Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
August 2010
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My Third Eye Is Blurry

by William Vollrath
Maybe it's a speck
of cosmic dirt
painfully lodged
in the corner of the eye
or a seasonal allergy
from recurrent
metaphysical storms
Possibly eye strain from
poor illumination
of a fading distant star
or damage to this hallowed retina
from gazing too long
at magnetic suns afar
Can I blame diminished vision
on "End of Days"
foreseen long ago
by wise Mayan priests
or is it just macular degeneration
from advancing old age
Each seems quite likely
but if truth be told
a blinding cataract
is sprouting every day
as gifted Earth moments
grow ever more cold
(First published in June 2010

Under Black Willows

by John Pawlik
Under black willows
By the dark river
When the moon has gone
And left behind only a dream
Of light
When the birds that sang
From dawn to dusk various
Oblivious tunes for things
Then forgotten have flown away
By the sea
Where no waves wash the shore
Among the mute houses
Whose gardens grew no flowers
Lost in the ever narrower corridors
The air touched with absence
The memory of never was
In the long night silences
You break my heart

Intelligent Creatures

by Mark Hudson
Paul the octupus may swim in the Madrid zoo
His legs predicted some world cup winnings.
The sea life aquarium in Germany knew
That Paul was priceless with soccer's grinnings.
The Madrid zoo wants to buy the squid
But Germany is proud of its octopus Paul
Madrid zoo is trying to make a bid
Wondering if they'll get him at all.
Reminds me of the year 2009,
When a pet shop of Chicago retired.
A place called Animal Kingdom was fine,
And it was a place that most people admired.
It was home to Chelveston the duck,
A duck famous on Ray Rayner's show.
He got saved from a kitchen by sheer luck,
He could've been dealt the death blow.
Luther the Leopard lived there, too,
Who was rented by magicians and did photo shots.
He could've maybe been stuck in a zoo,
But there he was, loved by a lot.
They had trained alley cats
Who would walk in a circus on a tightrope.
They probably even carried rats
There was no animal they couldn't bring hope.
They had tigers walking through the store
And they'd lick water from the fish tank
But now the store is there no more
We can't find those people to thank
One more pet store I'd like to discuss
Scott's pet store was on WGN Friday
The owner had a snake and a turtle for us
To see among the animals they sell away
The turtle was the snapping kind
It had a mouth like a giant hole
The news clip entertained my mind
And I wondered if animals have souls
In a day and age when nature's dying
Humans are the next to go
For all animals and humans we'll be crying
But God's in charge, on with the show
If God created the Earth in Genesis
He created what he chose to create
We must avoid his nemesis
His enemy before it's too late
Otherwise, animals would be our friends
We wouldn't have beasts to devour
To our four-footed friends we owe an amends
As we approach the final hour
God will recreate the Earth
All according to his plan
One day we'll see a new birth
A new life for animal and man
So enjoy your puppies not pests,
Because ants and roaches exist.
Some of God's creatures are the best,
But not of all it brings us bliss!

The Long View

by Susan T. Moss
One man knew where time
and space meet:  limestone
beaches baked by western
skies filled with bay water
birds performing somersaults
and dives into late sunset orange.

He felt the now of it that
fractures all yearning, smothers
all pain and offers a protective
robe of pure scented air to
all who share his vision.

Such possibility calls from
cold water channels or rocky cliffs
where feathered blue and yellow
flashes warble among the pines.

Small stone cottages bound
by history and mirth provide
warmth and shelter from cool nights
capped by white dappled darkness.

Here shape and form converge
where the seeker greets each day
and embraces what Jensen knew
would suffice – The Clearing.

Acts of Martyrdom and the Merit of Virgins

by Ina Perlmuter
War, does it stem from a parasitic mentality
Of a peoples' need, to attach themselves to history
Or are they paranoid,
Doing war to help rid themselves of a neurosis 
Acting out dreams of power
For a world audience which thrives on iniquity
No, their action bespeak guilt,
But if they are guilty
Why do we again feel
A need to defend ourselves from blame
If wise men can become fools
Can fools become wise
Or do they only become more foolish
Surely the world must be comprised of wise fools
And foolish fools
For both listen to clerics fastidiously robed in finery
Who assure them, suicide missions
Are the fastest way to heaven
The fools don't even question
That if the rewards are so splendid
Why don't those who subscribe to acts of martyrdom
And the merit of virgins
Make the sacrifice to gain such honor for themselves

