Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
October 2016
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Poems on this Page:


by James Reiss
on a hilltop:


What God Has For Me...Is For Me

by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
When I feel like my position in life should be more advanced,
I give God the glory for granting me another chance.
Because tomorrow is not promised, yesterday is gone and the present is a gift,
Therefore I have accepted that I am not in control and it is He who sees fit to lift,
My eyes open another day to enable me to see...
That what He has for me is for me.
Even when it seems like I try harder for what comes to others naturally,
I remind myself that first and foremost ‘What God Has For Me is For Me.’
It can't be lied upon, gossiped about or stolen because it's free,
I tell you that I KNOW that I KNOW that I KNOW that what God has for me is for me!
Because tomorrow is not promised, don't you agree?
Yesterday is dead and gone and the present is a gift and 
‘What God has for me is for me.'

Saint Mary's Woods

by Bonnie Manion
If I close my eyes,
I can feel how soft, how
spongy the path lies
beneath my running feet

If I look up, day-dreaming,
I see myriad waffling leaves
flashing in the sunlight
high above me

If I listen back in time,
I hear brother and sister faintly
through the forest calling,
All ye, all ye, in come free!

A One-Way Road

by William Marr
on the seemingly endless road
one car after another
each carries its own load toward some destination
trapped in the traffic
there's no way of passing
or turning back
he stares straight ahead
waiting for a glistening crossroad
to rise up
are we there yet?

Before the Snow Flies

by Jill Angel Langlois
Before the snow flies
and covers the unsuspecting grass;
before the cold bears down
and destroys the fragile flowers;
before the frost bites into my thoughts,
and the ache of dead-end winter
settles in my mind and bones;
before the ice freezes over land
and captures random beauty,
holding her in an amber moment;
before I pray for warmth
amidst the crystallizing breath
that hangs mid-air as it escapes
in a scream;
before the night calls to end
the long orange and yellow days,
I will watch the sugar maples
caramelize in the dying summer sun.

Forever Autumn

by Sherri Baker
For Gage, 11/8/05 – 10/31/07
Autumn, always my favorite,
begins and ends too quickly.
It briefly ushers in the year’s end—

colorful leaves a pictorial
of everything God can do.
The air, a sensory experience,
both tranquil and crisp,
like the scent of fresh linen.
Scampering animals, foraging
for those days on the horizon.
I’ve come here to share
an autumn day with you,
to say happy birthday
and watch the leaves turn to gold.
You should be eleven now.
Instead you are forever turning two.
Your season will remain,
forever brief.
Forever autumn.

Breaking the Fast

by Kathy Cotton
I have loved
night’s last black hour
as the universe

lifts invisible hands
to break the egg of morning
into Earth’s iron skillet—

orange yolk on the horizon, 
whites spreading thin, 
sizzling into the sky.

My appetite is sparked
for the feast
of another day,

the end
of a long night’s
empty plate. 

(Encore Prize Poems, 2016)

The Words

by Candace Armstrong
Through darkness they step
Indian-file and silent
like cloistered nuns
following a single candle.

All that is known of their syntax
flashes upon the screen of the mind
instantly rendering judgment:
keep or dismiss, use or discard,
until with little jostling
they reassemble
into orderly rows of students
or lazy, lounging courtiers
or, sometimes, into beauty.

(Published in California Quarterly,
Vol 42, Number 2, 2016)

Of Hurricanes and Gentle Rain

by Michael Escoubas
Sounds capture me:
hurricane Matthew is a lion
snarling through Jamaica
and Cuba and Nassau.

Florida is evacuating
after shuttering its windows.
Rain slashes like knives;
winds uproot trees.

Yet, in central Illinois
the sound of rain, soft
as a cat’s nose
under my armpit

soothes my sleep. Folgers
slurps and sluices through
the waiting filter. 
Sounds of morning

and safety surround me. 
I pray for those fighting
the lion, hands grasping
its mighty frothing mouth.

