Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
October, 2020
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Poems on this Page:

Warm black

by Jenene Ravesloot
After "The Gypsy Nun" by Federico Garcia Lorca
warm white warm black warm white plays on the window- pane. Raucous birds with iridescent necks and wings and sharp curved beaks weave in and out of the chandelier. A sewing needle with its gold thread bites at the altar cloth. Christ forgive this wayward nun who looks up from her sewing to see three bronzed men straddle a distant hill thick with erect sunflowers. Roan red horses gleam on roughshod hooves; tear at the ground; lift this nun's stiff skirts of Seville linen as they come closer. She swears she could put out the brown eye of any sunflower if she wanted to or the eye of a sunburnt man while a sweet ripe orange swoons on the windowsill.

(First published in After Hours, Anniversary Issue, 2020)

The Skeletons of Elephants

by Mark Hudson
1: the Elephant of Dublin

Once in Dublin, it was 1681,
an elephant came, weighing a ton.
Mr. Wilkins the owner, kept him in a booth.
People paid admission to see the truth.

The prices were very high for the elephant to see,
it was for the wealthy, a grand old luxury.
But on a Friday night in June at three in the morning;
the elephant's booth caught on fire without warning.

The elephant was burned to death, to his owner's dismay,
people came and hauled pieces of the elephant away.
But Mr. Wilkins was a businessman with a plan,
by candlelight, a dissection on the elephant began.

Wilkins hired some butchers to cut the charred remains;
the butchers carved the flesh off and wiped up the stains.

Mr. Wilkins was able to get his way,
the elephant skeleton was put on display.

2: Jumbo

Jumbo, the circus elephant;
was gigantic and elegant
Went from Paris to London zoo,
sold to P.T. Barnum in 1882.

He would be in a state of euphoria,
giving rides to Queen Victoria.
In London, he broke both tusks,
they grew again, he ground them to dust.

In New York, in Marvin Square Garden,
Jumbo was displayed, his fame was starting.
Jumbo crossed the Brooklyn Bridge to prove
it was safe, it would not move.

Then there was a sad scenario,
Jumbo died in Canada, Ontario.
He got loose, and crossed a railroad track,
he was struck dead by a train coming back.

In his stomach many objects were found,
that added to a mystery so profound.
English pennies, ricers and keys,
a police whistle was also among these.

Jumbo's skeleton was left behind,
in New York City there to find.
The Museum of Natural History containing
Jumbo's skeleton, all there remaining.

The elephant's heart was sold to Cornell,
Jumbo's hide was stuffed really well.
The stuffed Jumbo was destroyed in a fire,
The jar of the ashes was sold to a buyer.

His taxi dermal tail has survived the blaze,
it became digitized in the digital age.
There are still pieces of Jumbo that survive,
in Tufts digital collection and archives.

They say an elephant never forgets,
but to these great creatures we owe great debts.
Quite the god to the believing Hindi,
a mascot to the Republican so windy.

Elephants are creatures that must exist,
don't take them off the endangered list.
Let's keep them alive, not extinct;
to all forms of life the elephant is linked.

The Unruly Child

by Idella Pearl Edwards
I have a very unruly child,
My commands he will not heed.
He breaks each boundary that I set
Though I supply every need.
"Do not go to the neighbor's yard,"
I tell him every day,
But when I leave him on his own,
To the neighbor's yard he'll stray.
I gently but firmly guide him back
To the place where he can grow.
I want to nourish and protect him
Because I love him so.
"Do not climb over the fence today,"
I plead with him as he pouts,
But when he thinks I am not looking,
He's over the top and out.
Yet there are times he gives me great pleasure,
And I am so glad he's mine,
For the unruly child that wanders away
Is my "Morning Glory" vine.
Sometimes I wonder, does God view me
As His "Morning Glory" vine?
An unruly child who wanders away
Time after time after time?
Although sometimes the grass seems greener,
"Lord, not my will but Thine!"
Let me blossom and grow wherever I'm planted
As a "GOD BE THE GLORY" vine!

