Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
October 2012
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Giant pumpkins

by Mark Hudson
There's a bunch of giant pumpkins
that belongs to a bunch of country bumpkins.
Some of this squash weighs a ton,
products of a job well done.
These pumpkins have won prizes,
because of their gigantic sizes.
In Ohio valley is where this occurs,
farmers creating pumpkins so pure.
As the ground continues hardening,
this becomes the best type of gardening.
Howard Dill won four years in a row,
it goes to show, you reap what you sow.
Quinn Werner's backyard pumpkin patch,
creates a bunch of pumpkins from scratch.
Werner goes among his collection of weeds,
and plants all of his pumpkin seeds.
He pots them and puts them in an incubator,
and has giant pumpkins and squash much later.
He then places the seedlings under lights,
and pumpkins grow to giant heights.
The first prize-winning pumpkin grower,
was Henry David Thoreau, who did it slower.
Back in the spring of 1857,
Henry created pumpkins that came from Heaven.
Halloween jack-o-lanterns were soon made,
to keep people from being afraid.
Groundhogs and squirrels may chew holes,
and maybe even a couple of moles.
One of the most famous growers was William Warnock,
a picture of him makes him look like a warlock.
He has two daughters, with matching dresses,
but in the garden, he created messes.
His 402-pound pumpkin couldn't be beat,
until, when Dill brought him defeat.
The Guinness book of world records showcased Will,
until 1976, when he was replaced by Dill.
Will fertilized his pumpkins with hen manure,
it doesn't sound like something I'd want to procure.
The pumpkin contests keep on going,
And bigger pumpkins are constantly growing.
Is this is a contest to see who is best,
or is it food that we could feed to the rest?
In America, we're used to giant portions,
while in third world counties, we see distortions!
In America, we complain when we eat,
the food we ignore could be someone's treat.
I'm not a farmer, or even a cook,
I write to invent a narrative hook.
But if farmers can compete to make the biggest crops,
couldn't we feed the starving, and fill up the shops?
There are famines in certain parts of our planet,
and even here, children can't stand it.
One in four children in this country face hunger,
what are we doing? You start to wonder.
They say in America we have enough food,
to feed the whole world, isn't that rude?
It makes me feel guilt for what a glutton I am,
for thinking certain foods gross, like spam.
In church, I heard a lesson from our preacher,
that "God feeds every single creature."
But can we really believe this is true,
when people are starving, but not me and you.
It's like they say, "food for thought,"
steal some bread and you will be caught!
The hungry man steals a loaf of bread,
he goes to jail, so he can be fed.
So I don't mind giant pumpkins being made,
but whatever happened to farmer's aid?
Do these giant pumpkins go to waste?
Does anyone even get to have a taste?
So food may look nice as decoration,
but when you're hungry, you'll feel desperation.
If you give to the poor, you just enable,
but who would invite them to dine at our table?
So if farmers can create food that is gigantic
let's start to think, people are frantic.
Feed the hungry, before it's too late,
you might be the next with nothing on your plate.

Diver Song

by John Pawlik
Come clean your lines,
lean your sides,
for we're down bound
for the Passage.
Sure your boots
and your mitts
stand ye well
within the cold.
There's no store
away from shore
as you go fathoms under
lo the waves
of the seas
to adventures new and bold.
John say adieu,
fare thee well,
to your sweet lovely Nancy.
She will ner
wait for you
while ya go the lonely way.
She will ner understand
that some men
must go searching
for the truth
and their selves
'neath some far off distant bay.
So stow your gear,
know your fear,
for we're down bound
for the Passage,
through the fog
and the dark
as we dive to under sail.
There to join
those mates before
who staunch braved
the gloaming terrors
of the seas
away from home
all in quest
of the Holy Grail.

Parallel Realities

by David McKenna

A mallard sits on the frozen river
     Your smile is void of emotion

His green head never moves
     your love barren of passion

His yellow eyes stare    unwavering
     I must set you free

through thickly falling snowflakes
     knowing I cannot contain you

and I    stubbornly    trance-like
     sensing    even at this moment

paralyzed by the obvious
     you are not really here

am forced to understand      that I am looking
     Pain bites my soul as you thank me

at a wooden decoy
     the kiss of friendship

on a long    lonely voyage
     so bitter



by Susan Spaeth Cherry
It wasn't the timeline of clothes
that defined her: not

the ivory, pearl-studded
gloves from the fifties
or the screaming paisley
scarf from the sixties,

the zippered jumpsuit
from the seventies
or the shoulder-padded
blouse from the eighties,
the clunky-heeled pumps
from the nineties
or the yoga pants
from the decade of zeros.


it was a hand-made chart
that captured who my mother was,
drawn on a piece of cardboard
from a castoff package
of pantyhose. Each numbered line

contained a smear
of color from a lipstick tube, followed
by the lipstick's name—
chocolate kiss, dubonnet,
golden brandy, toasted roseó

thirty entries evenly spaced
as teeth after braces,
created as a guarantee
her mouth would always
match her outfit

so no one would look
beyond her face
and into her head.

