Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
December 2005
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Poems on this Page:

Anniversary Poem

by Deborah Vitello
I was a reluctant kite unsure and unsteady
My feelings were tangled up in trees of fear
He was the tail that kept me from flying crazily in circles
The steady hand that saved me from being broken
And his gusto for life was all the wind I needed
His love was as infinite as the sky
And it freed me from myself
It was then that I flew into his arms
To live the next 30 years happily ever after


by James L. Corcoran
All our lives...candles in the wind
Searching for a footpath in the snow
As it whips against our cheeks and
Pulls us moment to moment closer
To a hot chocolate with marshmallow
The rain lives here in a subtle disguise
That sits on the tops of the houses and
Gathers the grade of the environment
Like a white shadow that covers every
Thing that once held defiance in awe
And that long do we wait for the green
A season passing as we look beyond
Again but our hearts are in a passage
That will always wait for us in winter
And we all must sleep till spring

The Writer's Life

by Mark Hudson
The writer's life is a lonely life
He has no kids and he has no wife
He writes his stories from dusk until dawn
He writes a few chapters and mows the lawn
He searches and searches for the ultimate verb
All his editor says is, "It's superb!
This chapter was good but the story is weak,
You need to do something a little more unique!
So why don't you go back to the drawing board,
After all, the pen is mightier than the sword!"
So the writer takes his sword and begins to duel,
All of his critics are certainly cruel.
They bashed his last novel and said it was a flop,
Which made the writer determined never to stop.
"A Shakespeare? Not I?" said the frustrated man.
"But my writing doesn't belong in a trash can!
I don't need to stop, I'm not ready to quit,
I won't be retiring because it's easy to sit!
A typewriter always obeys its master,
And so the words keep flying faster!
If only I can summon the dolllar bills,
I'll blow this popsicle stand and head for the hills!"
The writer always dreamed of travelling real far,
Whether by train, plane, bus, foot or car.
Just to find something to write about,
Anything here is just definitely out.
He knew stories would evolve before his eyes,
Whenever he set his sights on the skies.
But where could he go? he needed a plan,
His writing hadn't earned him a single fan.
He looked at his computer and started to sigh,
He felt his life was passing him by.
He might go to Heaven if he died tonight,
But he didn't want to go if he couldn't write.
So he prayed to whatever God there might be,
And he said, "God, I need to be free!
I try to write line after line, page after page,
But my head is like a big old bad cage!
My stories and ideas are going nowhere fast,
It seems that I'm always living in the past!"
God said, "I'm aware of your conviction,
You've been spending too much time writing fiction!
You need to expreience the world I gave to you,
Then you will know just what to do!"
It was a message that seemed to stick in his head,
Could that have been what God really said?
"Aha!" said the writer. "I've been blind all along,
I must seek my story! Am I right or am I wrong?"
The first thing he thought, the first thing he felt,
He had to examine the cards he'd been dealt.
"I must find someone less fortunate than me,"
So he went to a nursing home to be more free.
He talked to old folks and told them his tale,
He talked to a blind man and learned a little braille.
He wrote out his story for a man with bad ears,
He listened to a paranoid discuss her fears.
He saw those who were at the end of their rope,
And suddenly the writer had some more hope.
"Aha!" he said, as he conquered frustration,
"My biggest problem is procrastination!
I've been waiting for the story to come to me,
But the story is everywhere, can't you see?"
The writer now publishes a book every year,
He somehow was able to conquer his fear.
And the moral of the story, if there even is one,
Is don't ever stop writing, your work's never done.


