Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
October 2017
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Autumn Scene on a Lake

by Michael Escoubas
Purple clouds meander
across a yellow sky,
pines form a jagged tree line
to the base of twin snowy peaks—
a lone duck swims
leaving a silent wake
as if not to disturb rainbows and browns
on the prowl for food.
From my vantage point
resting on a smooth rock
I feel small, like a child
being snuggled in his mother’s bosom—
so warm, so full, so complete.


by Jenene Ravesloot
A feral female cat with bulging pregnant 
sides, an old gray tomcat with one torn ear 
and damaged voice box that leaves him 
miming his meows at 6 a.m., a tortoiseshell 
tabby cat with crusted eyelids and runny nose
whose skinny neck still carries a pink leather 
collar and the memory of some long ago mistress, 
a long-haired once-white odd-eyed Persian cat 
with matted fur and broken tail, a striped ginger-
colored kitten that balances on the clothesline 
and hisses at you before hitting the ground hard 
and dashing for the white porcelain soup bowls 
of milk and dunked pieces of bread you’ve put 
out, while your mother stands in the kitchen 
behind the Irish lace curtains because she’s 
afraid of cats and thinks they’re sneaky.

You begged and begged to feed these strays 
every morning until your mother relented. Then 
you poured fresh milk into the soup bowls, your 
grandmother’s best, and placed them on the back-
yard stoop. You loved to watch the cats eat their 
breakfast as greedily as you would soon eat yours. 
You loved their white whiskers and chins dripping 
with milk, how they neatened  themselves, just like 
good children.

(1st Place-Wilda Morris’ Poetry Challenge, 2014)

A Frayed Rainbow

by Tom Roby
lies smeared in an oil spill on the mini-mall lot. Its 
perfect arch warps into aimless spirals oozing 
purple bruises from a soiled golden center.

Someone careless with a leaky engine, I suppose.
Spring storm runoff should have whisked it down 
the sewers by now. Well, it’s a petroliferous world.

I’d better make sure that the lid is tight on my can 
of designer-mixed crushed-coral bargain-sale 
paint, before it slops all over my coat.

I spin past the Golden Arches, glide into my dry 
garage, and find the oil spill has pursued me. On 
the palette of the concrete floor its hallmark hues 

mutate into lime, puce and jaundice, as you slosh 
through the back door, soaked from some mission 
in the garden that couldn’t wait for a primrose day. 

You say that I’ve got to come and look at this—
an odd iridescence wells up like a paint spill. Now 
I’m a frayed painter, afraid that the paint-maker’s 
threat to cover the earth is more than a metaphor. 

A Glen Campbell Tribute

by Michael Talaga
This man was born in the state of Arkansas
He had exquisite talents without a flaw
The town he came from is called Delight
The biggest hit of his career was “Southern Nights”
The man’s name was Glen Campbell—a “Country Boy" who sings
“Gentle on My Mind” is the song that earned him his wings
“By the Time I Get to Phoenix” was one of Jimmy Webb’s compositions
A very close friend of Glen who made the right decisions
The Country music legend hosted “The Glen Campbell Good Time Hour”
And did a beautiful rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Sunflower”
“Try a little Kindness” was one of Glen’s wise suggestions
His deep desire was for Jesus—the answer to all our questions
I always listened to Glen’s music at my kitchen table
He spent most of his life recording for the Capitol label
He co-starred in a movie with John Wayne—“True Grit”
The title song was certainly a sure-fire hit
Glen was a session man with the Beach Boys and made history
He even wrote his own songs like “Fate of Man” and “Less of Me”
He worked with many other artists and groups
But had nothing to do with the company that makes soups
Glen recorded duet albums with Bobbie Gentry and Anne Murray
And he had his very own theatre in Branson, Missouri
Sadly, during his final years, hell unleashed its fury
He was stricken with Alzheimer’s for which there is no cure
But his family was right there to give him support
They all knew that he was in God’s hands I’m sure
And Glen knew his wife and children would hold down the fort
He played twelve-string guitar, banjo, and bagpipes
And always loved to sing songs of all types
Glen also played mandolin and bass
He always performed with a familiar face
He appeared on many shows including Our Grand Ole Opry
And was inducted into our Hall of Fame
He recorded gospel and Christmas albums
Which were all critically acclaimed
Now this “Rhinestone Cowboy” has ridden off to heaven
Therefore, country music will never again be the same