Serendipity Moments, Holidays

by Gail Denham
The house evolves into small globs
of kids, cousin groups, the senior folks’
corner, all lit with the moment…
this speck of captured time together.
A child takes the stage atop the kitchen
stool. She rotates arms, stamps a foot and sings
off-tune, indistinguishable verse, which only
she understands, yet everyone feels.
Even ceiling fans slow their blades.
Clapping, then brief silence.
Folks contemplate the performance.
Their thoughts fly to other wonders: 
circuses in back yards, Uncle Joe’s campfire
stories at Cultus Lake, children’s Nutcracker
appearances, church choir concerts,
majestic hallelujahs.
All this begs to burst from memories
now primed for laughter, yet folks
are hesitant to break the spell.
A moment, unexpected, relished, touched
by delight. Groups re-convene, wish
for another display that binds and heals.


by Steven Kappes
the day started like any other
early morning walk
followed by cold cereal and coffee
while watching the talking heads
go on about something meaningless
then moving to my office
and the emails
and on-line news reports
of the same stories
the television personalities
were blathering about
but in the air was something
an errant breeze or change of temperature
tickling a long dormant part of the brain
warning of danger  unseen  unknown
a feeling like a coming storm
as it had in humans
since the beginning of time
causing an unease
a restlessness of spirit
the urge to do something
but not knowing what that
something was

the other periodic table

by jacob erin-cilberto
finesse my heart
with your subtle intrusions
i am gladly violated by your smile
and deft touch

the physical beat accelerates
the emotional beat makes me move
in your direction
the rhythm of need
entwined with the migration of want

and we dance purposefully
in a circle of silent words
felt rather than spoken
a token of a chemistry that finds its own steps

without formula
just forms colliding.

Chicago, Night

by Donna Pucciani
The elevated train screeches
every ten minutes past a rectangle

of light where even to breathe
will shatter the summer night.
In the harbor, masts walk on water.
The beach backs away
into skyscrapers, the Ferris wheel 
becomes  other.
Microcosmic dreams ping
the elevator at the end
of a lonely corridor. Footsteps 
take the stairs two at a time

and the yellow light of a single bulb
mimes the moon. 

(Published in The Journal).

Fresh Ground

by Jennifer Thiermann
new widow
at the grave the scent
of forced narcissus

In the Flood of January

by Mary Jo Balistreri
day breaks the lacquered gloss of night,
swallows the grey that lingers until the sky 
beams onto the ocean an indigo so fine
it unrolls like silk, undulating, stretching.
Mangroves unwrap from shadows, 
burst upward in a mantle of forest green,
tile roofs on the hillside mirroring
that ruddy flame.

Land, sea and sky play separate, together, 
weave in and out of each other like voices
in a Bach chorale, lifting and expanding 
the visual space. 

A pelican flies high, wings flashing
in the sun that graces this Baroque morning 
in such translucence he shines black.

(First published by The Blue Heron)

unrelenting wind

by David Gross
unrelenting wind
batters the small
cove of bluebells

working all night
into morning
she tries to hold
it all together

with spider thread

(previously published
in Hummingbird)

Infiltrated with the Army of God

by Michael Talaga
Not every single day can be bright and sunny
And not all of life’s problems can be solved with money
But one day we shall see the land flowing with milk and honey
Until then, let us continue walking on this earthly sod
We know that our battle is won in spite of the odds
As long as we are infiltrated with the Army of God
Only God has the power to cast out demons and omens
“Love what is good; hate what is evil” says the Book of Romans
So would you rather be a liability or an asset?
Would you rather fail a test or pass it?
To make a long story short
Jesus Christ holds down our forts
What always begins at home is charity
Being devoted to Christ should be our deep clarity
He lets his children know He cares by giving us a nod
It is definitively good to be infiltrated with the Army of God
Do not allow secular worldly things to take control
Let the Holy Spirit’s power to do it with all your heart and soul
When the fight is over we stand brave, courageous and bold
An everlasting bond with the Lord is the greatest story ever told
A story that is ageless and will never grow old

