza deluxe
My dad and uncle shelled out some bucks
Then it was the fourth, and we were getting together with cousins
Children were there, there must've been dozens
I drew pictures of the kids at the picnic table
While a twilight zone marathon played on cable.
Then for dinner we were supposed to get Chinese
But it was closed, so off to On Tap for mac and cheese.
Fish, chicken wings, and other items to eat,
With an empty restaurant, it was easy to find a seat.
Now it's the 5th and we went to the cemetery,
To see those we had to bury,
Went walking through the woods, went to get corn
Then I was shucking it till the ear was torn.
That night, the family would stop by,
For burgers, hot dogs, and maybe pie.
The kids were playing in the pool outside,
The kids slid into the pool with a slide.
I knocked over a plant
I reported the accident to my aunt.
Then it was time to eat and drink a lot
Danielle had presents that she had got
Then we watched Kyle's film the talent show
And then the next day, back to Chicago we'd go
Another year, another page
Time flies and children age
It's fun, watching them grow
The children, I love them so
And as I headed for Chicago, I didn't cry,
Just a fortunate fourth of July!

a tree is a tree is a tree

by Herb Berman
how stubborn of that damned tree
to remain a tree
just a tree
in all its phases
all its guises

lushly clothed in green
or weaving gold
or sweating sap
and tenderly awakening to the lengthening day
it is true only to itself
not the poet
looking for himself in the maple's leafed abundance
or the artist painting God
hiding in deep green shadows
and gently swaying leaves
or the lumberman chopping down
miles and miles of money

the tree defies them all
shunning metaphor
in verse
on canvas
or in the skeleton of your lumbered home

the obdurate tree longs only to dig its roots into muck and fungus and clay
and lift its crown to drink from passing happenstance clouds

Summer Legacy

by Susan T. Moss
Berries are everything.
Gleaming buttons on long
or short stalks, sweet sun juices
filled with bursts of wild abandon
invite my eager fingers
to pluck the ripest fruit.

As we walk along a well-worn path
pausing for mountain view or peeling birch,
bundles of blue and red
bending toward late-day sun
keep calling me to savor their transient grace.

"Here," I say, "take this, the plumpest one."
"No," you say, "not now."
I eat yours and more besides,
not hungry, just wanting to hold
the tastes of summer a little longer.

Sweet Dreams

by John E. Slota
As I drift asleep
I wonder anew
How shall I wish
For a rainbow or two?

Well I'd first tête-à-tête
With the powers that be
And ask them politely
Over crumpets and tea.

'Dear Sir or Madam
Please consider this scene
And grant my request
In this huckleberry dream.

Strawberry Suns rising
On an Ice-Cream Pie Sky
A drizzling of Chocolate
And Sherbet Rainbows' - I'd sigh.

Multiple Mirrors

by Mardelle Fortier
Only in mirrors
can I look down the long row
and see all my selves,
dozens of them,
some alone,
some bending toward each other
laughing, some silent and serious,
all of them with the same brown
hair and big glasses.
I stand still and watch
the row of faces, a few forgotten
and far away. All I hear
is the steady drop of water:
the drip of a faucet
combined with one girl's ivory tears
falling into a porcelain basin.
Another woman dreams
so hard I can almost
sniff Chanel #5.
I am amazed that despite
silver in my hair, my eyes
are completely brown and young
and very much alive.

(Rambunctious Review, Summer 2007)

I See You

by Michelle Converse
I see you in the springtime

As flowers start to bloom

I see you in the lovely sunsets

Within the month of June

I see you in the Autumn breeze

As leaves are lifted high

I see you in the stars at night

In the cold December skies

I see you in all things beautiful

Throughout the day it seems

I go to sleep at night and still

I see you in my dreams

Heart Knot

by William Marr
there are thousands of flowery knots in their hearts
colorful and flashy
a slight pull
will send them soaring to the dreamy sky
like a flock of balloons

there is only one knot in mine
yet it is fastened deep in the flesh
it hurts
when you pucker your lips

Holding Hands (A Simple Pleasure)

by Jason Sturner
I sit at my desk this morning,
turn my head from the computer
and stare at my hands.