I Walked to the Lake Tonight

by Jill Angel Langlois
I walked to the lake tonight,
casting the first footprints in the snow.
Out of breath from the cold,
and from my grief,
I sit on the bench and gaze at the lake,
now frozen, like my heart.
You are not here to comfort me.
The cold wind laps around my face,
and I am a tiny boat tossed about in the sea.
I welcome the cold.
It is sobering.
I know death is forever,
but you never died before.
How do I fill this massive void?
I wear your red coat and it warms me
as the bitter wind whispers your name,
and calls me back to an emptier home.
I must go now.
Trudging back home I think of God.
I do not blame Him.
Death is hardest on those still living.

Park Shade

by Frank Hubeny
You grew in what became a picnic grove
Providing shade to what is now a park.
While dying you were cut and when I drove
One morning past your place expecting dark,
I found the stump, your tombstone, your new mark
And knew eventually that so will I
Look up with new perspective on the sky.

Crisscrossing paths

by Mark Hudson
	It all started out with Mike telling me about his friend
on Facebook from Georgia who has an untraditional family
	“You won’t guess what they have on Thanksgiving
instead of turkey,” he said. “Tacos.”
	Somehow, this led me to inquire his state of origin.
	“I’m from Middlesex, New Jersey, originally.”
he replied. “One time, we hadn’t been back in about ten years.
Then I drove back with my family, and we saw our
house and it looked different. I kept telling my mother,
‘We should see if the O’dells still live there.’ she
finally decided to knock on the door. 
	Sure enough they were still there, and Mr. Odell’s wife
 greeted my mother and they embraced and hugged.” and with that,
tears rolled down Mike’s face, revealing fond memories.
	Then it was Darth’s sixtieth birthday. He made
some statement like, “It is better to live in a state of
bittersweet bliss, then succumbing to the dirt nap.”
	I said, “Has it been a year already since I
did your caricature for your birthday?”
	So I grabbed the sketchbook I had, the one
in which I sketch people on the bus, and found a
sketch of an old man on the bus with a cane. I signed
“Happy Birthday!”  And I gave it to him.
	He said, “What is this, a prophecy?”
	I guess though, in the old days you could retire
at sixty-five. Turning sixty meant, “I only have five
years to go.” 
	Sometimes you return to New Jersey and find
that a family like the O’dells is there, and still hasn’t
forgotten you.  Other times, you eat tacos on Thanksgiving.
And sometimes, a birthday just means you are above
ground. But I still think there is excuse for merriment,
whether on Thanksgiving, birthdays, or even in New Jersey.

In Vincent's Bedroom

by Wilda Morris
Vincent van Gogh, “The Bedroom,” 1889
Art Institute of Chicago
It’s the day after Mother’s Day
so I ask myself what Mother
would say if I told her
I’m walking through a doorway
into Van Gogh’s bedroom.
Is she looking down as I try
to peer through closed shutters
into yellow light, hang my jacket
on a wall hook and lie down
on top of the scarlet coverlet,
spread my hair on a yellow pillow?
And what if Vincent himself
is looking down and decides
to show up, lay a wounded head
on the other pillow, his right ear
listening for my whispers,
hoping I’ll persuade him
sunflowers, and starry nights
make life worth living.
Mother, forgive me my indiscretion,
my imagination. Settle in on a straw seat
and lend your wisdom to my words.
I only want to save him, invite him
to prepare his palette, pick up his brush,
let yellow light burst onto a new canvas.

The Veggie Prayer

by Idella Pearl Edwards
Dear God…
I'm in a PICKLE, I've gained some weight;
My body isn't the same.
My appetite MUSHROOMed out of control
And I'm the one to blame.
PEAS help me, God, to gain control
Without You I am weak;
Unless I SQUASH this current trend,
My future looks mighty bleak.
I don't RELISH starving myself
But I don't want to weigh a ton;
Don't CARROT all for diet food
But I'll do what has to be done.