A Ghostly Woman—A Halloween Cento

by Mark Hudson
“Spooky action at a distance.”
-Albert Einstein
Part One: The Ghostly Woman

A ghost is walking across the top of my car, (1)
just vagrant haunting strains of soft guitars.(2)
I pause; hear the rush of wings flying home, (3)
Its spirit such as I would own. (4)
Like an old Indian woman near death and solitude (5)
each look at nature brought the call anew. (6)
Your vacant eyes host realms I cannot share, (7)
on the tall trees to jump in the blowing air. (8)
I cannot rest. None of those lurking about here (9)
or the woman I loved lived for over twenty-five years. (10)
I live where it is possible, and die when it is not, (11)
like little men of “Gulliver’s Travels, “ who bravely fought.(12)
and ghost-lit lantern into a sea-like liquid wind,(13)
even the dog knows, its time to come in. (14)

1) page 111,Spring Sequence,  Clyde Kessler,
From Petals in the Pan-published by A.J. Huffman
2: page 24: Bits of Stars –Joyce Shivers-
first prize from Pennsylvania Poetry Society 2015
3:page 21:The Whistler-Lynne Hardy
Pegasus-Kentucky state poetry society-summer 2015
4: page127-Cornish Gold-Michael Dundrow
Metverse Muse from India September 2007
5:page 92 the Mustang mare- Susan Parker
Sandcutters-Summer-Fall 2015
6:page 46-Cracks in the Armor-Robert Schinzel
A book of theyear-2016-Poetry society of Texas
(7) page 118-I live with a stranger-Ellis Campbell,
Metverse Muse India-September 2007
8:page 85  Bird’s Eye View-Sudharanjan Dey,
Metverse Muse-April 2009-India
(9) page 42 Carnton Mansion at Night –Elizabeth Howard-
“Fresh Breath” a collection of poetry to live for..
(10) page: 18: An abundance of Absurdities Ann. M. Penton
(11)Sandcutters-2014-Arizona state poetry contest
 page 43-I love the dead-Alexis Child- Petals In The Pan
11: page 85-Bird’s Eye View-Sudharanjan Dey, India 
Metverse Muse April 2009-March-2010
12:page 508 Marine Snow- Miram Gamble-Poetry magazine-2015
13:page 34 Country Life-Deborah Guzzi-Legends-Greywolfe-2015

Part Two: Halloween Solitude

Mark! Where his carnage and conquests cease!
He makes solitude, and calls it-peace!
Lord Byron

The trees are gone, the parents, sibling too, (1)
which pass beneath shadows of solitude.(2)
A menacing, black bird disappears behind the moon, (3)
unabashed by medical reports, or deaths brought on too soon. (4)
As the dawn yawns awake, birds trill a wakeup tune, (5)
your grandmother is in bed, waiting for the spoon. (6)
Another leaf-fall numbs like pages torn from books never read, (7)
as hawks and condors swooped overhead. (8)
a time of frustration, as snow becomes equated with dread, (9)
What a lovely day ahead, but I would rather be in bed! (10)

(1) Photo Album-M. Frost Delaney- Massachusetts  poetry-2015 
(2) Sonnet words-David Austin U.K-page 37 Metverse muse-Sep.2015
(3) page 107 The Snores of a Hibernating Storyteller Larry Wahler
The Rockford Review-Summer-Fall 2015
(4) page 60 Tobacco Patch  Fresh Breath  from  Poetry society of Tennesee
(5) page  65-Morning-Linda Banks-A Galaxy of Verse- Texas-2015
(6) page 484 Poetry magazine-September 2015-Nuggets-Alan Gillis
(7) Page 66:William Doreski  Something to Remember-Petals In the pan-2015
(8) page 82: Joined between Squalls-Jennifer Lagier- Rockford  Review-Fall-2016
(9) Page 52: The Wait of Winter-Anna Jungles-Rockford Review Fall-2015
(10) page 65-Morning-Linda Banks-A Galaxy of verse- Fall 2015

