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Poems by ISPS Members
August 2013
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Poems on this Page:

This Place

by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
We come to this place too often
Makeshift memorials and coffins
From Dantrell to Derrion
From Hadiya to Trayvon
We are losing ground
So many babies Heaven bound
Leaders and clergy cram for a solution
To age old city pollution
But each time they hold gun turn-in rallies
A body turns up on a street or in an alley
There is no refuge from the morning and evening news
I turn on the radio and there is even more abuse
But I have stopped saying "what's next"
and started saying "Thank you, Lord, you know what's best"
One day in the by and by it will all unravel
long after any verdict is reached and long after the echoing sound of the gavel.

Atticus Abbey II

by Christine Cianciosi
Atticus Abbey
came back tonight
spirit voice said
"I saw the light."

Words I only hear
within inner ear–
his presence is near
I Am a seer.

Halls are his portals
to a world not here–
you can be immortal
if you follow him there.

Figure in white
within the night–
shines the light
to what is right. 

When spirit voice calls
within these walls–
keep thoughts high
let the rest just die.

As the sun is gold
learn to unfold–
take his spirit hand
to an unknown land.

Atticus Abbey
came back tonight–
spirit friend said,
"You are the light."

At the Still Point

by Susan T. Moss
Fixed gazes stare from the museum’s
glass cases filled with stuffed
and groomed New England wildlife,
a collection to refashion nature’s
nuances in rainbow hues and textures.

A barred owl gnaws a dead mouse,
a mounted cougar crouches in wait,
two beavers chisel birch logs –
all forever feathered and furred.

Outside, stars salute the cool night,
bronze and russet festoon
the season while tarnished plants
spill spice and musk.

Through the dark,
my warm breath spirals in rhythm
with pitched trills of one bird
that refuses sleep.

(Published in the last edition of
After Hours)


by Susan Spaeth Cherry
The flower arrangement
arrives on my doorstep,
an unexpected patch of azure
in an overcast sky. I tear away
the layers of paper protecting the blooms:
roses, lilies, baby's breath,
daisy poms and purple liatris
mingled with greens and artfully set
in oasis foam concealed in a vase.
I place them on the coffee table
and marvel at the variation
in hues and shapes—
a United Nations of vegetation.
A few days later, the lilies
are browning around the edges,
and two of the roses have started to droop
like sleepy heads in a concert hall.
I remove the faded and rearrange.
The room still looks like a beautiful woman
with jewels in her hair. But petals descend
and leaves curl up like arthritic hands.
Little by little, the vase surrenders
its wondrous abundance
as all must do when Time decides
to pluck our beloved, one by one,
from life's bouquet.

Fossilized Fancies *

by Bonnie Manion
Burgess: that onetime ocean home
is now a scrapbook of layered stone;
fossils therein once entombed 
grew too strange to even clone!

There's a brachiopod just barely
lacking any symmetry; and
the arachnid very nearly 
is too bizarre a mystery!

These freakish and outlandish
malformed miscreants were
fossilized ancient whimsies,
powerless to adapt or mate!

Whole genres found depleted  
collapsed there, obsolete;
a species of rare cretins expired
with heads attached to feet!

Where legs abound too many, or
there’s far too large an eye, creatures 
born one-armed and unbalanced 
leave no copies to survive!

Fossilized and embedded now,
traced in oldest stone, these oddities
time has recorded are real
creatures that once roamed!

*of the Burgess Shale, a mountain
in western Canada

(First published on Poetry Atlas online)


Part One
by David McKenna
Every so often the hoodlums will come 
pitching railroad-bed rocks through the windows 
Once in a while they break in and paint some 
graffiti on the empty walls      Shadows 
show through repainting    but nobody knows 
except me      I take care of this frayed place
this vacant factory    companion 
dull invalid    master without a face 
friend    torturer    sum of my ambition
I make its well-being my vocation

When it cries out like some old 
man too frail to rise from his own death bed
yet needing to unleash his bowels    or scold 
the heavens for allowing him instead 
to live another day    I search in dread 
and understanding    and with compassion 
I barely recognize    flush the ancient 
water pipes    setting loose rust in motion 
like flakes of blood    belching forth with the scent 
of rotten eggs      I alone    wet    worn and bent 

When the outside world drops into zero 
he begs for me to keep him unbroken
Coercing cast-iron lungs    far below 
in his dank-smelling    oil-stained dungeon
I force his fever to break      awoken 
Then I stand back and watch his walls shaking
palsied    and relieved to be safe inside
knowing the limestone façade is aching 
Such are the secrets my old friend can't hide 
from the nurse to whom he's forced to confide