Helicopter Seed

by Donna Pucciani
At first I thought you were a butterfly,
your wings twitching, undecided
where to land. Possibilities

were endless: the emerging Russian sage,
a newly burst iris shouldering the stalks
of lavenders and purples, 

or clumps of sedum awaiting autumn,
their mouse-like ears
wanting the whisper of your wings.

Riding the wind, you swoop up,
never even pretending to seek
the syrupy cup of yellow bellflower.

Some spring-mad maple
propelled your thin shoulders
into the May morning,

flitting among the forsythia,
the spent crabapples longing
for your whimsy, your levity

which never fears the ultimate
landing on lawn or cement.
If I caught you in cupped hands,

peeled you back and planted you,
would you rise again, rooted in darkness,
robed in bark and leaf?

No, you are a dancer, your strange
ballet surprising even yourself.
You are a drifter. You allow the unexpected

to control your minutes and hours,
leaving everything up to a gust, a breath,
a lift before the stillness.

(First published in Poem Magazine)

After the first Presidential debate...

by Michael Escoubas
I needed to clear my head
so September
walked with me
around the neighborhood.

Feel the subtle chill in the air,
she said, and the yellowing of leaves
and garden harvests coming on:
red ripening tomatoes
melon-colored squash
orange pumpkins
hanging heavy on the vine.

I thanked her
for reminding me
that order can be found
all one has to do
is look around...

this is more than can be said
for two powerful men
who might have given the country
something better than
trading insults as they rolled about
in mud and blood and beer.

Wandering Home

by Marie Samuel
For years wanderlust called 
A way to seek an elusive treasures
Yet life as normal had its charms
While gypsy life even more pleasures

So one foot anchored while stalled
Until a step to open roads ensured
Adventures varied amused enthralled
Have it both ways—new goals pursue. 

The day has come a date for us all
Home's four walls we safely measure
Days wayfaring and hopes recalled
And folks met along the way leisurely

For us the game is no virus to befall 
So venturing out is very stressful 
Staying in we reflect and often pause 
To count our many gifts and blessings. 

The Guam Experience

by Rick Sadler
The first time I had ever seen tiny Guam
I was intrigued by the island's charm,
Magnified by the crystal blue ocean
Seduced me like a warm magic potion,
A soothing sound of the pure Waterfalls
Talafofo Waterfalls as the Artist draws,
The lovely Breadfruit Tree stands so tall
The fruit taste so sweet as I can recall,
The Mystical Rose guards the people there
Patroness of Guam had altered in stare
My life in an experience I will never forget,
The Holy Rose called me on an island Moonset,
I loved jogging on an early Santa Rita street
As the Dogs were chasing me in a way to greet,
I think about the lonely Coconut Palm Tree
That survived the typhoon forever will be,
Reminds me of myself as I curiously arrived
The greatest resource upon this nice island
The people of Guam who gave a Pilots hand,
So should you ever pay a visit to lovely Guam
Be ready to experience life like a perfect Psalm,
To see the people's smile and nice hospitality
The reason I know cause I was there you see

Windmill Cookies

by Jill Angel Langlois
Your head smelled like windmill cookies.
It was intoxicating.
My heart swelled and I couldn't 
get enough of your scent.
I wanted to breathe you in forever.
And remember that sweetness about you, 
coupled with your purring in my ear.
It was sugar; 
it was Heaven,
it was Mommy Ecstasy
It was energizing,
it was over too soon...
They say you never forget a scent
that the olfactory function
will never fail in memory.
I'm counting on that promise.
I'm counting on how I will
never forget the feel of your soft fur
against my face or hands or arms, 
or how I will never forget your howling
in the middle of the night,
when you couldn't find me in the dark,
when you could no longer see
the level in your water bowl,
when you couldn't navigate
the stairs to your bed. 
I never want to forget your beautiful eyes,
your smile, and your lion haircut,
the way you showed up at the fridge
for cheese every time it opened,
the taste of your kisses,
the taste of kissing you,
the taste of your sick little nose
trying to gasp for breath
through the lesions growing,
choking off your very life.
The life that gave us life.
The life we valued so much.
Your little life was big to us.
If it weren't for you,
I wouldn't have the name: Mommy
and there would be no: Daddy


by Charlotte Digregorio
I ascend, 
spiraling to 
the summit. Seabirds 
glide to meet me, from sand 
to sublimity, lost in 
cantatas of rippling refrain. 
Lilac, lilies, and pale peach roses 
perfume the dust of a marigold haze. 

