Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
August 2012
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Poems on this Page:


by Nancy Ann Schaefer
(after José Martí)
My poems are like white-capped
rapids rushing headlong down 
the mountain, foaming and churning
in haste to the bottom—breathless

My poems are like the sigh of fissures 
formed in a parched riverbed, arid
and unsure, slow and stuck, waiting
for gentle rains to swell the banks

My poems are like the fragrant green 
of wheatgrass, taking root in fungal
soil, composted and moist, elixir 
to body, nourishment to soul.

(First published in Out Loud Anthology IV)


by Steven Kappes
in the wilds of Alaska
snow covered mountains
dark ancient forests
wolves hunt in packs
a hungry seeking mob
the smell of blood
leads to attack
and they feast
until nothing is left
of their prey
but scattered bones
in the wilds of Illinois
packs of wolves hunt
in the local wal mart store
jostling for position
barging up and down
narrow aisles
with loaded carts
ravaging the shelves
at the check outs
they bicker over pennies
with coupons
and discount cards
then wheel their bounty
out the door
triumphant in their quest
leaving empty bones
of abandoned carts
to litter the lots
like so much
picked over prey

Fireworks in Chicago
(Part 2)

by David McKenna

My First

by William Vollrath
She surprised me
at the checkout counter
asking for my autograph
after the state society's
evening of readings and
celebration of
national poetry month
My first sale of
my first signed copy
of my first real book
When I told her
it was a bit X-rated
she giggled and said
she could handle it
then giggled more at
my personalized signing
It was fun meeting
my first "groupie"
after baring my soul
at the well-known
little bookstore
I just didn't expect her
to be eighty


by John Pawlik
Oh Gawain,
Drink your wine . . .
No one
Why I was with her
No one else
Ever heard her,
(Even you old friend),
Beyond the ugliness
Of her state
Above that sad,
Thorny realm,
Through words she rose
A flower . . .
More beautiful
Than any encountered
In our green and easy land
And I became a man . . .
Far more
Than ever alone I could have been
Without her
Even now,
How her colors
Fill my sky

The Loaf

by Donna Pucciani
My cousins in Italy
serve this bread for breakfast.
A festival of small white cups
holds the prelude: three bitter sips
and then, the knife
in Pasquale’s hand crackles
through heavy brown crust
the way my nonno, the village
carpenter, sawed through wood.

I chew this patch of bread, 
unbuttered, rough-edged, 
a blackbird’s song becoming
part of my hungry body.
I hold in my hands the morning sun.

(First published in 
Cold Mountain Review)

Who are our heroes?

by Mark Hudson
Who are our heroes nowadays?
Does anybody care anyway?
Should we hate the theatre shooter?
Should we hate the army recruiter?
Should we hate Romney since he's rich?
And never had to dig a ditch?
Do we hate gays and Chick-fill-A?
Is hatred the American way?
Are villians born every day?
Do we need heroes to make them pay?
Will peace ever come to our shores,
Will there be an end to all wars?
Batman doesn't really exist,
but there are many jokers in our midst!
Everyone is both good and bad,
Doesn't that really make you sad?
In the news, there's a boy named Cooper
A hero who is really super!
An eight-year-old who rescues a boy,
he saves him and brings much joy.
The boy was drowning in a pool,
but Cooper saved him, he's so cool.
Isn't it children who think of others?
Must've had some really great mothers!
A dog living in the Phillipines
is considered a hero hard to be seen.
To save two girls he lost his snout,
he's someone people are talking about.
A motorcycle was speeding along the way,
two girls were walking no attention they paid.
The dog jumped in front of the vehicle,
he lost his snout, which left him feeble.
But the girls didn't get so much as a bruise,
this is a hero that I would choose.
A local vet asked the owner of the pet,
if they wanted to put the dog to rest.
But the owners loved the dog for her sacrifice,
to get him surgery costs a very big price.
So who is your hero, is it anyone?
Is your hero God, and his only son?
They say Jesus died so we can be saved,
this sounds to me heroic and brave.
There are heroes every day it is true,
tomorrow it might be me or you.