I am in love with the mourning doves      They 
perch up on the unused telephone line 
sensing its emptiness    shifting all day 
cooing coolly like a soft wind    a fine 
whisper      witnesses of the town's decline
There's a chain wound 'round the parking lot gate
protecting crumbling asphalt      Brown glass 
from shattered beer bottles    swept to the grate 
by rain and snow    or caught in stiff gray grass
glares    on guard    taking note of all who pass

Behind and below flows a green river
endlessly on it goes    feeding the trees 
with its water      nurturer    life giver 
You can never stop a stream or a breeze 
They will find a way around you with ease
There used to be woodland beyond the road
but they stripped it bare over these long years 
a little bit at a time    load by load
You can hear the land cry    deep in your ears 
when the rain comes down      all mixed in with tears 

You probably have guessed I'm a romantic
a fool in love with the song of the past
but I'm not too beyond realistic 
to know that nothing that's perfect can last 
and that good things get away far too fast
My favorite days are the silent ones
in the middle of summer    when the heat 
is so damn pressing that even the stones 
weep      or in winter    when swirling snows pleat 
through cracks at doorways      sand dunes for my feet

To Part Two

Wind Point

by John Pawlik
The moon
big and round
out of the evening sea
It seems
so near
just over there
as if
you could walk to its side
to talk: of love
this universe
so aglow with stars
the years
you've known
and those
to come . . .
but most of all
of love

He Is a Rock

by Carol Dooley
The painting swirls.  Chaos.  Turmoil.
A woman, a wife, is half-hidden
by papers flying overhead.
An open door where a window
    should be.
Unbalanced. Unhappy.
Turn the picture 180 degrees
and the vision changes.
A man, a husband, sits and reads,
ignores the storm.
Husband and wife live in different worlds
inhabit the same space.


by Usha Mahisekar
Sparkling lights in the sky
With music synchronized the light
Repetition of same thing
Exactly same way
with modern technology.
But God's firework is different
like thousands of lightning bugs dancing together.
If there is music also
That will be beautiful firework.
It is thundering
Lightning in the sky
The dance of lightning different every time
Never the same again
Lightning is the romantic kiss of cloud and earth
Under the umbrella of sky.
Divine firework is God's grace.
Enjoy the firework

Behind the Make-up

by jacob erin-cilberto
playful purpose
in scorned words
jolly in their folly
yet meek in what they seek
accommodations for interrogations
into the minds they peek
i propose to enclose
sentiment for entertainment
and brevity to the gravity
in scorned words
playful purpose
seems a moot point to suit
the poet's parcels of pain
presented in that which passes show
only the tattered hearts know
a smile only lasts a while upside down
and the real guts of a beggar
restrain themselves through
the tears of a clown.


by Kathy Cotton
It happens the first week of March,
perhaps the second,
after a spring rain washes up
a wave of earthworms
from their sea of dark soil
onto the asphalt beach
of my driveway.
Suddenly weeping,
I sweep away
their too-soon withered remains,
along with a surfaced memory:
My father's strong hands
lifting a pitchfork of damp earth,
waiting for his little girl's
tentative fingers
to pull out wriggling worms,
drop them in his fishing pail.
It happens on an almost-spring
day when a gray sky blows in
a cloud of unexpected sadness,
sweeping me grave-side
where strong hands, too soon,
carry a casket to a plot
of freshly turned earth.

Poem With No Secret: Spring, Giant City Park

by David Bond
-----For Allison
A day-tripping sun spilled
its warm cask of light
over the treetops 
like a fine chardonnay
down the shaded ladderbacks
of cottonwood 

and white oak branches
as the Benedictus canticled
from spangled throats of songbirds.
A southwest wind winnowed 
carillons of lucid leaves and
by the lake fire lilies woke.

We ran into a flagrant world chasing
uncatchable shadows and 
twice I almost shouted love for you;
once I noticed a soft thorn 
of butterfly resting like a sigh
on your bare shoulder.