Facing the Elements

by Beth Staas
The trap looks more like a doggie cage
than a device for capturing wild animals.
Yet we got us a raccoon, not bad for a first try.
To explain, we're no bounty hunters. 
But he'd burrowed under the house,
clawing toward the heat,
with mounds of muck and mischief in his wake.
Poor thing, he now huddles in a corner
pelted with unexpected rain,
the grass under the cage a bog
dug by his frantic effort to escape.
I drape an umbrella over the top
waiting for it to stop
all the while knowing
his instincts will cost us thousands.
Self-protection is species-neutral.

It takes two to hoist the cage into the trunk
for a Sunday ride in the country.
We pray we won't be seen
from houses fringing the forest,
encroaching his habitat,
sending him to ours.

We find an alcove,
a hidden spot covered with trees, 
away from the highway or even a road.
And we stop.

He may have sensed our intent
or maybe he smelled kinfolk 
in our leather gloved hands,
because he is now aggressive. 
And when the cage lands with a bounce,
he hisses and tries to bite, 
striking at us with remarkably long claws.
Yet when the hatch opens
he backs out and seeing freedom
streaks across the open space
toward refuge in the underbrush
where he belongs.

(NFSPS Morton D. Prouty & Elsie S.
Prouty Memorial Award, 1st place 2006)

Surviving Katrina

by David McKenna
- Part One -
Daddy's lying on Davey's bed
He's bled a lot since he was shot
he's been too quiet      he might be dead
The punk he caught will sink and rot
that junkie scum   that Daddy fought!

I wish that Davey weren't in jail
I wonder if their lights went out
We needed Daddy's check for bail
but that's what being poor's about
you learn to wait    you got no clout

I told them it'd be bad this time
that "feeling" said we should have gone
but wishing's piss without a dime
besides they said that I'm too young
a teenage girl    just carrying on

Sometimes I do miss Mama so
it's been a while     thought she'd come back
can't figure why she had to go
Da said she's living on her rack
up North    and smoking lots of crack

I sure was glad when Daddy came
and cut that punk upside his throat!
I wish I'd blocked the junkie's aim
as he swung-shot Da through his coat
then watched Da fall    began to gloat

He turned his puss-breath back to me
held me down while I was screaming
and punched me so's I couldn't see
but I felt his hot blood streaming
then he moaned like he was dreaming

Sudden like    as weak as a child
he slumped on me    gone all lazy
I kicked and clawed like something wild
I just went a little crazy
but I got his shit-ass off of me!

Growing Old

by Paul J. Wolf, Ph.D
Growing old is confusing
A world inside that never squares
With what you really are
Like waking up in some land
Where Alice once lived
Never knowing when the rules
Will change,
It's very strange.
You feel able to do the things
You did as a youth with dreams
That faith and work executed.
Then you try, but you find
A rebellious body
A forgetful mind.
The more you muse
The more you see
Your house of steel crumbling.
Thoughts turn to a coming end.
When you're young,
Life's an adventure like a novel
Never knowing where its author
Will delight or madden,
But assured you will get to its end.
When you're old, you never know
If you will finish this chapter.
And putting the book to the side
Can leave it there..
Work began, projects started,
Stand idle like the ancient stones
Waiting forever to be completed.
Youth thinks not of death
But death embraces age
Lurking in the corners of the mind
As a shadow one ignores,
Clinging to the habit of the past.
A time arrives and mortality stares
We cannot ignore it, it is there
Before us, with it's horrible fear.
When it comes, we have no choice
For death is what we, everyone of us, share.


by Patricia Gangas
I think of you, fine haired, your stately pace,
eyes piercing deeply into the face of time.                                                   
Like me, you have a wanderer's heart
that murmurs of mysteries, which flowers in your verdant mind.
I remember all the years we've shared:
the broken clouds, the flowers shattered in the drunken winds,
the ten thousand small joys, jugs of wine, innumerable journeys
upon ancient roads, conversations savored at the world's end.
There is perfect joy in the biography of our lives---
broad and profound are the sacred waters of our friendship.
I never tire of the beating of your heart, your visions full of expectations.
I admire all your happy dreams as the sun shines
on them like peacock colored pearls.
Today the night moves behind the silhouetted stars,
and on the outskirts of my heart
I know how few in this lonely world
hear the same music as you and I.