The aroma of hazelnut coffee
swirls around me.

And I think--
My god, these hands have really accomplished.
They've done a million interesting and uninteresting things;
they've been to so many places.

Suddenly, I'm walking along the Lake,
watching seagulls coast over the waves.
And then, with the softest of touches,
my hand is taken and I return to her.

The aroma of spring love
swirls around us.

I look over into her beautiful, adoring eyes,
and it occurs to me that simple pleasures
are nothing short
of miracles.

(From his book Kairos)

The Pitcher

by Chris Holaves
Down he scoops to chalk his sweaty palm,
Then stands bent forward, right-hand-ball-in-back,
Clutching his glove with talon firmly but calm,
To cat-eye the catcher's signs with stiff neck.

Nodding, he brings both arms gut-level front,
Glove-in-hand hiding the ball; pulls in-up, winds fast,
Balancing like a panther ready to hunt,
His left leg high, he thrusts his fastest, his best.

"Strike!" yells the ump. The pitcher's foot kicks the mound.
The extended sinews are re-rolled in tension.
He studies the batter's stance with the nose of a hound

And hawks the catcher's signals close to the ground.
He's on his mound, sweating with winning passion.
If he strikes them all out, he's legend-bound.

High on his throne, he's the pitcher; he's the man!
He's the panther, the hound, the hawk who knows he can.

(First published by The Rockford Review, Vol. XXIV,
No. 2, 2005. Prize winner)

Dreams of Irish Songs

by David Spencer
"I wish I was in Carrickfergus,
only for nights in Ballygrand...

Around St. Patrick's Day,
I would start singing "Clancy Brothers" tunes to myself,
as I walked down the street in the bright March sunshine
on my way to work,
as I walked down the street in the cold March winds,
on my way to the store.

"Oh, then tell me, Sean O' Farrell, tell me why you
hurry so ?... "

That year as I lay in a hospital bed, -
tubes, morphine, blood tests -
I wasn't free to sing, "Kelly the boy from Killan",
Or, "One Sunday mornin', while on the way to Mass."
I missed the freedom of it; I missed being outside.

All I was free to do was look out the window,
thinking, "I'll be out of here soon."
I was in "solitary" waiting for a pardon.
On St. Patrick's Day, the hospital tray
had "shamrock" napkins - it made me feel low.
There wasn't any humming of, "Whiskey's in the jar- o."
"I'll be out of here soon" - days later, I was.

So, my next St. Patrick's Day promise to myself
was to walk somewhere in the bright March sunshine,
to walk somewhere in the cold March winds, singing,
".... for the pikes must be together, by the risin' of the moon."
- a song of freedom for the free.

Society of Vultures

by Farouk Masud
We love to live the lives of the lewd
by buying the most expensive
then laughing at those that can't afford them.

We (it begins in our tweens)
disobey our parents,
then (by the time we are teens)
it is quite apparent
that we've become mean,
vulgar, aberrant--
drama queens
and kings that are ignorant--
to revolt and vent
our frustrations against
all that is moral and pristine.

We listen to
rap music,
dance music,
heavy metal music--
music that makes it cool to
join gangs,
worship Satan,
commit suicide,
drink n drive n do da drugs,
weave and wave
with wanted thugs
dancin' an all night rave:
rhythms and rhymes
and chants and chimes--
we bebop--
it's hip hop
to hate cops
and rob shops
like mom and pop
liquor stops--
Ya know what i'm sayin' G?

We think we've won the lottery every time we
forge a check,
stage an accident,
trade food stamps for real cash,
commit identity theft,
falsify insurance claims...

We rob the people blind
and steal their tax money to build our own
golf courses,
country clubs,
political parties...

We abuse our powers
when we occupy positions of high authority like

We make the poor poorer,
the rich richer...

