Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
October 2005
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Poems on this Page:

Because He Turned Away...

by Abby Strasser
Neighborhoods of angels ascended from rooftops, from porches,
from flooded streets with those long neglected leading the
grand procession skyward for no cars, no buses, no boats, no planes
came to their rescue; they were left with only their wings.

Zoo Gorilla

by Donna Pucciani
Your Congo eyes swim midnight,
lapping your corrugated brow.
My suburban blues wade out to meet you,
wash your matted chest in cerulean gaze.

Come here. Come up to the bars.
Moisten the glass with your black nostrils.
I'd like to shake hands in a gesture of civility,
perhaps share an apple,

offer a waxed juice carton to chew on,
rub noses with you, my eyeglasses
misting in your rank jungle-breath,
whisper your zoo-name.

Do you miss the forest,
remember your mates,
their textures of meat and fur,
the odor of vegetation,

the tangle of vines and drums
rolling through the valleys,
your nomadic quest for fruit, tumbling over terrain
sharp and noble as the ridge atop your skull?

Recall how nightfall muffled your wistful visage
in its melancholy caul, how you'd sleep 'til dawn
on your improvised bed of branches and leaves,
arms crossed, back against a tree?

Like Solomon on steaming haunches,
you reign in languor amid rotting oranges,
your primeval stench camouflaging wisdom,
then grasp a banana, circumspect,

knuckling the dumb yellow boomerang
like a cloistered monk fingering his cross,
strip away the rubbery peel as petals of a dying flower,
meticulous with the tender wholeness

of the unbruised fruit reflected,
vulnerable and free,
in my captive blue eyes,
in your aqueous simian stare.

(First published in Hawaii Pacific Review)

The Poetry Flu

by Michelle True
The poetry flu came
without warning, a virus
sending its bacteria
pulsing through my veins.
It secretes from all my pores;
it drips from my runny nose;
it burns my forehead;
it congests my lungs;
it churns in my stomach;
it catches in my throat, making me cough;
it aches my limbs;
it throbs my head;
it makes me tremble;
it forms goose bumps under my skin.

As the flu ravages my body
I finally collapse in exhaustion,
vomiting a steady stream
of poetry
onto the paper.

Homeless with Imagination

by Todd Possehl
Like most containers,
this misnomer is empty
and holds only air. I lift it up,
careful not to cut myself

on the sharp circular edges.
Unlabeled and old, I imagine
it contained a kind of soup---
let's say tomato rice.

And it fed a mother
and daughter one snowy
December evening, perfectly
complementing the grilled cheese

which meant someone cared.
Later that night,
when Dad made it home
through heavy snow,

he read to his little girl
just like he promised---
the kind of words I never knew.
Things spoken to me were hollow

like this can. How it escaped
the garbage man, a mystery---

how it came upon my path,
sheer chance---

what that daughter must know,

(Previously published in Green
Hills Literary Lantern


by Lauren Finaldi Gurus
Over the pulpit
stained glass saints
watch me soar
high in the clerestory

Up and down
now on my knees
chant, recite,
sing In the name of the Holy Father

Rejoice freedom
find frogs
keep cocoons
All Rise

Peace be with you
lady behind me
And also with you

In a reading from Paul
Paul in fifth grade
in the name of the son
bow and cross in the nave

Racing on skateboards
radio stations
receive the host
Holy Ghost

Choir and organ
hidden misericord
a secret like heaven
give thanks to the Lord

Mass has ended
stomachs grumbling
Go in Peace

Sign of the cross
Purple cape passing
blesses and leads
out into the light


by Pat Petros
November signals us to bid
     farewell to summer's warm caress.
Soon north wind will begin to blow
     maple's flaming party dress,
which falls on withered grass below,
     a blanket for spring promises.


by James L. Corcoran
I wait for you. Your honor comes home
to a safe oasis apart from harm and
danger. Your cool words are the water
that quenches my souls thirst for life.
A task is a duty. A duty an obligation.
The whole thing is a test. One scene
passing to another, divesting of the
slight burrs in the opportunity of moments.
Resting in the breast of the eternally
renewing dawn I answer you with my
footsteps. Every day passing another
goal to quota, another mile to try. The
evening of glances and of looks. The
morning of arduous labor. I ply with
my hammer and sex of origins, but I
cannot apply what I am perfect in your
meaning is. I merely flail, asserting
again and again my muscles and
imagination soaring upon my dreams
of you. Making you the giant object of
my relentless quest for the answers in
myself. It seems we never wander without
you, but we do stray far from home. True
love has an answer though, It is.