(Published in the anthology How Can
You Say We Are Not Related,
Scurfpea Publishing, 2012)

the face of evil

by Steven Kappes
hoping to see the face of evil
people study the television
where a man with red hair
stares blankly at nothing
no snarled lips and heavy brow
no lateral scar across the cheek
no one-eyed pirate
with his hair on fire
not now
not anymore    not this face
this face is the face
of the kid next door
mowing his grass
the guy at the grocery
who bags your buys
the fellow who installs
your cable television
he sits in disinterested distance
like the kid you went to school with
the one who was a math whiz
but nobody's best friend
the face of evil
is everyman's face
the evil on the inside
hiding    hiding

Sidewalk Sale

by Beth Staas
The couch goes out, its cushions past repair.
Next comes the lamp, the one whose shade is torn.
This table's scratched, and doesn't match the chair.
I'm cleaning house, discarding what is worn.
No need for letters, stationery, notes, 
reminders of the bitter lessons learned. 
I'll shred these sentimental anecdotes
to join the pyre of pictures to be burned.
Goodbye to buckets of malevolence,
and globs of anger slithering down the drain,
besetting scraps of hope and innocence.
An empty house won't harbor lingering pain.
Should scavengers replenish the debris,
may none be sullied by its falsity.

Mothers of Cabrini

by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
Back in the day mothers of Cabrini wouldn't allow you to leave the porch until you came of age,
You made fast friends with your neighbors and the slender catwalk became your stage,
Periodically she'd poke her head out of the screen to see if you were still there,
Then she'd go back to cooking, cleaning, chatting or relaxing in her easy chair.
You rode your big wheel, tricycle, skates, skateboards, or jumped rope for fun,
Your laughter was extra insurance that let her know you were safe underneath the sun...
When you fell off a ten speed bike for the first time your mother was right there
to dust you off and tell you to get back on...
Pretty soon you were turning corners and popping wheelies boy were you gone!
Mothers of Cabrini would walk you to school or would entrust you to an older sibling,
They'd reward good behavior or chastise you about your handwiting if it resembled scribbling.
They were your first teacher and taught you how to tie your shoe and say thank you.
They taught you to respect your elders, be kind to others and to stand up for yourself,
They wanted you to have more than they did and not have to put your dreams on a shelf.
On Sundays Mothers of Cabrini got you ready for Sunday School and church,
On weekends they allowed you to have company so for you they didn't have to search
Mothers of Cabrini would slave over a hot stove pressing your hair for you to take pictures the next day in school.
They'd take their sons to the barbershop and pay for them to be next up on the barber's stool.
In some neighborhoods children had to be in before the street lights went out,
It was no difference with the children of Cabrini they'd call you in before the sun went down without a doubt.
Kids laughed when they heard a mother doing a roll call of her children before dusk,
They'd mock the names, Mark, Steve, Vickie, Jackie, or Doreen, Marsay, Karen, Butch...yep, that was us.
If someone yelled out 'Yo Mama'....
It would certainly cause all types of drama,
You'd run home and tell her what the other kid said
and tell her you were defending her honor but she'd say
Tell the other kid to finish the sentence,
You'd stop for a moment and think 'man what was I so mad for'
and wouldn't seek further repentance...

The Virgin Mary's Personified Garden

by Rick Sadler
Please dear Lord let me dream of the Virgin Mary tonight
A dream that is beautiful with goodness that's really bright,
On a lovely Indian Summer in the morning of Sunday
The eighth day of September on the Virgin Mary's birthday,
I stood marveling at the little garden box that I had made
I dedicated to the Lady Madonna the Lord's hand maid,
All the plants personified her image in my mind that's Mary
Sensing her presence of her aura that was somewhat scary,
The tall Corn stalk with its golden Tassel was like a crown
Dream of the Queen of Peace in her dazzling emerald gown
The leaves shine like her lovely eternal Mantel of her Cloak
Which gently caressed my face like Mary did as I'll  evoke,
The Corn stalk had only one ear of Corn that I could see
Mimics the Holy Mom holding the Christ Child to my glee,
Then I looked down to see the Cauliflower that's planted there
See Mary's face in the white Cauliflower's head so very fair,
Green leaves circle her face like a Picture frame I'm amazed
Eggplant's shiny purple skin reflects Mary's smile I praised,
Maria is like a lovely garden planted in the rich filled soil
I love to garden and grow vegetables in the Garden of Mary
This my passion since I was a little boy as I was so very,
Blessed that through this poem the Virgin Mary came to me
That if she gave me a choice I'd go with Mary and be free,
Every thing I see reflects the Virgin Mary that I love in my
Eccentric mind who saved me as I looked into the blue sky

Falling Leaves, Falling Lives

by Bonnie Manion
Many leaves
pile up

Some leaves
ride updrafts,
veined kites
in brief flight,
then dashed

A few lives
flicker light,
flash color,

(First published in The Pegasus Review,
also Northern Stars, and published as well in
Poetry for the Spirit, 2010 Anthology of
The Sacred Arts Festival, Durango, CO)

Letter to a Friend in Ukraine

by David LaRue Alexander
Dear Nigel....