Your wisdom, O God, cannot be BEET,
So I'll listen as I pray;
If You will TURNIP a plan for me,
I'll do whatever You say!


by Marie Samuel
The way we learn they say
Is determined by our needs
To move if we are kinetic, say
Or by listening if so inclined
But some, like me, must see 
To retain, but wait, there's more
Than one way to gain and obtain
For some it works best by rote
To chant or write or go over & over
For few odd souls they say the game
Is without study or cracking books
They see, overhear and absorb much
So osmosis fuels their mastery great
No homework need for these rare few 
Just inhale and digest without books
Or work and beat the learning curve.

Big Brother

by Kathy Cotton
Lined up. Evenly spaced.
Nearly perfect.
That’s how a paper basket
assembled with white paste
should be. How the one fashioned
by my first-grade hands was not.

And once a hot tear touched it,
the stained construction was less perfect,
the tears less containable.
I told my teacher I was sick.
She called for my brother
who left his sixth-grade class
to walk me home,
my steps quick against his long stride,
my narrow shoulders bobbing
beside his narrow waist.

I never mentioned the basket.
Never abandoned my delight in the beauty
of things aligned and properly spaced.
Never stopped loving my big brother,
so tall, so nearly perfect.

(From Deluxe Box of Crayons)

Smoke and Color

by Sherri Baker
Wisps of smoke turn into trees
on a once blank canvas.
The movement of talented hands creates
beauty where none existed before.
Strokes of a brush add colors
and movement to the smoky trees
and a landscape of beauty comes to life
like magic in front of my eyes.
The art is for all to see, but for a
moment in time it is just me, a
proud little sister, sitting and watching
the unique landscape come to life.
So many questions leap through my
mind. Why are the trees barren?
What does it mean? Does the color beneath
the trees show a renewal of life?  Do the barren trees
show beauty in death?  The answer, I am
sure, must be profound. Does it mean something
different for everyone? Is it a deliberate
statement that only he knows? Should I even
ask? Waiting for him to finish, I voice my
questions with the enthusiasm only a sister
has. I wait, only to see my brother’s face
light up, and I hear a laugh that belongs only
to him. Slightly bewildered I wait for the laughter
to stop and he tells me his secret. I hate painting
leaves he says and we both laugh. A moment that I
still hold in my heart over fifty years later brings a smile
to my face and I still hear his laugh and see the light in his
eyes every time I look at the painting that is now mine.
For all the profound thoughts I had then, I now know I
have an amazing answer. Love, happiness, and
my brother’s smile are forever made with
smoke and color.

1969---the War Within

by jacob erin-cilberto
how many cliffs did you almost master
but the earth slipped out from under your feet
and the fall almost killed you
before the drugs could
how many suns did you crash into
with scathing dreams of white powder
and waves of psychedelic splashes
making music against the shoreline
are you still away from yourself?
am i the finger on your trigger hand
will you hold the gun steady against my head?
should i write the note?
or is your cursive planning 
to outlive your heart
and leave us a screenplay 
of the life you almost survived.

Generation Gap

by Arthur Voellinger
When schools
taught texting
and keyboarding
instead of
cursive writing

No one said
what a shame

Until children
could not write
their name

Or read
worthy of fame


by William Marr
only when it drops to the ground
its boiling blood
washing clean its feverish eyes
does it discover
the waving red flag
has nothing to do
with the damned sun

Cairns in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin

by Marcia Pradzinski
faces reach up
in sun
at dusk they nudge
that reside here
to begin
their silent steps
through trees
where loons choir
leaves mimic
pines anoint the air
and insects
to elevate rock –
piles to cathedral status.
(Published in Blue Heron
Review, Winter 2016 


by Mary Jo Balistreri
Back and forth, back and forth, a mermaid slivers
through the crystalline breadth of ocean.
For almost an hour, she curves left arm,
right, lifts her face to the air, the splayed
red hair to the light. She propels herself with ease,
subtly, so smooth she seems fused in motion.
Something other, she is the perfect phrase
of a Mozart sonata, awe the only response.
Perhaps this is what is meant by grace,
this unexpected transparency lifting, lifting
until certainty is no longer important
and all that remains is the real.