Safe Passage

by Marie Samuel
(written after my trip to Panama in Feb. this year to take school supplies to Indians we rode in canoes to reach)

  Borders and Tribes

     Checks and Probes

         Fevers and Plagues

              Tightropes and Trails

            Chasms and Crossings
          Mountains and Canals

       Flights and Roads

   Home Again

Today's Song

by Irfanulla Shariff
Am I ever going to sing today?
This whispering voice of my throat
As if there is an ocean locked in a boat
How it could be ever possible
My dreams are eternally valuable
The kinetic energy which is residing
At the nucleus of my heart
When these emotions of mine
Getting ready to be released
A song of infinite lines
Suddenly I feel an aroma
Leading to a vivid charisma
Like roses hugging fresh air
Dazzling lights and the full moon
Tides humbly touching my feet
Motivating my empty soul of yesterday
My vocal chords are tuned
Song of joy has emerged
I thank you my Lord, the most merciful
For the enchanting end of this day


by David Christensen
Product of ongoing evolution,
Limited we are by 
Voice, muscle, ear and eye.
We are a human family,
Planet Earth our home.
But we are not Earth-bound!
We've walked the moon,
Explored the solar system,
Are awed by the Universe,
Thinkers are not Earth-bound!
Yet we are trapped by boundaries
Of our own making; 
We still fight our earthly kin
And unfairly use them.

We are trapped by our religions,
Each thinking theirs is best,
We are trapped by personal greed, 
Stunting creativity and caring.
Break the entrapments,  
Sisters and brothers! 
Let minds soar with new creativity, 
Caring for each other and survival
On our bounteous Earthly home.

A Field Day with the Virgin Mary

by Rick Sadler
I have an image of the Virgin Mary in Southern Illinois
To see an ocean of corn stalks under a sky of turquoise,
Suddenly I smell the sweet aroma of fresh cut Alfalfa hay
I imagined the Virgin Mary appeared on a Friday in May,
Hovering above the corn field dressed in a emerald gown
She had a golden Tassel upon her head like a holy Crown,
Her specter had two leaves as one cradled an ear of Corn
That mimicked the Christ Child as from Mary was born,
The other leaf was uplifted by a gentle breeze to Heaven
Like she was saying, "pray to Jesus on my count of seven,
Pray, pray very much for peace before it's too late now,
I'll care for my children endlessly in my heart somehow,"
Mary's soft voice said, "put the M16 Rifle down and find
The lone Star on Earth in a land for freedom's mind,
To be grateful as not to kill or be killed in the war's Theater
A warrior poet seeks resolve from the Corn Field's Creator,"
I consider the vastness of the Universe and what's beyond
My love for the Virgin Mary is my true and eternal bond,
I know I don't always behave as Mary wants me to
I'll never give up and keep trying to amend myself I will do,
I dedicate this Muse to Sister Elizabeth Ann I meet today
On a field consecrated to the Virgin Mary's amazing way,
Oh please Lord let me dream of the Virgin Mary tonight
This way would be so wonderful as I sleep in my surreal flight

The Hearing

by Doris Frey
Alive seven years, but older still,
She was bold with words
And strong of will.
But society’s traditions
Were sure to bring about
The Springtime of her live
Was short-lived, she was
An abused child at nine.
Fifteen years old, she stood
Before a judge, wishing she could
Let him know
about First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting
an establishment of religion, or prohibiting
the free exercise thereof; or abridging the
freedom of speech, or of the press; or the
right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the government for a redress
of grievances.  The Bill of Rights to the
U.S. Constitution was ratified on December 15, 1791.

Clones and Drones

by Marily Huntman Giese
Clones and Drones
        not saxophones
Begin to stir my
        tired bones,
Pilotless vehicles
        driving by
Will soon seem common
        in the sky;
The buzz of one up
        in the air
Will frighten those
        it means to scare
And who knows if, when
        men are scarce,
A clone will be
        our proud defense?
Pure science is fixing
        a new kind of world,
A mindless bag
        of spoiled pearls,
Change so complete
        what can compete
With mutant clones and
        soulless drones?

Windy Days

by Farouk Masud
Wild winds blow from the west,
taking me away,
far away,
to days that seemed to matter.
We used to dance to songs
created by the winds,
entranced by the subtle,
celestial music
that bathed our souls in solace.
Back then,
my friends were my life.
Their smiles were real,
their laughter was real,
their personalities were real,
everything so real.
Now they're gone.
Those windy days in the park are gone,
the memories are almost gone,
my friends are gone,
my happiness is gone.
I face the oncoming rush 
of the maniacal winds alone,
gazing upon the jaded sun,
anticipating death,
hoping for death,
praying for death,
wishing to reunite with my innocence.

Please!  Please!
Oh!  Winds!
Take me away,
far away!
Dump me where you may!
Perhaps a bottomless pit?

Where Are You?

by Marjorie Rissman
All winter long
Through dark nights and
Dreary days of cold and ice
We wait for summer to surface
Like a new penny in your hand
We yearn for warm morning walks
Hot days filled with sunshine
Starry nights cooled by moon beams.
Now the end of July and still
Waiting and yearning and longing for you
Through the rain and gray skies 
Storms and cold lake breezes.
The warmth of the sun evades us. 
Are we like bad children undeserving
Meteorological consideration?
Is this punishment for a mild winter?
After all, it was a wet and cold spring!
Will this be the year my sun dresses
Hanging impatiently in the closet 
Never see the light of day?