The Path

by John Quinn
Please, come with me
where there's no path,
where we are not to go,
where God, through bishops
bid us hide
Adam's passion
and Eve's naiveté,
under piles of sodden leaves,
behind walls of fallen wood,
let desire be our beacon,
conscience be our guide.

Now wend our way
through brambles and forests,
through fumblings and bumblings,
through miles and trials
of unexplored and
forbidden, forbidding ways.

Where we end,
I cannot say,
even bishops sometimes shrug,
for they, too, once were young.

I don't know if
we'll finish together,
or what we'll find,
or even if we'll know
when we've arrived

but once we go
there'll be a trail
for others to follow
and on our way
we may not even find each other,
but, let's hope, we'll find ourselves.

Broken Down

by Deborah Vitello
I'm trying to jumpstart my life again
But my battery is dead
Without you there's no spark
My dreams have all gone flat
Since you hitched a ride to the Other Side
I'm stranded in the middle of nowhere
Without a map
Where do I go with no direction?
I always knew where I was going
When I was with you
Now I'm lost and out of gas
You were my only oasis on
This long journey home
My faith in life has temporarily
Been towed to the junkyard
And my mind is flooded
With memories of you.


by William Marr
sprawling beneath its feet
the world
like a frightened lamb
waiting to be quartered

Mediterranean Sea
Atlantic Ocean

under the setting sun
I see Gibraltar
gazing like a greedy lion
ready to pounce

note worthy

by John J. Gordon
myriad musical
from honky-tonk
to symphonic halls
it shelters
solitary tones
which sing out
and in countless
in voices from
to fortissimo's
brazen bravado

the virtuous sounding
and mildly
are instrumental
in fulfilling
its noteworthy

keeper of the keys
hammering out
black/white harmonies

bravo piano


by Ruan Wright
Was it the lie I told in Fourth Grade,
That saved my skin, but gave Clyde hell –
Is that the sin you saved me from?

Or the time I told my mum I'd cleaned my teeth
But hadn't – she must have known,
She always did – was that the one?

Or the lie I tell myself each day
That I'm OK and everyone else is wrong
Or just as bad, so it's all the same?

And what about Clyde? Did you take his hatred for me
And turn it to love, so he wouldn't lose faith
In humanity, die victimized, bitter, alone?

I said I was sorry and it was only because
My dad would have thrashed me, because
His dad thrashed him and things never change.

When I say I don't know you, or turn you in,
Or look another way when you're suffering,
Are those the sins you died for, expecting I wouldn't do it again?

Was it for the whore, the cheat, the murderer in me?
My blindness, my deafness, my lameness of heart,
My terminal, fashionable ennui?

Is sin really not in the things that I do,
Or don't do, think or say? But a worm in my brain with no beginning, no End,
        a splitting string of Socratic irony, I the interrogator, I the accused?

Were you really here before Abraham, with God?
Borne through the ages to die and to die and to die
That I might live and live and love, forgiven? Why?

That we might break the cycle of shame?
Realign the wheel of cause and effect?
Resign the blame?

(First published in The Chicago Poetry Fest Anthology 2004)

Sparrows Falling from the Sky

by Christine Swanberg
The soprano, whose voice is brilliant
As fire, sings the aria from Madam Butterfly
On the radio in the Port Townsend Antique Store.

The notes build like snow before an avalanche
On Mount Baker across the bay.
This could be heaven, I am thinking

Examining the quirky Nippon vases
I have grown fond of: the ardor of their attempts
At European Baroque foiled

By the ever-graceful elongated necks
Of snow geese, the calligraphy of stylized trees.
How I love this upstart marriage of East and West.

The aria reaches its zenith when I enter
Booth #23, a dark cove devoted to things Nippon:
The era before Pearl Harbor,

Before the high society ladies scratched off
Nippon from the bottom of tea sets
Delicate and filigreed as small, old hands.

The aria reaches its zenith, which
Would have been enough to fog my glasses,
Enough to flood my eyes. But

There on the wall a strange painting
Startles me. It is so topsy-turvy, so unidealized
I have to get closer to it to see what gives.

A cacophony of bird wings, helter-skelter
Like a firestorm, in faded red and muddy
Charcoal. Birds adrift like autumn leaves.