Raking the Yard

by Tom Moran
Hamburg, Germany 1943.
Allies dropped incendiary bombs
on civilians.
Firenado created
sent people in flames
circling skyward.

I wonder how the retired pilots
feel in autumn, burning leaves.
Does it smell the same?

Do they hear the leaves scream?

Thoughts Before My Mastectomy

by Caroline Johnson
--after Lawrence Ferlinghetti
The anesthesiologist introduces himself,
bores his kind brown eyes into mine
as I lay on the hospital gurney.

I ask him when I will wake up.
He says he doesn’t know.

I am waiting to wake up.

I am waiting for a new flower
to emerge, and I am waiting
to label that flower an orange lily.

I am waiting for the day
I will really enjoy fruit.

I am waiting for the moment
you come home from work
and I am waiting for the fresh earth
and clean rain to germinate that lily.

I am waiting in the day surgery room,
sprawled on an operating table.
I am waiting for someone to remove
this IV, to remove this breast, to shout,
“Hey!  Your tumor is gone!  Cancer has
finally, inevitably, irrevocably been 
eradicated from your body!”  But no!

I am waiting to fall off earth, to sail in space
and mingle with the planets.  I am waiting
to see Mom and Dad again, to hold hands
with their spirits, to not wince at pain.

I am waiting for a new chance at life, 
to see the sun transform our planet 
into True Love, for light on our garden,

for a sprig of lily and fresh orange juice.
Yes!  I am waiting for you and for the
operation, and I am waiting to thank 

my surgeon and my anesthesiologist
1,000 different ways—all grateful, 
beholden--for trying to save my life.

(Published online at "I Come From
the World" Web Magazine)


by Donna Pucciani
Capodarco, Italy
Floriana gives us honey 
from the hives on the hill,
heavy with wax and its own

We have not yet seen the bees,
only the hands that gather 
the gold into a jar, an ochre

(First published in
Peacock Journal)

I Am a Poet

by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
I am a poet
Not a court jester
Therefore I think
In rhymes 
Not in riddles

I am a poet
Not a musician
I strike with words 
Not with a fiddle

I am a poet
I seek 
To satisfy the 
Beginning the end
And the middle

I am a poet 
I work with a lot
of words
But I can work with
a little

I am a poet 
I don't think 
Life is like a box 
of chocolates
I think it's like a bag
Of Skittles!
Again, I am a poet
Not a court jester
Therefore I think in 
Not in riddles.

Your World

by David LaRue Alexander
Your world
              is so distant from mine
That I’m afraid our planets
                             will never align
For I’ve tried and I’ve tried
                            yet I really fear
there’s simply no way
                to get there from here
And even though   my heart
             so wants to go
When it comes to how
                     I simply don’t know
But what I do know is
                     I get lost in your eyes
and that it came to me
                    as a complete surprise
For you see
             my life’s
Uneasy to share
        my destiny’s ill-fated
There’s no space
                  no time
                      no place
                          for an “us”
Perhaps in some other world
                              that isn’t so real
I could tell you what I think
                                 and how I feel
But that’s not
                      this reality
That’s not
     what’s ahead of me
I need to walk away
                         all together
Convince myself
          it’s all for the better
Yet I can’t 
              since it’s a lie
My heart would break
                   and I would die
Or go on living
                  asking why
I walked away
So please   please try
                      to understand   
Why I cry
       when I say….
                              I love you

What's Wrong?

by Undra' Ware Sr.
Different generation but same situation as we witness God react through eventful

So much devastation in the world, it doesn't matter if you're a boy or girl. Bombs
discharged in the air, these world leaders just don't care. Million dollar bombs pose
a threat causing many civilians to weep and sweat. Has this become our norm,
wasting valuable resources and causing such a storm?

God is furious with our ignorant ways, he proved this point with several days. Many
witnessed an eclipse as the earth, sun, and moon united, leaving various spectators
excited. But that wasn't enough, some people ranted and chanted KKK or Black
Lives mattered, OMG, we just saw a body being splattered.

