Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
October 2004
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Poems on this Page:

Lavender Lipstick

by Michelle True
Sitting at the bar
cradling a bloody mary
in her long, bony fingers
the lady has dark blue eye shadow,
rouged cheeks
and lavender lipstick.

She stares in the
mirrored wall behind
rows of liquor bottles,
not seeing her reflection.

Her gaze is internal;
looking for some part of herself
she lost long ago.

Her makeup hasn't changed
in thirty years;
her hopes and dreams
haven't evolved;
she can't imagine why.

Whatever she had been
looking for
would never be found.

With a deep sigh,
she came out
of her trance
and headed home.

All that remained was the
imprint on the empty glass
of her lavender lipstick.


by James L. Corcoran
thinking of the aperture one
can't be sure of Sparta, and
Ethiopia is just bare to Mars.
All the time is spent on find
this defined that. Is there any
time left for this motto? (sorry
boss, laptops tickin') I have to
turn one last phrase of history
into the sound that changed
the future of the now today?
Ask not what your merit can
do for you, ask what you can
do for your merit.


by Todd Possehl
Wait again for me at the bookstore cafe --
we'll drink ginger tea, eat pineapple bread,
and talk about our poetry.

Watching the sunset, we must avoid
the partial eclipse of fervent debate,
like the one about writing

as a form of a faith -- when you told me
I was more religious than religion,
and I tried to catch your doubting face
in a cup of gold.

(Previously published in Bryant Literary Review)

At the Beginning

by Bonnie Manion
hand in hand, the young lovers
ran down a sandy knoll, into the midst
of the century; sunlight played in their smiles;
their eyes arresting each other's, across tanned
arms and windblown hair; journeying together
alone, at home with the sparkling surf,
the wooded bluff. and the life ahead of them.

Curving away miles ahead, the green
shore break still fades into dusky distance
while the only souls upon the beach
glory again in the world they briefly own.
Slowly the sky reddens, the waves lessen,
and coming with the evening cool the peace
of remembered eternity visits earth as they embark
on their journey across another century.

If I'd Married Poe

by Mardelle Fortier
Don't think I could have taken all those
Bells bells bells bells bells
Hope they wouldn't ring after ten
Or when I was trying to eat a sandwich.

How inconvenient when dressing for
Dinner with friends, to have my husband
Go off to the sea, and lie by Annabel's coffin.

To have him wake up sobbing from nightmares...
What is it this time, hon, the maelstrom
Or the cat?

I hope he doesn't get mad at me for anything.
Try never to burn his bacon or lose his socks.

Neighbors complain all the time
About smells from our basement.

And I wish he'd get that stupid croaking
Raven off the door. Quoth I: "Nevermore."

(Previously published in RHINO)

The Song of Wind

by James Conroy
I wrote the song of wind,
the paper blew away.
Gave rain a child's voice,
it grew up and moved off.
I should not hold things so dear
nor give them names.

Every year comes time to pack up.
There is less and less:
closet, then trunk, now this worn
wood box.
Breezes stroke my cheek,
raindrops hum a lullaby.

First Grade Cryptology

by Beth Staas
The letters mean something
That is, when put together in a line.
They go with pictures
but sometimes not
and you're fooled and say sat instead of cat
because C has two sounds and you guessed wrong
but next time you'll remember.

I see your face,
brow furrowed, lips pursed in concentration,
Dick and Jane and little dog Spot
conquered once again.

There'll be other firsts.
Beethoven waits in the wings
along with ballet, art nouveau
and the magic of numbers.
You'll ride a bike
roller blade
and master the high dive
while I watch each miracle
through primordial eyes.

Music of Life

by Pat Petros
"All of life is music, if one touches the notes rightly, and in tune."
--John Ruskin

The newborn's heart beats nature's measured tune,
and will continue beating rhythmically.
The tides obey the regulating moon,
and day from night divides unerringly.
Delightful music soars from highest trees
as birds contribute their untutored song
with background bass of busy humming bees.
It's nature's orchestra, where all belong.
When thunder rolls across the cloud-filled sky,
the lightning zigzags by with vivid threat.
We hear the keening wind, its voices try
to blend with heaven's tears in close duet.
So all of life, as we can plainly see,
is regulated well, and musically.


by Sally Calhoun
There were a million things left in my mother's house
after she passed away. At least a million things!
Dishes, family pictures by the score.
I sorted them on the table until my back ached
and I had to rub my eyes, so that each grown child
would have a share.
And the letters, oh, the letters,
from aunts and uncles and grandparents and friends,
the remnants of lives throughout decades,
each with a story to tell and a snapshot of an era long past.
I had had no idea there were so many letters.

We moved carefully through the rooms of the house,
the grown children, taken turns choosing
treasures that would help us to remember her.
A jewelry box, books, a creamer and a sugar bowl
on a small tray, a breadboard, card table chairs,
and, of course, the jewelry. Arrowheads, stamps,
from ages past a hand-held school bell that would go to a museum.
Plates that held Thanksgiving feasts.
Christmas ornaments.

We spent hours and hours taking turns choosing,
days choosing, and all the things dispersed
to other kitchens and living rooms.
A rocking chair, puzzle books, boxes of yarn and thread,
until the house was stripped, armloads at a time,
seemingly scattered to the winds,
but most to new homes, lovingly cupped
by grateful hands. Our hands. Hands with
a family resemblance.