It reads: Sparrows Falling from the Sky.
Hiroshima. Circa 1900. Artist Unknown.
It grips me by the throat--rain on my face.

Autumn: The season of farewells

by Tim Breitzmann
You took them
On an autumn day
When the air
Has lost its warmth

Patches of black dirt
Where flowers once grew
Trees stand barren
Branches without leaves

The robin is not here
It has flown up high and far away
For this is autumn
The season of farewells

So many people
I have known and loved
Have left me at this time of year
Yet I love this season so

Especially early on
When the leaves begin their change
And the flowers
In their final bloom

As I walk among the autumn colors
My mind does drift
Till all around me melts away
I'm on the other side of time

I've been to this place
Many times in my life
It's as far as far can be
Yet as close as your next breath

It's where my memories go
Of things I've lost, of times gone bye
Where people who have touched my life
Now do reside

You know this place I talk about
On the other side of time
You've been there too
Everyone has

I've wondered of this place for so long
What it was, what it meant
I think I understand now
What this place may be

It's the archives of my soul
My very soul…

July Night

by Sally Calhoun
Angled against the edge of an ebony sky, the trees huddle as though in robes of black,
and fireflies, like tiny lighthouse beacons, blink on and off in the heavy air;
stars as distant buoys are sprinkled through the vast, seemingly liquid space above
while I, I hold this single moment as a chalice to my lips,
listening to the intermittent buzzing of the crickets' song.

I wait to see if you will appear on the porch
in a pool of saffron light,
letting the screen door bang behind you
like a reality check,
or as a crack resembling the crack of doom.

Heat lightning strikes, flickering.

Do you see the stars as I do?
Would you try to hold one on a lifted hand?

You have come from a far shore
on a ship I cannot even see,
and you anchor beside me on the grass
trying to find, for a moment at least, the course we both once knew.

Unlike you, the stars don't change, no more than do the arching silhouettes
of stranded trees, earthbound as though marooned on an island
declaring there to be no state of grace.

Tonight I prefer their stately company to the unexpected tracking of your course
that seems to me to be a pirate's thrust,
not a civilized adventure.


by Wilda Morris
Underbrush grows
in wild abandon,
hides white-tailed deer.
Their tracks
cross my path.
As I sit quietly
on the stump a doe
may approach
with frisky fawns.
At dusk as I wait
in silent expectation
a buck may surprise me
with his grace.

Sometimes, Lord,
you seem to be hiding.
I reach out
but cannot quite
touch your hand,
look but see only tracks
where you once walked.
Are you waiting
for a quiet moment
to surprise me?

(First published in Secret
, Spring 2004)

I make Me

by Dr. Sarada Purna Sonty
Who turned the light to unsaid words

Who have the weight of unseen matter

Who stole the wears of unheard song

Where hide those unearthed tongues

Why avalanche ashes on unfelt lust

When to feel the chimes of time

How to bear the rhymes of whim

I am in search of you! Only You!

To mark and map the flights of mind

Hear I am! Passing by turtled life's events!

Following the footprints time can't wipe

Ignoring crackly lees and thirsty sighs

Barren thoughts and vacant feelings

I give four hands and ten heads to me

Laughing Mythologies hide under veil

I see the morning, Lo! Wake in me!

Life full of mornings with sunny greens

How I felt thrill! Along my spine is Up!

The times and rhymes! Tides of wild

Undulating Tunes and tones! Zig and Zag

No day can dawn! My flint got spark!

My lovely dream! Don't fly away

In you alone! Height of my flight may be!!!


by John Pawlik
Beneath clouds
That hide as much
Or more than the stars above
This spectral figure on a bicycle
Under the glow of a dim street light

It is an adolescent boy by the way he rides
It is a boy on his way we say
Then to the home of his love

Or maybe not of course
In fact
And yet
It is the myth
We choose to believe

Because in the end
Even when hope and faith
Are no longer alive

It is after all
Though all is finally said and done
However forlorn it is to sing
The only religion we have


by Alan Harris
A rocket breaking free
from Earth's gravity is,
by dint of direction,
traveling a trajectory
into outwhere.

No limit is seen
to what is outer,
but what is inner
offers with its
infinity a rainbow
and a promise.

Let rocket people
point their probing
within if they would
make discoveries.

Far-going rockets
may be today's
Tower of Babel
reaching out and up
to an imagined
material heaven while,
nearer than our nuclei,
heaven is hugging us.

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