We make the honest look like liars
and the liars look like the honest--

We are a society of vultures!!!

Weak, little scavengers
with diseased hearts
and insatiable appetites.


by John Pawlik
Somewhere within
Remains the faith
That blue
Is blue

That red despite
Still is red

As blood
As courage
Shown on distant planes

Too far away
To be explained

As red

Elvis Sighting,
Heart Of Texas Coliseum,
Waco, Texas
October, 1956
by Jim Lambert
My friend and I sat no more than forty feet away
as Elvis flailed his hips and pretended
to strum his guitar.
Electric was the air.
Ecstatic were the girls--
offering themselves
in this no-birth-control-pill
age of artificial prudity.

We were in the process
of liberation:
no more big band
country and western
Perry Como crap.
Rock and roll had just turned white.

We had seen Chuck Berry, Little Richard,
Fats Domino, Clyde McPhatter,
and others sing
the Black music we loved so well.
We had watched in this same hall
with the Black kids seated in the balcony
to the side and the white kids
in front of the stage.

Now the hip-shaking white boy
was liberating us from our
depression and World War II
repressed parents.
The Boomers would not get
the Beatles until after
we had punched their tickets.

On this October night
in Central Texas when
nearly every decent high school kid
was at or on a football field,
us greasers, hoods, non-athletes,
and others who had escaped
respectable school activities
witnessed the dawn
of an exciting age.

We went on to live through the
turmoil of the sixties--
Dylanís electrification,
Vietnam, riots, disorder,
Woodstock, Altamont,
disillusionment, Spiro Agnew
and Richard Nixon.

Twenty one years later
Elvis, Janice Joplin,
Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison,
Martin Luther King,
the Kennedy Brothers,
and the youth movement
would all be buried
in a landfill of Bee Gees and
burned-out Beatles imitators, with
Big Hair and Ronald Reagan
lurking beyond the horizon.

I drove past the Coliseum last spring.
The building was still there
and the excitement still lives
in my creaky old body.

Paid For

by Sandra M. Bringer
He's her Sugar Daddy
makes sure she's plenty to eat.
Buys her golden earrings,
adores her tiny
size six'n'half
well groomed
high heeled feet.

Sugar Daddy pays the rent on time.
Claims he'll help
if she's ever in a bind.
Cotton Candy is paid for
though never speaks of dollars.
She merely hints
her love of diamonds and large fur collars.

Candy swears any bruise or slight
is nothing but a lover's tiff.
Tells Daddy he isn't wicked,
and never puts up too much fight.
Candy whispers sweet encouragements,
tells Daddy he's her delight,
coos he's getting better, not older.

Cotton Candy is Daddy's baby,
sweet pink and full of smiles.
Claims she's always faithful,
there could never be another.
Her kisses are unpracticed,
lovemaking was learned
from her special Sugar Daddy.

Daddy forgets Candy has a real name,
and thinks her sole life's purpose
is to play his midnight games.
He's promised and believes it now,
when the timing is just right,
he'll up and divorce
his lawfully wedded wife.

Sugar Daddy loves his paid for Candy,
a very special rose bud,
who cares not her petals torn.
Candy lets Daddy
play out his night dreams,
as she weaves and plans,
her leaving day and freedom schemes.

hard times

by Steven Kappes
I listen to an Irish singer
doing hard times come again no more
which is really a song
about the civil war south

watch people scramble
take mass transit to work
leave the SUV sitting in the drive
cancel vacations
skip trips to the mall
think they are doing something
to save a few bucks

all that has gone before
is simply history
no longer taught in schools
no longer told in the evenings
by old grandparents

half the country out of a job
families with ten kids
living in a four room house
with no indoor plumbing

raising your own vegetables
in the back yard garden
keeping a cow for milk
and butter

all of this no more relevant
than the fall
of the Roman Empire
no more real
than King Arthur's round table

they only believe
what they have experienced
and to them
these really are
hard times

My Home Town

by John L. Axtell
The drug store where I
drank Green Rivers on Saturday night
is a fire blackened hole.