I see the creamer and the sugar bowl
on our kitchen table every morning,
welcoming the day,
and one end table is in our living room,
holding our dear son's wedding picture with his bride.
Decks of cards are reminders
of early years, and later years,
and the fact that she touched them.
They are consolation.

They almost breathe with us,
and, like the elements of air and fire, earth and water, they live with us,
the old familiar things,
bringing forth traces of her smile and enveloping arms,
that burgeon now as with leaping, lifting wings,
hovering softly in arcs of enduring love.

For Emily

by Ruth La Sure
I was watching
the shadows play
my hands
the sun streaming,
a pantomime
against the wall.

There are no
on shadows,
no rueful love
to bring them down.

They glide
and flutter,
they move as
bird's wings.

Burial Clothes

by Larry Turner
When Dee's mother died, Dee and her sister
found a fringed skirt and jacket she had made. She
was buried in that, despite the harrumphs
of the Cooties (women's auxiliary of the VFW)
that she should have gone
to eternity in her Cootie uniform.

My mother was buried in blue
brushed-cotton pajamas. People
found it easy to say she looked at rest.

I've always cut Jesus a little slack. I mean:
Would you like to be held accountable
for every last word you spoke as you hung
on a cross all afternoon? Me neither. From my youth,
I knew the folks in the Bible would roll their eyes
at that foreign idea, the immortal soul.
Now I learn-from a grammar book of all places-
there was no punctuation in the Greek text,
and Jesus' words to the thief:
Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise,
might just as well be read:
Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise.

Agnostic as to an afterlife, I rather lean to St. Paul's view:
For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised.
Overworked all her life, my mother found rest only at bedtime
when she sat on her rock-hard rocker, soaked her feet,
and read her Bible. I picture her in her blue pajamas,
sleeping till the end of time.


by William Marr
not the illusion of a neon light
not advertising anything

quietly you light up
a brilliant summer night


by Dr. Sarada Purna Sonty
Tears are rolling on the
Canvas where feelings float
Scribbling and scrabbling
The curves and lines of
Pounding mundane!
In the deep ocean of
Pathos where there are
No waves but darkness!
The experience is blooming
Where life's fabric
Colorfully continually looming
The beauty of sublime!
Mind and heart are swimming
With vim, hum and hymn
While vit and Mort invite
Endless pathos to unite!

Further Dreams

by Barbara Eaton
You come to me in dreams
every night
even though you are
two thousand miles away.
Further than dreams can reach.
So far away.

Your last letter
was dated July 3rd
seven years ago.
I know you hate to write letters,
but still...
So far away from you -- so far away.

I mailed your birthday card
this morning
to the last address I have for you.
Will it come back,
"Return to sender"?
So far away -- away from you -- so very far away.

I checked your name on the Internet.
Forty-four references,
some of them not yours,
but your books are still in print.
What are you working on now?
I have no way of knowing.
I feel so far away from you.

So far be distant, sweet friend.
I will not call, I will not write,
still I send my dreams further and further
every night.

Where Is the Spring?

by Dr. S. V. Rama Rao
In the receding chilly winter,
Shivering and swaying trees in the cold breeze
standing tall and gloomy,
awaiting the arrival of spring.
Wonder why
the expected spring season of March
has not arrived even in May?
It is the spring that decides
which trees should bloom
what flowers.

With fully loaded wagons of
bored kids and unruly toddlers,
the early visitors of the spring season
while keeping an eye on
the butterfly-chasing kids,
are awaiting at the
not-yet-opened gates of the park.

These shivering trees
standing in the morning chill--
a bunch of dogwood trees
standing around as sentries
showing off their bloom,
surrounded by the honeybees,
buzzing aloud with sweet talk.
These matured tall shivering trees
with their half-drooped sleepy eyes
are dreaming of the arrival of
the spring season.

It is a front-line job for these dogwoods
to hold the visitors' love of the park intact.

What Else Is New?

or, Still Slanting a Sonnet for the Bull

by Glenna Holloway
The bull is getting senile, there's no doubt,
has spells of falling, slower to recoup
the ground he lost, inclined to lag and dote
on former glories, careless to recap
the climax he allowed to drift away.
Recession or inflation needn't lift
a fraction of a threat to steal the day.
Just let the Fed suggest the prime will shift
a fraction up or down, the bull falls flat,
the bear not far behind his dragging tail.
El toro snorts, erratic in his flight;
the china shop sustains another toll.
He could outlive these times, say Wall Street vets.
But most of them are hedging all their bets.

(Previously published in The Lyric, Winter, 1998)

Kung Pao

by Wilda Morris
a mound of rice
white as the February snow
falling on Cass Avenue
the pepper in its midst red
as the heart-shaped balloons
shifting in fanned air
its tip pointed like a sword
sharp as the words piercing her heart
turning her mood the color
of the sauced mushrooms

(Previously published in Free Verse
74-75 (May/June 2004), p. 19)

Two Windows

by Alan Harris
don't be
fooled by
what you
think you
see through
that window.

Nothing is there.
What to see
is inside
the seen.

Out there
is a parade
of decay
and illusion.

Inside, where
seeing is whole,
waits a beauty
you long ago knew
in the rolling
of your lives.

Try the window

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