The Moonless Moon Festival

by William Marr
How do I know, tonight
above the heavy layers of dark clouds
the moon is a round ball, not a flat pancake
or a square or triangular block
or some formless mass
And how can I be sure
that there is only one moon
not a cluster
of man-made satellites
And of course in today's digital world
I can't rule out the possibility
of the old moon being now
a virtual image
Yet I know in my heart
that thousands of miles away
your gaze, penetrating the thick clouds
has filled the virtual image
with a pure brilliance
guiding my eyes
to the true moon

At Long Last, Love

by Barbara Eaton
How shall I say good-bye this time, this last?
No more letters, no more phone calls now.
We weren't really lovers, and it's past,
You seem to have forgotten me, somehow.

Saying good-bye might cause you to recall
What you have long ago forgotten, love —
That you loved me, and you loved me not at all;
That I loved you; that it was and wasn't love.

Even still, I feel a need to let you know,
To tell you honestly, at last, my love —
That, at long last, love, I am letting you go,
Setting you free from guilt, from pain, from love.

I promised not to call or write, it seems,
So I will tell you tonight, in my dreams.

This Present Reality Lasts Forever

by Phil Flott
The yip of dogs
this brisk Sunday morning
is a mountain stagecoach with four horses
outrunning nine pursuing crooks.
This scenario in black and white.
May I hold my breath
until the ending.

The Muse

by Rafael Lantigua Medina
Somebody invented the word Muse.
A sucker, a loser (enchanted by spirits)
or a soul with a serene countenance,
aware like a sharpen tackling hook,
ready to capture life as it is,
and take home the wandering prey
to start mixing dreams with realities?
A Muse is a high-spirited soul
that takes you through unknown trails.
Just look/think/dream of it.
It comes to you alive in a song,
a color, a taste, a touch, a fragrance
or a poem you haven't heard before.
It will drive you. It will drive you.
That's why I do not resist.
I can't. I can't. I can't
I just cope with it for good.
I love the intrusion that comes with it
for it makes me be the conduit
between realms looking for a sacred fusion.
So, O Muse, my Muse... come.
I'm here. Ready. Awaiting for surprises
we can capture and run with.
Like a Christmas toy, boxed multiple times,
spark my childish senses and wonders.
Let's reach others. I'll be the fool
you'll take anywhere you want, for answers.
Amaze me with your best enigmas. Do it.
Just do it without remorse—
And I'll be your voice. You are welcome.

Box Canyons

by Lennart Lundh
One: The Flavian Amphitheater

This arcing path between high walls, the arched roof beams surmounting pale and patched brick facings broken by rounded entrances to cells and storerooms: All lines reach upward for the unaccustomed sky and sun, the restless crowds clamoring to determine matters of life and death, defeat or fleeting mortal glory. Above as below, hope is not abandoned; it fled with small warning.

Two: The Old City

without a clock we'd be lost
among these many buildings
on this narrow curving street
each morning and afternoon
the shadows are thick
on a rainy day without sun
we could sleep too late
or end the day too early
and just imagine the Sabbath

Three: The Cemetery

This is where my brother's ashes rest while awaiting the death of the sun, this double-sided afterlife filing cabinet, some eight feet high and a hundred feet long, just one of dozens in this section. From the map, or standing in the parking lot, it all looks enormous, open and welcoming until I stand next to it. Forehead and fingertips resting on his chiseled name, I can hear the walls unroot, come closer to each other. The sky and sun collapse, arrest their fall just above my head as the ground shifts to meet them. Ashes to ashes: There's only one way out of what embraces.