Back to Me

by Cathy Lou Pearson
Sold home
Florida bound
Brief encounter
Not right fit

Back to Illinois
Found a condo
Stayed awhile
Bought another

Fundamental bedrock
Delivery denied
Seeking searching
Myriad miles

Found my niche
Mission fulfilled
Anchored in spirit
I’m back to me


by Marcia Pradzinski
...there is no break between the two substances, and no limit.
~ Rene Magritte
Magritte's woman stares as if in a trance — 
black hair, red lips, oval face, black almond eyes 
held still. Wood-grain strands swim onto her right hip,
her midriff, and higher to striate her breast. Mahogany 
grain swirls onto her right arm, up the hill of her shoulder,
then drops to engrave her left forearm. Seductive fingers
sliver forward to impregnate her.  Language of wood 
grazes her lower lip, evokes a shadowy smile.

I imagine my grandfather, a cabinetmaker, 
chiseling design and shape onto slabs 
of wood.  Lost in its fragrance, its pliant spirit, 
he hums as his tools work their magic. The wood 
guides his leathery hands the way stone leads 
a sculptor's. He engraves patterns onto edges 
of a table, the wood feeding through fingers, 
no longer his own.

(Previously published in The Ekphrastic Review)

Journal Entry Seven

by Susan T. Moss
I swim
in a river
of words, try not
to drown 
on the page
swirling white space
feigning innocence. 

I hear the rush,
feel the undertow
pulling me
murky waters
waiting to grab me
by the throat.

My Life on Central

by Barbara Robinette
Illinois’ hot and flat 
July plains wind-rustled

corn    red-ball sunsets.
Country club bars 

and warm blue pools 
lit Saturday 
single gin and tonic splash.
10 p.m. drive home 
alone navigating quasar 
galaxies and dark roadsides.

"The One"

by David LaRue Alexander
I heard a man
     who spewed forth lies
the stench of which
     collected flies
but no one else
        seemed to care
as people flocked
               from every where
For to their noses
                      his words
smelled of roses
       and they breathed them in
              again and again
And though it seemed absurd
     I decided to listen
          to each and every word
So I dutifully recorded
          and this is what I heard
He was clear
           and concise
        in giving
     his advice
He said his mission
              was to improve
      our condition
And he promised
                to make us
For what we were thinking
                he was saying
        out loud
He knew who to blame
             and he called them
        by name
And we all felt connected
                  for he made
us feel respected
He promised
to help us cope
He vowed
           to give us hope
He explained
why he was best
and guaranteed
A land of milk and honey
                       where everyone
        would make money
And we believed
               what he said
        was true
That he alone
                  knew what to do
So when he was done
                we called him
“Our Son”
            and anointed
“The One”
And he became 
              more than a man
He became
               our only plan
For we knew
               if he was right
He could end
     our terrible plight
For he drank
     from our tears
He connected
            with our fears
He did away
             with all our sadness
So I joined
             the insane madness
And as I listened
                       for a while
             we exchanged
                        a knowing smile
As the crowd began to chant
“Sieg Heil!”
“Sieg Heil!”
“Sieg Heil!”

Morning Egg

by Gail Goepfert
The mini skillet,
clean after last night’s wash cycle,
nests in the bottom drawer
with others twice its size.
I always reach for it first.
I tap the shell of an Eggland’s Best
on the counter and its liquid protein pools,
expands, dances on the Teflon.
I like how white and yolk are walled in
by the edges, secure.
The sunny yolk, framed
in the middle diminishes
the day’s gray as it promises lutein,
Vitamin E, Omega 3, energy.
The nucleus, the last to give in
to the heat, charges nothing
for making plain the beauty
of staying centered.