There is disharmony on the Earth and among ourselves, what must happen before
we heal? God interceded and sent Hurricane Harvey for the world to see along with
Irma to reclaim victory. Humanity had to be humbled as we put our differences to
side, God called upon nature and its tide. People united as never before, it didn't
matter if you're black or white; protect, preserve, and love life, nothing more.

We are the problem in society, we can't just love naturally. We get distracted with
materialism, power, and racism just to name a few. But, God uses our negative
energy to send a message or two, utilizing the Earth reminding us, nothing can exist
unless it's birth with a purpose or a cause. To reiterate this fact, the earthquake in
Mexico was an additional pause. Look around, observe what's been done. The
Earth and society is hurting. Ask yourself, what's wrong?


by Jennifer Thiermann
taking the red eye
the comfort of Orion
moving west with me

The Poet's Body

by Donna O'Shaughnessy
I discovered the poets body beneath the wet moon
	embraced within a field of beans abandoned 
after falls first freeze. Her patient hair plaited 
among the finished stalks
The soybean pods crackled, split, spitting 
out their disbelieving seeds

Her beloved pipistrelles signed goodbye above her remains
	where all that remained were crickets singing through
her mouth. Her lips unable to mouth the pushes, 
the praises, the well done you.
		Future poets will have to make the wind weep
		on their own.

My mother died once in a field of flowered couches
	with thick cigarette smoke fluttering untethered
	above her head. Her hair wrapped tight within
	crucified bobby pins.
		A rivulet of cold coffee dribbling out 
		her droopy mouth

blast of snowflake stars

by Carol Dooley
blast of snowflake stars
blurry diamonds, crosses
filled the black Utah night

I Don't Want To Die In Chino Valley

by Carole R. Bolinski
Amidst the scrub and sagebrush,
along barren fields that cry for water.
Where moonbeams breathe down on
scorpion, snake and centipede, and where
new beginnings desired rural life.

I don't want to die in Chino Valley.
As roadrunner slaps prey against the soft
white flurries of winter, or in summer,
when gopher plays hide-n-seek, and
land gives nothing back but a pregnant beetle.

I don't want to die in Chino Valley. Anytime.
Where dreams tear at couples' souls,
with regrets of why did we move here?
Whose dream was it? Anyway.

I don't want to die in Chino Valley.


by Gail Denham
Like the burnt finger from hot baking
sheets; like the mother who lingers
beside the grave of her babe buried
by the wagon trail;

letting go can bring a pain which eats
into the liver, the heart, creates new brain
folds, pinches the lips in a permanent
straight line.

We paddle up stream most days. Like most
mothers I try hard to hang on to all those tiny
precious moments which relax the heart
muscles to contented rhythm – small ones
gathered in one chair, on your lap, at your
feet, begging for one more story.

Yet they grow. Past glimpses – nests
of little ones under one roof, their beds full
of relaxed security jog through my brain.

Slowly, pain and joy also zips to the fingers,
pries them open to release them – let them fly.

Winter's Magic

by Keith Skilling
The ice fairy came last night
and shook her magic o'er the countryside.
Each tiny blade of grass was held captive
and frozen in a fragile bubble of ice
that glittered like diamonds
in the bright, warm rays
of an afternoon sun.

A soft and gentle breeze
wafted through the frozen treetops,
cracking the ice on bare and naked limbs
as they swayed within its caress,
bringing along a flow of warmth
to threaten its ice-laden
branches and leaves.

Icicles fell from rooftop eaves
as sunlight challenged their death grip,
and one-by-one they gave way to nature
and gravity, releasing their hold
and plummeting to the ground
to shatter and splinter into
fragile prisms of color.


by Marilyn Huntman Giese
Morning creeps up on those
	who sleep,
Rising through dark night
	to rose tip horizons;

But the migrant worker
	rolls over
And feels the light of dawn
	before it appears.


by Alan Harris
Suppose that
many who went before
are still here—as us—
and we now go before
all future lives—of us.

Suppose that
one major all-of-us
is being lovingly built
from billions of me's
as they labor or shirk,
create or destroy,
rejoice or agonize.

Suppose that
from separate confusion
where the me is king
all grow toward a fusion
century by millennium
which births a new being,
its cells and organs we.

Suppose that
space is pregnant with us.

(From Carpet Flights)

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