Rose Garden

by Hanh Chau
Beauty of exquisite enchanting roses
Blooming in the green flourish garden
With every soft touch of sweet delicate sign
In the lovely early spring arrival
Birds are chirping to mellow song tune
Humble bees are chasing around the petals
Breeze wind is dancing in the fresh air
Mother Nature is around the corner
Calling out in greeting mankind
Filled with love and hope symbol
Beauty of surrounding captivating roses
In a colorful vibrant parade host
Display in their elegant grace style
With a radiant dazzling gracious smile
Disperse with their sweet perfume scent
Unfold with true color sight splendor
Aglow with joy and jubilant spirit
Embraced with a heartwarming stay
With a sense of breathtaking scenery
Like a paradise place with a magnificent view
So proud and humble to call my rose garden to be
In the hand of God's homemade beauty kind

She doesn't know I wrote this poem for her

by Melissa Huff
She's having both her breasts removed today,
a fact that I am not supposed to know.
To spread the news or not is hers to say—
she's having both her breasts removed today.
So no one treats her differently she'll play
this just the way it pleases her—and so—
she's having both her breasts removed today,
a fact that I am not supposed to know.

(First published in the Spring 2019 issue of
The Road Not Taken: A Journal of Formal Poetry)

Do Not Stand At My Urn And Weep

by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
For Ollie Sylvester Scott
10/15/50 — 07/15/20
Do not stand at my urn and weep
Do not lose slumber nor sleep
For I am not there
I am in the smile that you brandished upon first sight at your newborn
I am in a state where there is absolutely no lovelorn.
I am Free.
I have surpassed this temporary world and all of its restrictions 
There is no need for an itinerary nor prescriptions.
I am in the laughter that you shared with friends and family
I am Free
I am in that love song that you sing when you are happy
I tell you that I know that I know that I know that I am free.
I am in those last few dollars you came across when you
Thought that you were totally broke!
I am in Heaven in celestial surroundings alive and awoke!
I am Free.
I am in that touchdown that you scored in the last quarter
I am the vessel that quenches your thirst I am cool ice and 
ever flowing water.
So please do not stand at my urn and cry
For I am not there 
I have earned my wings to fly.
Get on over to the repast 
Play some music loud and fast
Because I am Free.

Time Travel

by Bonnie Manion
Once, at the beginning of time,
God said, "Let there be light,"
and the Big Bang brought forth
a universe of energy and starlight.

Billions of years into its making
our galaxy formed, shaking out
an obscure solar system of
coalescing hydrogen and starshout,

God played with the planets,
mixing elements and fire, dealing
to just one the conditions for
the chemical reaction that started life.

His play included dinosaurs to show
just what He could do; then God
set the stage for a big change,
the rise of mammals, humans too.

We might think we don't need God,
but without the right amounts of
sunlight, green plants and air, humans
long ago would also have died out.

Global warming happened to both Mars
and Venus; here, already started, is that 
same warming process; mankind now must
take heed to save Earth for future eons.

Hit Makers

by Arthur Voellinger
Major League
Baseball walk-up
songs have been
around since 1970
When a White Sox
organist played
something related
to a batter's
home state
As a way for
fans to identify
the man at the plate
Later, when players
chose a title for
motivational reasons,
It made sense
to wonder about
the stars from
previous seasons
Did Joe D.,
Stan the Man
or Hammerin' Hank
need a tune?
Or was their
music the result
of a pitch, a swing
and...a boom?


by Carole R. Bolinski
Let's walk upon the sand dunes of life—
erase its bitter memories.
Live for today
and forget all the storms 
that blew through these sand hills.

Let's rebuild these dusty mesas.
Reframe everything that has eroded,
assemble our tools
and learn new ways 
to live our lives.

