Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
December 2002
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Poems on this Page:


by Mardelle Fortier
My pulse beating in my hand
My whole will squeezed between my fingers
Morning by morning
I write my way into the day

I wake with words on my lips
or a search in the dark for words
I start the long walk
my mind on a hunt
I dive into the silences
that still remain alive

Strange flights bright images of
white fierce silk
Even on my toes wait for dreams
Even my blood listens for a seed to fall
Red warm thickest blood cannot sleep

Hour by hour my blood moving
in rhythm
Minute by minute it pours onto the page
My whole soul cradling the white infinite
My whole life given

(Published in DuPage Arts and Life)

Majestic Mountain Surroundings

by Barbara Lauderdale Hearn
Calm leaves sway the trees,
and comfort the falling leaves.
The forest sounds so serene,
Like it's a dream.
A myriad of bird songs calm the majestic mountain.

The nocturnal creatures sing late in the night.
Fragile life surrounds us.
At night they sleep not making a sound.
Our featured friends serenade us
with song before daylight.
Then they're out of sight.
It's the signal of a new day,
Come what may.

The First Living Thing

by James Conroy
The first living thing
to place stone upon stone
was probably not human.

The first living thing
to coax sound from inanimate objects
was a musician we wouldn't recognize.

The first living thing
to see omens in the sky
never filled a sandbag or mounded a levee.

The first living thing
to differentiate sharp from dull
crawled on belly a long way to the edge.

The first living thing
aware lightning causes fire
began moving with the seasons.

The first living thing
afflicted by the burden, canticles,
deluge, and scorch of love
wished it hadn't, and
knocked the stone, smashed the reed,
drowned in the river, stabbed its heart
and was consumed
in joy.


by Beth Copeland Vargo
My sister brings me an antique obi from Kyoto.
Maybe this gift is her way of saying I should go back
to visit the country where we were born, to see gardens
of raked sand, Shinto shrines, and maples
with leaves shaped like a child's handprint.
I unwrap the sash of persimmon-colored silk
embroidered with gold chrysanthemums,
plum branches, and brocade fans like the paper
fan she folds and unfolds when she dances
the Odori with her hair pulled back
in a knot at the nape of her neck.

The nape of the neck is an erogenous zone
in Japan. Women wear the kimono loosely draped,
exposing the swan's slope of shoulder, the neck
whitened with rice powder. Once
a man kissed me there, saying, "It's so
warm, so soft." I never really loved him. I guess
I'd been away from home too long to feel pleasure
or pain at the stork's bite, unlike the woman
who stepped from this pool of fallen silk
into the floating world of the past,
the gray sumi-e rain.

("Obi" received the 2001 Peregrine Poetry Prize.)

The Reading of the Will

by Barbara Cagle Ray
The family sat quietly as the will was read;
John wept, for his heart was truly broken.
He had cared for Aunt Mary for many years,
Yet he wanted nothing except a small token.

Two others came for their share of the estate,
And they smiled happily as the will was read:
"To Jerry and Anna, I leave my entire estate,
And to John, I leave the Bible beside my bed."

A hush suddenly fell over the entire room;
Jerry and Anna both wore a triumphant look.
"John, it looks like we fared better than you;
All Aunt Mary left you is a worn-out book."

The lawyer quickly glanced in John's direction
And said, "Mary told me you were the loyal one;
I cannot imagine what she was thinking--
You must go now and claim the Bible, son."

John went to the house, picked up the Bible,
And sat down, for the day had left him weary.
An envelope fell from the Bible onto the floor,
With the words: "To John from Aunt Mary."

Inside he found a trust fund in his name--
"To John, who taught me the meaning of sacrifice;
My Bible is the greatest gift I have to give you,
But won't this extra million dollars be nice?"


by Pat Petros
The willow trees are dancing ladies
with green-gold gowns and silver shawls.
They bow and sway to silent rhythms
and move in time to south wind's calls.

They bend, admiring their reflection--
feet earth-bound where water glows--
adjust gold butterfly barrettes
as fishes nibble at their toes.

This Stonehaven World

by Larry Turner
You are my Sun, holding me in my path.
Without you, I would fly off in tangents and lose my way.

Established in the center--living room and kitchen--
you read, write, cook, bake, sew, and think.

In my orbit, I use the computer in the study,
pay bills in the dining room,
meditate and study the bible in the sun room,
read and nap in the bedroom,
plant and care for plants in the garden.

Together we lunch in the kitchen,
breakfast on the deck,
read newspapers on the porch,
watch TV and movies in the living room,
join our family around the table in the dining room,
share our bed of forty-four years in the bedroom.

You are my Sun, holding me in my path.
Without you, I would fly off in tangents and lose my way.


by Richard Oberbruner
Someone important to nobody but me
once told me to prepare for you.
Now that I know you in a way so
close I was advised to tread lightly
for what I have yet to see waits in
the same place as in me. In there
contains more sky more stars more
room to roam. More rocks the size
of hope. This someone important
has moved on to a place both of us
will eventually reach. Until then
each discovery opens places towards
it: beyond our skin yet resides within.
Funny how the influence of one affects
us two. More serious is what we do
with what is known as it collides
blindly with what we have yet to show.


by Bob McCarthy

peace is a pipe dream
at this time

peace is a crippled dog
at this time

peace is a crack in the moon
at this time

peace is a rotten banana
at this time

peace is a homeless man with no legs
at this time


Lies, Lies, Lies

by William Marr
even lie detectors

if you don't believe me
just try the following question

Does this dress make me look fat?

December: Chaplin's The Gold Rush

by Barbara Eaton
I flew to Alaska to meet you,
In a new red coat with black trim,
Like the charmingly clumsy
Muscovites in Love's Labour's Lost,
Dancing to win hearts,
Dancing for love.

I shovelled a lot of snow to
Pay for that New Year's Eve party;
I placed a folded napkin next to
Each plate, but
No one came.
I waited up all night, and dreamt
I was dancing the "Oceana Roll,"
Party favors and all.

All I remember now
Is that, in parting, I sent you
White roses.

My poor white roses,
Like a Christmas comedy.

The Bigger Fool

by Jody Dickey
As I shake my head
Listen to what she said
She's got to make a big hype
On and on this nurse gripes
Just another fight
To get old Moses to take his pills tonight
She shakes her finger in the air
If you'd only listen to what I said
And put him to bed
That noise he makes I can't bear
Why he acts like a fool every night
Everything is just a fight
That silly old man
Always has that stuffed doll in his hands
It was just a old rag
I threw it in the trash bag
She throws one more thing my way
You just don't listen to what I say
She goes on down the hall
I shake my fist to the empty wall
I get up from my chair
You see I do care
I hunt through the trash bags
For what she calls a old rag
I search around like I'm going wild
The doll belong to Moses' dead child
I place it in his hand
I do understand gentle old man
My thoughts were for him
I give a little grin
See I listen to what you say
I know who the bigger fool was today

Bug in My Kitchen

by Alan Harris
Let me guess,
box-elder bug
on my kitchen floor,
that you know neither
how you came
to be lost in here
nor how you will
get out--but you will.

Fright-propelled boat,
six-oared, you worry
the woodwork then
hasten across
the open gloss
and disappear
beneath my stove.

I shall not hunt you
nor shall we ever
meet again.

I am just as adrift
on this waxed world
as you were on my floor,
and yet I feel certain
I will someday find
a serendipitous stove
to mask my out-passing.

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