The Portrait

by Farouk Masud
It was a cold, 
dead night at my stepfather's house—
how I loathe that house!
Brushing away the cobwebs from our family portrait—
it seems so ancient,
so long ago.
My memory is hazy and out of focus,
but I do remember the sad times.
I can't remember any happy times,
except for this portrait.
It has been many years
since I last visited here:
so dark, dank and devoid
this house has always been.
I decided to make a small fire.
Now it feels a little warm and cozy in here.
The guilt,
the lies,
the tragic end I cannot forget.
It haunts me forever,
gnawing at my soul
like buzzards to a rotting corpse.
My poor mother.
The abuse was too much for her.
She eventually found her freedom...
at the end of a rifle.
As for me,
I couldn't stand the pain any longer.
My stepfather had to die,
that drunken bastard.
My real father would never lay a hand on me.
justice was served.
I only did three years in the insane asylum—
a slap on the wrist.
Coming back to this deprave-filled home,
I feel purged.
This portrait is the only thing
left of my family's past.
I can almost hear my stepfather's ghost
screaming and wailing
for me to join him on the other side.
The very thought would even make
my shrink shrivel and shriek.
With that,
I threw the portrait into the fire

and departed.

ghost ship

by Steven Kappes
from the bottom of the hole
from the dark dank mud
rose the timbers of a ship
ancient and black
curving in a clutch
like the rib bones of a dinosaur

for centuries it had rested
while over-head men built
and destroyed
giant edifices to commerce
symbols of an empire
whose reach straddled the globe

workers in hard hats
clamored over it
wiped away mud
exposed old wood
which began to crumble
as quickly as it dried

swiftly they measured
girth and length
heft and depth
waiting for it to vanish
from the pit
where it was merely
an annoyance
a hindrance to today's work

a reminder of a past
more vast than the fate
of the twin towers
which for a brief
moment in time
had straddled
this site

The Christmas Mind

by Rick Sadler
Louy  Taylor  an  old  man  that  I  long   remember
His  warm  smile  to  me  he  would  always  render,
He  would  sit  in  front  of  the  Grocery  store
He  talked  to  me  nicely  about  his  golden  shore,
His  blue  Overalls  and  Whiskers  on  his  face
He  made  me  feel  good  in  our  small  Village  place,
Then  one  day  I  found  he's  not  there  any  more
They  told  me  he  passed  away  the  night  before,
You  know  he  had  left  a  smile  in  my  young  mind
To  always  be  good  to  people  and  try  to  be  kind,
Oh  Louy  I  wish  I  could  go  back  and  see  you
Now  the  years  have  gone  by  nothing  can  I  do,
Like  you  if  I  should  become  too  old  and  gray
That  I  can  inspire  a  little  boy  like  you  say,
I  will  often  think  of  him  now  from  time  to  time
I  will  hear  his  voice  in  this  Christmas  Rhyme, 

Dedicated  to:   Louy

Wildflowers of the Midwest

by Bonnie Manion
Bachelor buttons climb their stalks,
disks of lace float white as chalk,
honeysuckle bursts of rose
linger where the byway goes.

Hearts that turn to all they meet
wave and vine at cornfield's feet,
flower flagons topped with plates
invite some insect snacks on dates.

Milkweed staff surmounts the scene,
foxglove reaches from the green,
orbs of lily, morning glory,
look attentive to sun's story.

Beargrass flags top slimmest poles,
wheat heads obey th' wind in schools,
crabgrass stems sport haloed heads,
foxtails bend o'er clover beds.

Lavender and baby's breath,
dandelion, crownvetch: these
roadside blossoms reach for sky,
party-dressed as I pass by.

Never an Unkind Word

For Mary Williams
by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
When I think of Mary Williams the thoughts and images that immediately begin to stir,

Are those of a gentle, kind, loving person who very rarely uttered an unkind word.

Mary was wise beyond her years, generous, honest and she had a beautiful buoyant spirit

That could easily out soar any bird.

Although she met with many challenges in this life she rarely uttered an unkind word.