Not Born to Be Chattel

by Wilda Morris
Whether you are eighteen, like, say, Michael Brown
or forty-eight like Chandra Weaver,
whether you're the father of five kids—Dante Parker
mother of three—Tiara Thomas
or just a kid yourself playin' with a toy gun, say Tamir Rice,  

whether you're indoors or out,
in a car or on the sidewalk,
alone or with a group of friends,
or walking with your girlfriend, say Akai Gurley,

whether you're a high school athlete
and honor roll student, say Jordan Edwards,
a mechanic, like Nicholas Thomas
homeless—Salvado Ellsworth
or mentally ill like Ezell Ford, 

whether you were put in a chokehold, like, say, Eric Gardner, 
were shot in the back like Walter Scott
or an officer slammed your head on the pavement—Tnisha Anderson,

whether you died on the street—Rumain Brisbon
or in police custody, like, say, Sandra Bland

you were not born to be prey,
not born to be rounded up for no good reason,
not born to be property
as if your life were cheap.

If you have borne the weight
	of hatred and fear,
		felt confined as if behind
barbed wire or metal bars

remember, you were not born to be chattel
		not born to die young.

(First published in the Rockford Review)

Three Tastes of China

by Tom Chockley
Mid-Autumn night
grandchildren single out
the best moon cake
my moon cake just a slim sliver
one last Mid-Autumn moon viewing
Mid-Autumn Festival
the taste of memories
in place of moon cakes

Telling the Truth

by Kathy Cotton
Teach me to tell the truth
she said

Truth when I tip in the winds
of overblown words

when details drift into
swallowing dunes

Truth when humiliation
urges me to hold its secrets

from your disapproval
your disappointment

your mercy
Teach me to tell the truth

of myself, to myself
truth of the impulse

the slide, the fall
the hard landing

broken once again
by a friend's kind arms.

So That He May Step into the Tender Light

by Marcia Pradzinski
Let his body down in our
grainy ribbons of light 
along the bones of me.
On the ground, come morning the grasses will genuflect
with a dozen swirling constellations.
How silently a heart pivots on its hinge-
silent as the moment before the world was.
Eyes closed,
he falls into darkness,
receding from my grasp-
a person can die of motherhood.

Cento Sources:
David Caddy, Kwame Davis, Dorianne Laux, 
Alison Croggon, Cynthia Brackett Vincent,
Marcia Hurlow, Jane Hirshfield, Elvis Alves,
Hedy Habra, Louis Gallo,  Karen Bowles,
Sage Cohen
(Published in SWWIM, 2019)


by Barbara Funke
We look like bandits
furtively checking right and left
who's eying us in turn.
Some clinical blue and white, some
florals, stripes and animal prints
for fashion-wise concealment,
medical is social, acceptance grows legal.
We take the bandit guise with varied zeal,
stealing looks and muffling judgments.
Resistant once as Shadrach,
I complain of stale heat
issued from my own lungs' furnace
but chosen over the crowd's
King Nebuchadnezzar eyes.

Meander Beyond Fears

by Emma Alexandra Kowalenko
I walk the forest preserves nature trails.
Wonder, do birds fear virus invisible?
Silent attack of West Nile Virus
seems far away in time.
Time when Crows and Blue Jays
did not fly these trails, did not see
these fields, grasses tall twinkling in
sunlight. I missed them then, fearing
imbalance in natural rhythms.
I looked for them. Feared their
absence from backyards, parks. 
I yearned then to meander trails
beyond fears, looked for them,
year by year. 

And I do now, yearn to meander
trails beyond fears of a silent virus.
Traveling microbes have silenced 
our human voices.
We walk muted under masks. 
Our gaze follows boisterous Blue Jays.
These birds confident blaze winged paths.
Hop from tree top to branches where with
changing calls, they speak to potential mates.

Crows find sustenance in parks, playgrounds.
They graze without fear of human interference.
I fear the silent void of children's voices missing, 
swings empty. 
Children huddled in homes respond to teachers. 
All encased in square boxes on computer screens.
While crows free to roam find balance in the imbalance. 

