Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
October, 2022
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Poems on this Page:

Troy, City of Sorrows

by Christopher Kuhl
Mourn for the ruined city, then go away to the ships of the Achaeans.
             Homer, The Iliad

This is the outlander:
clapjawed whipsong in the fatted light
the barren clatter of teeth sown in the barren earth:
this is the outlander's voice,
headbone smoking in the sweated night.

This is the outlander shrilling his song:
whoreson of the jackstraw earth
piefaced sorrow of this aged land
this bloody land reeling in the pikestrewn night:
this is the outlander upright among dead men.


Where were the people?
Who gathered at the sea's edge eyeless in the eyeless night?
Who sang at the sea's edge timbered in the death-drawn light?

The women gathered at the sea's dark edge.
There was no sound. No sound at all.


This is what I remember:

the heart flayed footing the horn-dried skin
shadows weaned and bled by fire—

and reason crammed in the madding bed
rage by rage in rage consumed. The savaging
of mother's flesh insatiate in the bolted night:

the hunter's dream, cracked bed of rue.


Ours was once a larkswept land:

ours the angled stones gleaming in the lightstruck waters.
Our sons rose long and golden-limbed,
glistening lords of the gold-rimmed earth.

This is my dream for these clattered nights;
these nights of no music. No sleep.


Speak to your children; our tongues are stilled.

"Lost shall be the name on the land,
all gone, perished. Troy, city of sorrows,
is no longer."

The outlanders came
spears shining in the hooded night
while we slept.

In the city
the outlanders spilled our seed
the rocks cried out
and our sons went slipping down into darkness
while we slept on in the hooded night.

And now
we sing of our sorrow:
shining water, bloodied earth—

outlanders watching in the flickering light.


William L. Lederer
How do you get back in the groove?
Just remember where you came from
and realize you're on the move
through a booby trap kingdom
of science, art and religion.
Each one demanding the right
In a field of computerized might.
More weeds than you can stand.
Sneezing to beat the band.
Is it hay fever off the tracks
or a simple home on the lake?
I just got two heart attacks
trying to find a rhyme with cake.
Could it possibly be creampuff?
Enough is enough is enough!

Nothing should manacle our mind  
but the history of thought purblind.
Consider yourself a lucky pup.
Enough is enough is enough.
That's already been said.
If you say the obvious you're dead! 
My, this grove looks nice!
Shall we stroll a little with mice? 
Stop this! You're sailing aloft
to a barn with a hay stock!
I mean hay stack, Jack, you bean!
who nevermore can be seen.
Except here with a been in the beam.
This is it. I quit. It's naptime.
No just three more lines in line.
I'm getting too old for fame.
Accept me for what I aim: 
Mickey Mouse in your house:
Science, art, faith and the louse! 

A Little Girl's Smile

by William Marr

not a loud laugh
nor a ghostly chuckle
the smile I see
is from her innocent, pure heart
like a spring flower blooming
jumping out of 
her sweet mouth
her brilliant eyes
and her dancing hands and feet

leading me 
to a bright future


her mouth has barely opened 
her eyebrows and eyes already start to smile
then her forehead 
her nose 
her ears 
her hands and feet 
eventually her whole body
even the entire room and the entire world 
all start to smile

I totally understand 
such a beautiful joy
from her pure heart
cannot be expressed 
with her little mouth

Poets in the Rain

by Michael Lee Johnson
All poets are crazy. Listen to them soak
sponge in early rain medley notes sounding off.
Crazy, suicidal, we know who they are:
Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Dylan Thomas
the drunk, Anne Sexton, Teasdale.
This group grows a Pinocchio nose.
At times I capture you here under control.
I want to inspect you.
All can be found in faith once
now gone in time.
With all your concerns, I see
your eyes layered in shades of green
confused within you about me.
Forgive me; I'm just a touch
of wild pepper, dry Screaming Eagle
Cabernet Sauvignon, and dying selfishly.  
We don't know if it is all worth it.
I have refined my image, and my taste
continues to thrust inside your crevices.
Templates of hell break loose thunder, belches, and anomie.
Asteroid Ceres looks like you passing gas,
exposes her buttocks, and moves on just like ice
on a balmy rock just like yours.
I will wait centuries, like critics, to review
this fecund body of yours—
soiled, then poppies,
poetry in the rain.