Darfur (Fugue)

by Pamela Larson
Stop, Darfur genocide!
Stop, Darfur genocide!
Janjaweed kill all,
No criminals of war?
Janjaweed kill all,
No minimum of arms.
Stop, arming the Janjaweed’s genocide!
Stop, genocide!
Stop, Darfur genocide!
Stop, the homeless death camps.
Stop, criminals of war.
Stop them now.
Stop them now!
War of criminals, stop!
Speak…in the end we remember silence1,
Speak…Darfur genocide,
Janjaweed kill all
Stop Janjaweed!
SLA tied and dragged to death.
Janjaweed rape and burn the kids,
Stop them..but still we betray it2,
Stop them..but still we don't say it,
Criminals of war, Stop!
Stop, Darfur Genocide!
Genocide. Darfur.
Genocide. Stop!

  1"In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies,
  but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
  2"Not to transmit an experience is to betray it." Elie Wiesel

Holding On

by Phillip T. Egelston
I'm holding an ancestral photo
taken in 1864.
Its hickory-shingle back
has leached acid into
the trapped photograph.
This only, single stare    
- spotted and brown -
peers through thin glass
at a world as fixed
as the picture's angled frame.

How many days,
how many evenings,
how many nights' and midnights'
come down to
the simple, single act of holding -  
to the fact of holding on and
of finding something to hold on to
as we're driven out of existence,
over time,
and, finally, out of time...
to somewhere beyond the frame?

(First prize winner in a contest
sponsored by New Vintage Northwest,
and it was published in that magazine)

The White Cabbage Butterfly

by Wilda Morris
Painted ladies and monarchs
are few in this summer
of heat and drought,
but many little white wings
flutter across fields
in dances of partnership
and pollination.
Can we live
as these little butterflies,
with no bitterness
at the brevity of life,
leave a legacy
for new generations
we will never see?

(First published in The Avocet:
A Journal of Nature Poetry,
Summer 2013, p. 59)

Hauling Water

by Caroline Johnson
I'm not a swimmer, but
I've swum for 20 years
and in the water I find
a pool of prayer and sunlight,
a lap of Buddha without numbers,
a dedication to peace,
a moment of maturation,
signing to the deaf with
free-style kick,
sliding through to numbers
on a journey of void.

Emptiness can fill you
like the hollow hive of a bee.
Joy is not a lazy pot of honey
but a process of 
strength, courage
and focusing on
the inner path.
Leaves swirl in the ripples,
are rolled away,

(Previously published in June 2013
issue of Buddhist Poetry Review)

Enduring the Unacceptable

by Jim Lambert
(For my friend Bob who died at the World Trade Center)

One morning as I left my home 
and admired a sky so blue.
It sadly turned to blood and
my thoughts were then of you. 

Perhaps the first plane crushed your desk
as you sorted out your day. 
Or maybe fire consumed the walls
and held your life at bay.

I pray you didn't have to jump.
I know you didn't cry,
but hate turned you to dust that day
and I can't accept the why.

Dusk Casts a Thin Shawl

by Sheila Elliott
Dusk casts a thin shawl
In the corners of 
The  porch, in the space
Between the garage
And the gate where a
bike lays, its front wheel
Just barely spinning.
Dusk casts a thin shawl
Though the street is filled
With light. a power
Mower still hums
Somewhere. It's cool,
Here beneath the porch
Eaves. I can hear
The grating of shoes
On gravel as I
Watch a runner pass.
Dusk cast a thin shawl
When I walked and planned
For today.  I passed
A stranger's home where
Towels hung, drape-like
From a railing. There
Were scents of tanning
Lotions and chlorine,
The street was quiet.
Late summer, I know.
Dusk casts a thin shawl.


by Marguerite McClelland
I'm only passing here.
A thousand rippling rivulets
converging in this place
the flowing face of time.
A knot unravels here
before the choking of the chain.
A breeze sings the leaves of silent trees
into a fleeting form
flitting into oblivion
I am not
but passing here.
Tomorrow I'll be gone.

A Love Song

by Alan Harris
From heart of space
all gift all give
no star too small
to pass it on

Where up a flower
how down a cloud
can any heart
with love unbloom

One breath of spring
one second on
the spatial clock
but oh the breath

When bliss is work
and silence bliss
up down our cord
no song unsings

All alls need more
all mores need all
yet love is nearer
than purest most

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