Through the years, Mary was like a big sister to me,

I could call her up and she'd diagnose me or the kids,

And 99.9 percent of the time she was correct,

And for her advice no fee was ever incurred,

Because Mary was the salt of the earth and she almost never uttered an unkind word.

Mary was a nurse, a mother, grandmother, sister, niece, aunt, daughter, cousin, best friend

and a pretty good bargain shopper I heard,

Mary nicknamed all of my children and everyone laughed each time that this occurred,

I had to laugh myself and I could never utter an unkind word.

Mary was an integral part of her household and influenced more than a half or a third,

Of the people who entered to do what was right and she rarely uttered an unkind word.

Though we sit here today with heavy hearts and vision blurred,

you can rest assured she is with the Father and they are exchanging kind words.

He too

by David LaRue Alexander
He too
was just like you
everything fresh
everything new.
As if
always seeing
the world
for the first time.
there are those
I suppose
for which that
is a crime.
in due time,
they corrupted
his mind,
they corrupted
his heart,
they corrupted,
his soul.
Til he's
no more
like he was before.
He dwells
in a tower
of steel, concrete, and glass.
He is lost to us,
he has forgotten
his past.
from there
on high,
in his crystal palace
to the sky.
He views
the world
much differently.
all about,
how much
will it cost?
How much
does it pay?
even you see
that he's lost
his way.
I have hope
for him.
I'm not sure why.
So I've decided
to give him
one last try.
I will send him
a butterfly.
To remind him
of all the things
his money
can't buy.

Fly Upon the Waters

by Rowena R.R.A. Maalikulmulk
Soar in the sky above the oceans and seas,
place upon the mountain breeze,
ripples in the water from jumping frogs leaping,
out of the water and into the sand,
lies raindrops falling land over land,
from the brilliant sun's rays,
leaves a shadow in the water gaze,
where the fish swarm and swim,
like dew drops in a maze,
feeding and breeding,
bubbling and boiling,
back to the shore it goes flowing,
hits the rocks coming and going,
rumbling, turning and twirling
over and over it repeats,
never going to sleep,
take flight upon the water,
until it falls into the deep,
to the Great Mountain Peaks,
and back to the water again it leaks,
to fly upon the water it recycles....
then repeats.

Blank Verse

by Annie
I stare down at you.
You lay motionless, 
your face glaring up at me.
What, then, shall I share with you?

You, like a true friend,
waiting for me to pour out my feelings on you.
What, then, dear companion, shall I tell you today?

Shall it be the lost hopes, lofty dreams of yesterday?
Or tell of secret longings, yearnings, or deep love - pure, undefiled as your virgin face?
Perhaps I'll tell of something delightful,
like my silly kitten chasing a careless butterfly idly fluttering by.

We sit,
each in our own place,
as time ticks and tocks away, 
magnified because of our silence.

You are unmoved under my gaze,
waiting for my touch
will not come.

I must take my leave.
But before I go,
I will turn your cover over your blank sheets
and leave you unmarked until tomorrow.

A Few Questions about Life

by Jim Lambert
Do you get your worth
because of birth
the color of your intentions
or the rime of your ancient manner?

Do you succeed 
because you breed
exude basic truth
and eat free-range mushrooms?

Does your family tree
splinter at the mention of your name
leak sap into your soul
and produce acorns for the road less traveled?

And when the stone cutter 
inscribes your tombstone
will she choose to use chalk
and carve it for the blind?

Greeks Bearing Gifts

by Chris Holaves
There is a strange charm in the thoughts of a good legacy...
          —Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha

Your legacy, Odysseus, lives on
like the blue waves that rise from the ocean's floor
to undulate and scratch their marks from shore to shore
and rebound across time after you're long gone   

to nip my nerves, yet fill my heart with pride.        
"Beware of Greeks bearing gifts!" the man cries,
and my eyes see white sparks as I whisper, "Lies!"
But before I lose my temper, I hide

my feelings like you and wrap them with a guarded smile.
I'm today's proud Greek who inherited
your clever, two-edged sword, a will that fed
our countrymen's courage with adventure and style.

But now I’m left to defend or justify—
are all modern Greeks courageously smart
like you, or are we deceivers, a shot in time’s heart?       
I look in our ancestor's mirror and wonder why.