Doris and Rock, Saturday Evening

by Lennart Lundh
Dipping lightly in and out of sleep, half-seeing the movie, she imagines lying back on the beach as the sun sets, or being embraced in the grass at the edge of the woods. She thinks of fingers tracing her collarbone, lips tasting the nape of her neck. Her head just right on his shoulder, the images are wonderfully calming and blissfully not. He thinks of those fingers and lips being his, of the neck and throat as hers. An hour into the movie, her head just so on his shoulder, he feels the familiar sensation as the circulation in his arm slips from asleep to comatose. At a certain point, this, too, is romance after the kids are asleep.


by Cielo Jones

Midsummer came and I needed the space to grow other plants so I decided to cut down the flowers at the front of my vegetable garden. My whole back fence was lined with more, so there was plenty left for my friends, I thought. While I was doing that, this tiny green hummingbird stopped a couple of feet in front of my face, and hovered there for a good ten seconds. I've never had such an encounter before. As if it was complaining. I stood up straight and looked him in the eye, my way of telling him these are mine. We stayed face to face, unblinking. But I couldn't stare him down. So I waved my hand towards the other side, which was also massive with flowers. I thought I heard him say, hmp!, before darting off. He flew round and round my garden several times that morning, stopping near my face every time he passed me.

The rest of the summer, he'd hover closer whenever I am out there, watching if I cut some more of his flowers. I didn't.

Underwater Lily Mysteries Tease Us

by Emma Alexandra Kowalenko
Water lilies, languid, liquid illusions, ethereal. 
Wall protects confines of their blue lake home,
reminiscent of Renoir's vision.

Late June sun dances its Springtime jubilee.
Greets botanic garden visitors, gracious
inviting gazes beyond lily lake's surface.

Water lily tendrils, tease imaginations. When,
how, do they grow in such watery circumstances?
Perfect blossoms float, boasting brilliant,
sultry colors, to every onlooker. Every eye,
invited to their deepest secrets, under water, blue.

Summer 2022 Chicago Botanic Garden

I Remember Silence

by Jill Angel Langlois
I remember silence
The scent of peaches
A gentle breeze
A warm grey cat purring
The pressure of his hand
His crooked grin
Pizza at Damiani's
Peanut butter parfait
I remember laughter
Fading into tears
The slow elevators
Stuffed bread bowls in the cafeteria
Yellow sterile gowns
His wrists tied to the bed
Watching as he gasped for air
Hearing him whisper goodbye


by Tom Moran
My mother on a ventilator.
Doctor says she's terminal,
two hours at best.
I kiss her forehead,
say "Love you"',
for hearing is the last to go.
I wait bedside
for her flight to be called.
Time passes like wet cement.

The heart monitor alarm beeps.
Sky caps rush in to
check her luggage.
Her flight is boarding.
She passes, chalk white.
White as the sheet they cover her with.
White as the page I write on,
white as the vapor trail of her jet
that angles upward.
White as the spaces in my life
when she would leave home 
for weeks at a time.

I Don't Know

by Rafael Lantigua Medina
I don't know about you,
but yesterday
I fell out of love with the day.
Night arrived
and lethargy covered me
with its cold mortuary mantle.
I sheltered in the darkness
of the room,
not out of fear
or out of horror,
but to try to seduce
new dreams... I couldn't.
Now, I've tumbled in love
with a new day again.
It whistled his soft singing 
while I arrived in the morning,
and, not by coincidence,
has caught me in his warm embrace.
I tell you.
I don't know if this
has happened to you.
But to me, it happens daily:
somehow unique. Indeed.
That's why, I don't know
what will happen tomorrow.
So, I better don't try to find out
and I start savoring the pleasures
of this day who has gambled
to love and greet me
with its cheerful bird's wink.
I don't know... Actually.

Standing with Ukraine

by Gari Light
Emotions, which by now are all gone,
as winter blues appear to be half troubles.
Global calamity is caused by certain evil,
which came on line, as winter ceased to be.
The wound is triggered by a February short circuit
to earth, it will be healing for an eternity, if at all -
in a planetary meaning, as well as others,
when an apartment building is annihilated live,
directly, aiming at the higher floors -
burning the kitchens, books on shelves, 
children's shoes, medicine on a table, a ray,
along with an old man's cry: "No forgiveness, ever !"
As murdered March was falling to the ground
it had a chance to let that April know -
the same conclusions, prophecies not heard
a man is still imperfect and unneeded, cruel
yet, all in all so brave and even loved,
when uttering -"We will defend our city..."
When us and them as was before
determined, this century as well, by spilling blood.
When humans don't abandon dogs and cats,
among the sirens, overcoming mirk...
Emotions have retreated, then have gone,
there, will be time for all the measuring and damning,
And yet, despite, what chooses to remain
is the awareness of the conscience caustic smoke...
Forever names Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol,
and that remaining prophecy: Will triumph

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