I cannot feign the measure of my displeasure, upon hearing that you'd been arraigned. But in truth my friend, I cannot pretend that it came as a surprise. For the manner in which you obtained your ill gotten gains was most illegal, and it pains me to know that you did not abstain from those activities as I so oft suggested. Therefore I maintain, you should not complain of the likelihood you shall soon be in chains.

However, as to your main request; I did my best to soften the blow when I let Jane know of your plight. Yet still, it was a terrible sight. She tried in vain to remain calm, but alas could not sustain it; and soon it was plain to see that she was completely distraught. Nigel I blame you, this is all your fault!

As a flood of tears stained her dress again and again, suddenly she let forth a terrible wail, the color drained from her face, and her legs began to fail. That's when I reached forth to hold her, and that's when I finally told her how I truly felt.

I suppose I should thank you. For years I had wanted to tell her, but knowing the power of the spell by which you held her; I refrained til now. Yet somehow in her hour of need, I found the strength to plead my case. Fortunately to my surprise my entreatments were not wasted, and I was able to gain her affections.

Alas my friend all is not lost, and your letter was not in vain. I was able to retain counsel for you, and he explained to Jane and I that he is certain to gain leniency for you. So that you should not be detained more than ten years. Jane has consented to marry me next Spring, and after our honeymoon our first marital duty will be to make the trip by train to visit you there in Ukraine. I remain ever your friend,


Miscast Expressions

by Chris Holaves
Oh, please don't repeat "You know. You know."
I can't reap what you fail to sow,
And when you broadcast "Whatever! Whatever!"
My mind closes slowly with shades of "Never."
These expressions don't help us grow.
And please don't say "At the end of the day."
Exactly what are you trying to say?
Are you saying "At the end?"
Or are you saying "At last?"
Thoughts are squelched when you miscast,
For you express them vaguely
And take advantage of a friend.

(First published by WestWard Quarterly,
Summer 2012)

Growing Old

by Marguerite McClelland
I grow old... 
I grow old...
Shall I wear the bottom of my trousers rolled?
Or shall I tell the truth instead, 
for all my friends who would approve
or disapprove
are dead.
Cantankerous, they say I am, 
in such a brittle state!
a tattered coat upon a stick, 
and yet, I feel not half as sick 
as in my days of twenty-eight, 
when, wineful, I was courting
all the scarecrows that the earth could hold
or they were courting me.
But now, by God, I'm free 
of fear of loss of luxury 
and love of popularity 
and hope of fame
and rue of shame,
and free,
if lame a bit,
to tamely rest upon these brittle bones
not half as sharp
as velvet in the office
or satin on the bed at home.

Summer's Last

by Marcia Pradzinski
day draws
breath slowly
lingering on
fingers sweetened
by sunlit batter
of crickets  skateboards
windblown through trees

as nightbirds pierce
the melting sun 

(Published by Amanda Blue
in Ohio in 1984 and in the
Fall 2011 Muses Gallery


by Larry Turner
(for Lincoln and Barbara, Nancy and Dick,
and now Bill and Jane on their fiftieth anniversaries)
Someday you will find yourself
in a debate over miracles. 
Someone will offer a definition: 
A miracle is a violation of natural law. 
Do not accept this! 
It is intended only to define miracles 
out of existence. Worse yet, 
it is dishonest: If you point out 
a miracle, natural law instantly 
changes to fit it. Worse yet, 
it excludes miracles like sunrise and childbirth 
and less frequent but equally 
impressive miracles. 

But here is a miracle that fits that 
strict definition: Despite derision from 
psychologists, sociologists, comparative zoologists, 
a young couple stands in the presence of family, 
friends, and community 
and promises to love each other for a lifetime 
in a unique and exclusive way. 
This is not a miracle.

Some actually do it. 
This is.

We Wrapped Ourselves in a Curtain

by Mardelle Fortier
as the wind blew our hair
light cloth slid over our ankles

Our tent shifting with our laughter
shadows playing like songs from bottles
accordions opening along our arms

We lived within folds
caught inside childhood
dreams of ships on a green sea

while toward us blew the sound
of trains calling each other like birds
the gingery scent of flowers

(Published in Rhino, Fall 1982)

Two Birds in a Tree

by Alan Harris
A large bird alights
on a small branch
at the top of a poplar tree.

He bounces and wavers in the breeze,
keeping his balance.

Such is human life.

Another bird alights
on a small branch
very near the first one.

Both bounce and waver in the breeze,
but in different rhythms.

Such is married life.

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