Dreams for Sale

by David LaRue Alexander
How impolite    how truly unkind
after all    this is your mind
please forgive me
I thought you were sleeping    my mistake
I didn't realize    you were still awake
just daydreaming
Let me think    where do I begin
Oh yes    my manners    come on in
I'm Morpheus
This is a realm of your own creation
your hopes     your fears    your imagination
the world of dreams
Lucky you    today only    a very special sale
you need only step through    this gossamer veil
and follow me
Dreams for sale    a million dollars each
not to worry    nothing here is beyond your reach
you look puzzled
Did you forget    this is a dream    you need only pretend
whatever you need    you have to spend
you understand
Now over here    we have    the dreams of desire
be careful    don't touch    they will catch you on fire
While these are the dreams     of those who've lost hope
flights of fancy   really    to help them cope
Notice these dreams    for those who aspire
see how they float up    higher and higher
Ah yes    that door    open only if you dare
that's where I keep     the dreams of nightmare
Oh my    what's this    you've been given a reprieve
you're starting to wake up    so it's time to leave
But not to worry    not to worry    for there's never any hurry
Because one thing for certain I know    while you might have to go....
You'll be back....
They all come back....
See you soon....


by Bonnie Manion
Your dad was newly retired and recovering
from prostate surgery, your mom between
poetry projects and grandchild babysitting. 
You, the proprietor of an Oregon organic
chicken farm, have not even an ounce of fat
on your hardworking body.
Our lives are the woof and warp of one piece
of cloth.  Twice a year, Paul and I jet into
your world, a nonstop beeline from Chicago
to Portland,  our threads of differing colors
meeting at the loom's intersections.
For a few days I shovel feed to your chickens,
collect eggs, water the smelly cows and goats.
I note your coyness with third husband, your
confident toss of curls at our questions, the set
of your smile with a drive-up customer.  Once,
you take time out from farming duties to drive us
by a scenic back road to the coast, and we savor
the misty surround of forested mountains while
discussing your improving balance sheet and
architect plans for renovation of the moldering
farmhouse.  You don’t ask about your sisters,
can't answer queries about your grown sons.
We squeeze in dinner with your son David and
his girl between their classes, before their exams.
Elyse swishes her flowered skirt and smiles at him
from beneath dark lashes.  He catches her eye.
News about his brother Sam, living in New York,
will have to wait for my phone call to him.
I notice how Liam strides like his mother, purses
lips like his brothers, plays too raucously with
the toy ships in a vat of water at the Children‘s
Museum.  Taking down your Christmas tree
because it's June, I wonder when you last spent
simple talk-time with any of your sons. 

Six days later we're delivered back to the airport
in your dusty new truck, suitcases sandwiched 
between coolers filled with frozen chickens for
delivery to high-end Portland restaurants wanting
your free range, firm-flesh, organically raised meat.

Waiting for the End

by Kathy Cotton
Aunt Kathryn's unpinned hair, waist-length
and white, spills over the stainless steel basin
in a hospital restroom. She pulls the clean,
damp strands into a tight bun and takes
the next shift at her brother's bedside.
In the waiting room Aunt Louise, round and
short, unshaved legs dangling from the chair,
fills long hours, long days with continuous family
stories, punctuated by trademark segues:
and-uh. . .so-uh. . .but-uh.
I jot her verbal ellipses in my journal
and wait with my sisters, eating, sleeping in chairs,
laughing at memories. Wait in the hallway outside
my father's room, sobbing against the wall.
Wait in the passenger seat as Mom
learns to drive so she can survive as a widow.
And Dad waits, too. Lingers week after
excruciating week, waits until the day I drive
a hundred miles home and only his sister
sits singing beside his bed. Decades later,
when Mom curves like a wrinkle beneath
hospital blankets, the weight of her frail body
numbering the same as her years, we keep vigil
in her room, one daughter at a time. On my watch,
I often sing her favorite hymns, wish she could pass
gently while I hold her hand. But she waits, too,
waits for me to drive the hundred miles,
waits to die in deep night, alone, with only
the hum of hospital machines to sing her home.

As Crickets Dance outside our Window

by jacob erin-cilberto
i wanted to be crazy away from you
and crazy with you
as i popped metaphoric pills down my silent throat
i wanted to shout loud at you
and shout louder to you
shout loudest together with you
crazy poems into thin air
with thick lyrics meshing into humid sunshine
while our hearts cooled down together
with arms encircling the rhyme of us
and the rhythm of us
even if the love was off key
and the key to us didn't fit so normal
cause normal is crazy to us
or crazy is normal to us
when we kiss deeply into blind sunsets
and wake cuddling the moon.