Why do some suspect our accounts?
Surely, your ancient gifts give glory to Hellas and Greeks.
We are not kin to pretenders with their tricks,
and then what do I say to soothe their doubts?

Shall I shout, "You're incorrect, you're all wrong!”?
And when all is said and all is seen,     
how does a Greek really begin    
to match his ancestors' deeds and chant your song? 

Then, Odysseus, your cleverness brought Greece fame.
Today, they recall the horse and we take the blame.

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

At Norman's

by Wilda Morris
When we were kids we liked to play with bones
     we found on Norman's farm. In winter cold
     and summer heat, we roamed across the old
     worn place. We gathered skulls of cows and stones,
and searched for arrowheads, imagined groans
     of pioneers, heard Norman's tales unfold.
     We waded creeks and fished, chased bugs and rolled
     in grass and laughed; at night, heard wind's low moans
and coyote howls but never feared for they
     were far away. In spring we loved to sow
     the peas in garden plots, and watch the sway
of milkweed pods and see the bean plants grow,
     and walking, pick the flowers along the way
     and never guessed the world was full of woe.
(This poem, which is a bouts sonnet taking the rhyme scheme
from "On the Late Massacre in Piedmont" by John Milton,
was first published in Rockford Review, XXIX:2 [Summer-Fall,
2010], p. 119.)

Car Wash

by Usha Mahisekar
I am a car in the car wash
My owner has left me
My master is watching me from the window

But when my owner washes me
And touches me, I feel so good
Looks like there is connection between him and me

Best of all
I still like to be washed by the rain
That is my heavenly carwash


by Syreeta L. Williams
You're a song 
A flowing rhythmic sound of sounds. 
A whisper of measured thoughts.
A Question of moments
The distant admirer of words.  
Signed poetry

Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

by William Marr
finally they drilled right into the heart
of Mother Earth

Black blood gushes
from the bottom of the ocean
an unstoppable wound

On the murky ocean surface
a flock of pelicans
dive one after another
into the water
preparing themselves
to become offerings

Nothing Was the Same

by Gail Goepfert
Nothing was the same
now that it was fall too soon.
Summer passed
without breezes sifting
through the open window
misting the air with the perfume
of mown grass and flushed children
catching fireflies at dusk.
Nothing was the same
without muggy nights
of summers gone
when standing on the lawn
I waved the garden hose,
an orchestra conductor with her baton,
as the flowers crooned
at the man in the moon.
I longed to soak
in the sweet smell of sultry heat
to welcome
the pulse of the cricket's song
lulling the heavens
into tranquility.
Nothing was the same
when the early chill of fall
stole the music
of summer nights.

(Published in Seasons of Change, TallGrass Guild, 2010)


by Dr. Sarada Purna Sonty
You hear, whether I am Far or near
Beat of my fleeting Heart ! Salty foam
Of ocean waves glistening loom !
You hear ! Oh! My dear! Whether I speak
Or not ! Of my floating thoughts !
Though Lingua muffles the real !
You feel! Whether I sprinkle or Nay!
Fragrant dust of my lusting heart !
You see with sparkle when I
Play hide and seek in Love
In those pleasing, teasing trails!
You hear, the blazing flame of desire
That touches the secret nooks in me!
You feel the music  filling recesses 
of my nightly lonely Silent sigh !
Some where we met, dreamy nights
In those sloppy, slippery heights!
You and I ! When emotions clasps
Didn't we see inner walls exhibit
Arts! Hues of  Impressions  Oils!!
Souls unfolding varied bloom!
Muted smiles of naughty stars!
Oh!!  Lo !!  The Dawn already broke!
You and I!  Left like "half done Swing" !!!!

A Vision

by Alan Harris
Our new world is coming,
devoid of rage,
with creatures not eaten
and guns melted down.

Its two-party system
is cordial and fair--
the Forwardists move
as the Holdists delay.

The trade is quite honest
and arguing's rare
as the selfish now give,
the ambitious now serve.

How can this world
ever work? you may ask.
Aren't giving and serving
quite dull? you inquire.

We will see as we go,
but the strife in the old,
based on you, me, and them,
was a nightmare of self.

What mattered the most
was mostly matter,
that dubious deity
for eyes that see down.

Our new world is coming
between all the bullets
and bombs--yes, coming
as surely as daylight.

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