"Burned down a couple of years ago."
my old friend comments.

Where Mom bought my High School
clothes is abandoned and
well boarded up.

"Store closed five years ago.
Been empty ever since."

Main street look like a set
from a war movie,
more gaps than buildings.

"Cause people now go elsewhere
to have a meal, see a movie,
or do their shopping."

Court buildings, county offices and
lawyers occupy most of
the single story buildings.

"Most of those who come downtown
don't have much money.
Just problems to place before the courts."

I know it was the passing of time
that dirtied and scared
the face of my home town.

"Factory closings,
bad crops and a worsening economy
put things on a slow downward path
that helped the decay,"
the old man says as we pass
by another empty space
that got lost somewhere in time.

Room 77 - What Ruby Remembers

by Wilda Morris
Everyday, again and again, she asks
for her father, mother, husband.
No matter how often we tell her

Your father's been gone 38 years,
she can't seem to remember.
We say, Your mother was buried

30 years ago
and she asks,
Why didn't they tell me? I should
have gone to the funeral
, which

of course, she did. She asks,
When is Donald coming to pick me up?
forgetting the heart attack eight years ago,

long hospital vigil, IVs, oxygen mask,
monitors, and those last moments
when breath faded, eyes glazed, skin cooled,

silencing the gentle expressions
of fifty-four years' love. But ask her
to name the pony she rode to school

she'll smile, tell you how Topsy
made sudden turns, dumping
all three sisters off one side. Ask when

her father bought the mules - she knows
they came later than Topsy. Offer to read
some Psalms; she'll pick the first

and the 150th among her favorites, before
she asks again, Are my folks here? When
is Donald coming to pick me up?

(First published by Windhover:
A Journal of Christian Literature
Vol 11, 2007)

Ever Complaining and Unsatisfied

by Dr. S. V. Rama Rao
Penguins take shelter
in the naked ice-mountains,
swim in the coldest sea-water possible
antarctic winds and frozen lakes
don't bother them.
But we see them living happily
in the zoo of the deep South
in the hot Florida State
as long as ice is provided.
It matters not
where they are born or
where they live.

Hot Arizona desert plants
born and brought up
on the rain-forsaken lands
and hot-top mountains
brought over to
the State of Maine
home for wild winter-winds and
house-high snow piles
still they survive
happily ever after
in the planetariums and sanitariums.

I am not as wise and adaptable,
always complaining and unsatisfied
species of the human race.

Aftershocks in China

by David McKenna

Christol Redentor

(Corcovado, Brazil, 2006)
by Patricia Gangas
It is summer here, as birds dart and float in the pilgrim air.
I am far from home, a tired wanderer,
arriving on this great mountainside
high above Rio and human affairs.
I stare up at You, the Christ;
Your arms wrap the wind like a gift
curling its movements into circlets of hope,
Your face is brilliant, soft, where the sky ends.
On this holy mountain we stand together,
Your immensity transcending this sweep of view,
still, far below, a dilapidated city struggles forward
trying to hammer out its misery.
Hunger lives in the gloomy squat houses;
in empty cooking pots,
in the thoughts of poisoned men and demons.
The wick of their lives seems short, and the drowning nights go on forever.
What shall be their fate?

I kneel, as a shadow, in the shade of Your majestic body.
O, sacred, chiseled Friend, I come with prayers for Your poor,
I come for those who have squandered Your kingdom,
I come with my own brokenness -- my hands full of mud.
May I build my nest near your heart?

Analogies for Love

by Alan Harris
Is love a light beam we shine
upon our chosen few of heart,
reflected by them upon us?

Or is love an inner sea
contained by, yet containing us,
in turbulence or pleasing calm?

Does a new mother perceive
in her baby's trusting breath
the force of a new volcano?

As a cup that cannot explain its tea
or a husk that fathoms not its corn,
I cradle love as an infinite infant within.

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