(First published, Emerge Literary Journal)

A Lesson from Icarus

by Beth Staas
…for he did fly,
his wings toward the sky,
matching rhythm and pace
with mallard and goose
on a warm summer day.

And we did love,
our limbs lustrous with sweat
to taste the ambrosia of the gods
and the fading mist of tomorrow,
knowing that we, like Icarus,
didn’t fail, but simply arrived
at the end of glory.

(Published in Art Times,
January 2015)

Freight Trains and Fireflies

by Marilyn Huntman Giese
A freight train rolls along the outskirts
  of town sending sound waves
Quavering against the shore
  of the summer Solstice.

A wandering Moon
  hides his full blown face,
Drifting in clouds, as noisy kids look for
  fireflies to chase.

Raindrops, leftover from a shower,
  drip down leafy boughs,
Splashing lovers who walk eager pets
  that strain against short leashes.

Wailing ever softer, the locomotive rumbles on
  with its click-clack, clickty-clack,
Toward hamlets where oldsters sit by open windows,
  breathing in the music of faded memories.

Nocturnal Feast

by Farouk Masud
Risen from the crypts, domain from under—
Innocent lives he will plunder.
After years of sleep, he is now awake
To feast on your blood and your soul to take.
Vampire of the night--die by the light!—
Killing every human soul in sight.
At dawn he sleeps, at dusk he feeds,
He'll rip your flesh and drink your blood he needs.

Walking the nights, watch the full moon rise—
Awaiting his victims in disguise.
Biting the neck, sip the sacred wine,
Drinking the blood in unholy divine.
Civilians in rage in which they tell,
To send this beast to the depths of Hell;
Torches and stakes leading through the night
To bring an end to the townsfolk plight.

Many brave men want to try the test;
One young man comes forward among the rest:
"I shall slay this thing or beast,
Man or animal of nocturnal feast.
I will dump its head at the city gate
To end the terror before it's all too late.
Fear no more, family and friend,
I shall battle the beast 'til the end."

The hero returns with horror in his eyes,
Caked with blood--reality is just lies.
At the gate, he dumps the vampire's head,
"Fear no more my people, the beast is dead."
The king grants the hero his every demand:
"Whatever you wish is my command."

Then the hero smiled as he stood,
Revealing long, protruding fangs:  "Blood!"

Stormy Night

by Irfanulla Shariff
I can hear
Thunder rolling
In the moonless dark night
Zigzag lightning
Winds getting sarcastic
Trees shaking
Leaves flying out
Saying goodbye to their trees
And then gently settling down
On the ground
Chipmunks murmuring
Time for tea
Time for tea
I make sure
All is safe
And sound inside
I pray for well-being
Of everyone everywhere
On this turbulent night


by Marie Samuel
But fair nor foul the truth is this
No more, no more  to be for me
A door has closed forevermore
It didn't slam but surely shut
And locked against a lonely soul
That prayed to help, to win the trust
Instead to find a truly broken heart
So go forth now and seek the truth
Tolerance is just not nearly enough
It takes acceptance for all to flourish
Dying vine, weed of hope untended 
Or cared for twining hopes thrive
To bring forth nourishment blessed
In some yet unknown sacred place.

On a Visit to Starved Rock

by Sheila Elliott
It is an algorithm, well proven,  age and soft stone
 result in worn rock,  like this tiny cave,  a crevice barely
 seen on a solemn  hill of stone: dusky, shallow,  lean-to shaped,
 a raw, barely opened , silent mouth of  stone above the river's bank, 
beneath the  windy commotion of  trees
 caught in the always unsettled Illinois wind.