World virtual for children beats a natural heartbeat
for Blue Jays and Crows, and for me.
For now, I intend to meander
beyond fears, day by day.


by Cielo Jones
What happens when I fail to recall 
the nights we watched the shooting stars fall
Gone, the fragrance of my flower garden
the butterflies and laughter forgotten

What happens when the day colors fade
losing summer vibrance away it bades
The fiery purple sunset now turned dark
like the clouds that bring thunderstorms at dusk

What happens when sound flies off in silence
melodies abandon words in pure absence
Cheering, just pictures of distorted faces
contagious ecstatic giggling ceases

It could be bliss to not remember
the things that were, those things that are now gone

Lincoln's Blues

by Tom Moran
It's the first time
I'm in your house.
I brought the flowers
from your wake.
You lived on Wilson Street,
north of the Burlington tracks.
The arrangements look like a lily jury.
Crows pick at shiny things.

You moved to Illinois
to be a parent.
Next door lived Mr. Walters,
who "was born a week before Moses."
Millie and Billie lived across the street.
Billie played Willie Nelson at night.
One day, Billie's new pick-up truck was stolen.
Crows pick at shiny things.

You lived four houses
from Mrs. Zimmer;
her son enlisted in the Army.
She once showed you his medals.
He's now three rows over from you.
Mrs. Zimmer's son won't be re-upping.
Crows pick at shiny things.

You had to join
a local religion.
No one was there of your faith.
The church is west of town,
near Adams and Main,
on a hill,
where you said, "they feel closer to God."
Crows pick at shiny things.

I have more flowers to deliver.
The owner of the combination
funeral parlor, ambulance service, and furniture store,
said she would leave the east drive door open.
I load my van with your cargo.
The lady says her family's been in business
over a hundred years.
Crows pick at shiny things.

You were waked a week after
the Williams boy.  He lived with his aunt.
You said he was a good kid,
but after another fight, the police were called.
Cops said he had a knife.
You said they didn't give him a chance.
It was "pure murder."
Crows pick at shiny things.

You worked at the chemical plant.
That's where you said you got the cancer that killed your cousin.
Two other people have died working there.
But you needed the money and liked the life;
the plant is still killing people,
but nobody cares.
There are no regrets from board meetings.
Crows pick at shiny things.

You have all the flowers now.
They'll comfort you for a time,
but will wither and subside.
I head back home on the road north.
You belong to the stars and memory now,
your casket lowered home.
The handles sparkle with the bronze sun.
Crows pick at shiny things.

Fuel Dance

by Gail Denham
This morning the trees performed their
wind dance again. It marvels me
the careless abandon they exhibit
in the worst of storms — not knowing
if a particularly strong gust will dislodge
their roots from softened dirt,
or if a mid-trunk knot will snap and their
upper torsos will be laid among fallen comrades,
fuel for our winter fires.
Yet they sway and bow, scrape fellow pines
in greeting, whip in great loops, strain
sideways with lithesome movements, as if daring
our wood stove to swallow their supple grace.

Virus in the Air, Spasms in My Back

by Michael Lee Johnson
There's a virus in the air, but I can't see it.
People are dying around me, but I can't save them.
There are spikes pierced in my back,
spasms, but I can't touch them.
Heartbeats, hell pulsating, my back muscles,
I covet in my prayers.
I turn right to the left, in my bed, then hang still.
Nails impaled, I bleed hourly,
Jesus on that cross.
Now 73 years of age, my half-sister 92,
told me, "getting old isn't for sissies."
I didn't believe her—
until the first mimic words
out of "Kipper" my new parakeet's mouth,
sitting in his cage alone were 
"Daddy, it's not easy being green."


by Alan Harris
At birth
my mother
dressed me
in the world

which I have worn
ever since
despite some
fraying sleeves
and tight belts

that I can
deal with
until the main
button pops

and off of me
the world falls
in a useless

From Heartclips

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