A New Sweater

by Carol Dooley
She was still my daughter
when she went off to college.
Still mine when she moved away,
moved again across the ocean.
But then she married.
Glad. My job completed.
Yet a thread has been pulled,
and cartoon-like
the sweater unravels.
She is no longer mine alone.
Shared. Our lives
must be knitted anew,
a different design,
a new fashion.

High Noon

by William Marr
at midday
the lone marshal draws his gun
against the gang
at the sun-drenched field
in Hadleyville
at midnight
a lonelier man
in Aurora's packed, darkened movie theater
with armor head to toe
and automatic rifles in hand
pulls his trigger
against innocence
against humanity
against emptiness
against the evermore lonesome

God's Lament

by Doyle Raymond Vines
I was alone, completely alone, and there was no one else,
not even something else. 

The only where was here and the time was now.
In my solitude, I was inseparate, whole,
completely self-contained and without need,
for the universe of all was within me.
I was complete, the fruit and the seed.
Then once, more quickly than a thought
I began to want someone else
to love and to love me. Instantly.
I was torn and worlds were born. 
But I am still alone, you see,
the irony, left free to choose,
you love my world but not me.

(Previously published in Poet's Post
Spring Anthology 2011)

What To Do with the Rest of Your Life

by Wilda Morris
Every day let a hymn rise
from its niche somewhere
within your heart, escape
from your lips as prayer;
read three poems before breakfast;
let gratitude be spoken,
scribbled on flowered paper,
dispatched to friend or stranger.
Tell your grandchildren
how much you cherish
the feel of their fingers in your hair,
the revelry of their play,
tell them how it was
when you were young,
how grandmother baked bread;
how grandfather picked you up,
swung you out of his chair
with calloused hands
and hearty laughter.
Peer at the world
through the eyes of a toddler;
listen to the wisdom
of the young.
Walk in the woods again,
find jack-in-the pulpit,
wild raspberries, the den
of the red fox.
Memorize the songs
of bluebird, finch
and rose-breasted grosbeak.
Rediscover the stream
which chuckles its way
across boulders, bubbles up
into rainbow orbs in the sun. 
Pick up one small rock;
turn it over and over in your hands
until it tells you its story.
Just once, ride bareback on a beach
as sun gilds the evening foam;
write with your finger in the sand.
Catch snowflakes on your sleeve;
compare each shining crystal
with the glow you brought
to someone's eyes.
Make one last angel in the snow.

Let's not do something

by Marguerite McClelland
I’m tired,
so tired,
too tired
to have any desire
to do anything, but retire,
to the mire of he night.

But should you or I be inspired,
and really wired
to set something on fire,
let's play it by ear 
and not have it required,
lest we should sink
into the quagmire
of drudgery entire.


by Mardelle Fortier
On an eroded bank, roots are exposed,
some black, some bleached,
often dried and chipped off at the ends,
knobby, twisting, snarling,
reaching into a pond, bearded with loose
moss like ancient greenish hair,
some gaunt, others bloated with food.

All of the roots reaching, trying, grasping
in black dirt and gummy clay.
They are never satisfied, never secure.
They clamber after more and more safety,
which crumbles and they wind and wail
wanting not to ascend
hoping to descend.

Humans aspire toward stars;
roots want to bury themselves.
They love the ground, terra firma.
Their wish: not to fly, not to
conquer outer space. They crouch, huddle,
grovel for the status quo, stay in one place
if possible for years, decades.
And they burrow, hang on;
victory to them would mean: Never to move.

(Published in Prairie Light
Review, Spring 2012)

Mother Greets Newborn

by Alan Harris
I see you have been
traveling through the universe
without a map again.

Welcome to earth, my friend.
I breathe on you with my eyes
and I hear you with my breast.
You squall and you squirm,
but you did come to this place,
and I opened the door,
so let's learn to be together.

As your first guide
on this strange planet,
I will introduce you to your body
and mine and everything else.
Let us proceed together now
as companions.

Earth is not a bad place to live.
There is much room here for love.
There, there, there....
Drink of the earth and sleep.

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