Barges, below, on the river drone a deep toned, 
 always lonely song.  Here I pause at a  place ignored by  maps.
I am  mid-trail,  I am at mid-day.  I am overdue for lingering,
and the walls of this place entice, the cave's  soot-infused 
wall art tells a  story in  monochrome. Surely,  it was sought after,
 once upon a time, I think, I can see that shelter, here, is scarce.
It must have shielded pelts,  skeins, animal hides,
offered safety,  a place for small fires, 
a place to heal,  to seek wisdom.

A small cave, like many  others, it  is a forgotten 
 relative in  an odd family tree, its scions are  tree houses,
 attic rooms,  desks overlooked in the corner of 
damp basements,  dormered rooms in overcrowded homes, 
 chairs left  on  backyard decks in all seasons. Its lineage
 is knowing of the  empty tables where someone  sat after  the
household has gone to sleep.   Is it  just another  forgotten
 place that somehow I feel I know? Oddly empty as I leave,
 that  has long filled an ancient need to be temporrarily alone. 


by Joe Glaser
is eight-cartoon day
at the Vogue movie theater
with a serial thriller
and a newsreel
and the full double feature of course
and “It’s cool inside!” says a large hanging banner.

“Take a svetter, you’ll catch a cold”
she shouts at my vanishing back
as I race out the door of the cramped apartment
charge down 5 flights of stairs
and emerge into the front courtyard
 - "free at last!" 
just in time to be mortified
by a disembodied torso
floating through the air over
my head and plopping softly
right at my feet
as a “there it is!” wafts from
the closing window high above.

At the Vogue
I am funneled into
the teeming children's section
and surrounded by noisy kids
of all shapes and sizes
 - twisting and twitching and talking incessantly
and when I try to escape by sneaking
into the half-empty adult's section
I am caught in the flashlight's glare
 - like a fleeing prisoner
and marched back into the kid-chaos
by the humungous fat lady in the white uniform
 - ominously  known as  “the matron"
waving her flashlight like a Billy club.

Soon the kid-noise recedes, drowned out
by the exciting music of the chase, and I am spellbound
by the comic book characters I love, now in motion
splashing violence liberally across the screen,
 - "pop  splat  whack  smash  boom"
and I know each one will be back as good as new. 

After the happy onslaught of the eight cartoons
my attention is shifted into the fantastic
adventures of Flash Gordon,
propelling me into distant worlds
where strange people seek
the extinction of the human race,
until at the very brink of disaster
 - it’s “continued next week”.

When “The News-of-the-World!” splashes across the screen
a tide of incomprehension washes over me,
signaling it's time to wade ashore
and escape into the comfort
of the candy stand.

Finally comes the main event,
and I feast greedily on both
full-length feature films,
slurping in their celluloid reality where
 - danger   adventure   romance   wisdom
mesmerize me as heroes triumph
and villains are vanquished
and heroines sob beautifully,
all filling my expanding world
with more than life-sized 
images and ideas and experiences
 - my accidental tutors
delivering Hollywood lessons that I absorb
into the foundation I am forming
for my American dream.

Saturday after Saturday, film after film, I accumulate
the exotic fuel that will eventually propel me
to reach the escape velocity I will need
to explore my outer space
and find my very own universe.

© Joe Glaser, December 2009, minor rev Oct 2016

Railing West

by Alan Harris

Out through my train's
dirty window I see
the clear yellow sun
sliding its way
down into stardom.

A sudden stand
of trees whisking by
allows water to gleam up
from between their trunks,
still as the reflected sky.

Suburban homes
too new for trees
swiftly turn
like fashion models
on a stage.

Sinking like an
orange lollipop,
the sun is being
licked away fast
from underneath
by tomorrow.

Dusk is now underway
with this ambivalent sky,
neither gray nor blue,
tempting my train
westward into nightfall.

I have lived long enough
to have respect for tomorrow.

I have one sun only,
and only one tomorrow.
I wait and wait
for tomorrow until
it's all I am.

(From Knocking on the Sky)

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