by Christine Swanberg
Suppose just one root of the family tree
Went west instead of east
Or that just one renegade seed sprouted
From the canon of ancestors
And remained unnamed. Then Great-
Grandfather Sinclair might have been Ojibwa.
Just one root might trace primordially
To a medicine man named Sees with Three Eyes.
His wife, whose blood tom-toms
Through your veins, might have woven baskets
In a Moon Lodge with many of your cousins,
Whose names might be Eagle Talon
Or Two Antelopes Leaping.
If just one branch of the family tree
Were grafted, the name of its hybrid offshoot
Not written in the lexicon of heritage, then
Great-Great Nana Sarah might really have been
A gypsy whose line disappeared under Hitler.
Her black bohemian mane enchanting men.
Her gift for song unmatched. Her dexterity
A legend not told. Isn't it likely that the family tree
Has been exposed to genetic detours here and there?
A few places where the leaves don't match,
A patch where the bark suddenly whorls?
Think of the possibilities: Mongolian peasant,
Spanish Jew, Teutonic slave, Madagascan midwife.
Keep going back and you might find
A black bear hibernating, a black bat hanging,
A two-toed sloth, buzzard, ruby-throated hummingbird,
A bullhead bottom feeder, a pterodactyl,
A butterfly painted with a question mark,
A small green snake, a whorled blue barnacle,
Maybe something extinct and never named,
The story behind the dent in the DNA,
A living spark from the great cosmic tumble.

Light Years

by Donna Pucciani
Three stars in a row point north
to the Pole. The Dipper scoops up
the darkness of our eyes and pours it
through the branches of a maple
as we stand in the driveway in ravelled moccasins,
craning to the night.

When I was a schoolgirl,
the nuns lined us up like little stars.
We trooped on the subway,
across Central Park to the Planetarium
where we swung our saddle shoes
back and forth in upholstered mystery,
gathering the dark in our upturned faces
as the narrator, a disembodied encyclopedia of space,
connected the constellations with white lines.

The names wrought magic, and
we could spell them: Pleiades,
Sirius the Dog Star, Ursa Major
and Minor, like scales on a piano.
That was a long time ago. Fires in space
shone clear and comprehensible,
the threads holding them together
syllables on our tongues
penned in lined notebooks.

Tonight, we focus first on stars,
then on the black in-between,
centimeters a parsec across,
black holes that swallow old copybook tales,
as ancient mythologies swim in our eyes.

(First appeared in Salamander)


by John Pawlik
It is because
It is blue
That the bowl becomes
A focus for the pause

If the rim were better formed
Its very symmetry
Would lead astray the eye

Imperfect as it is
It draws the heart
Into the soul of blue

To see someone
You never knew--

Or had forgotten
Was ever there

Before the Storm

by Caroline Johnson
Outside the white light I feel
the presence before winter.
I feel the clenched knuckles of
December's slow yawn,
a memory lingering
like candied apples and Indian fry bread,
the anticipation of being wrapped
in the blanket of chill,
the broken blanket of blindness
as when winter's dripping eye
puckers with sadness.

And with a tinge of anticipation
on the closed perimeter of my porch,
the windows not frosted yet,
the absence of snow as silent as its folded presence
I wait, for the slow icicle of forgiveness,
for the embrace of dry breeze
that crinkles the bones,
for that clear prism of a young boy who
awakens to yesterday, and says "Yes"
to his life, I wait for the snow
to show my 9-year-old grandson a grandfather clock,
the kind that vibrates every hour--Tempus Fugit--
as I sip the delicious aftertaste of a berry latte,
and wonder, as does Pooh, when the best feeling comes.
Is it before you taste the honey? Or afterwards?

Freud and the Cat

by Mardelle Fortier
There's no such thing as a guilt-ridden cat.
They take your food and leave it at that;
Don't ever ask them to hang up their hat.

They'll waltz away and leave you alone
Without ever calling you back on the phone—
And any complaint they'll not condone.

They demand the best of fancy food
And never will eat if they're not in the mood.
They walk away to lie down and brood.

Soft pads on radio…turned off your clock;
They go off for a walk round the block
While you wake late for work with a shock.

So if you expect remorse from all that
You can wait reading Freud till you turn fat;
There's no such thing as a guilt-ridden cat.

(Previously published in Bibliophilos, Fall 2005)

Assisted Living

by Todd Possehl
You're someone, no one
in particular,

just older.

And you're
looking out a window
for perhaps the last
time at a world
you never knew.

Now the playing children
are sweet, the grass a breed
of enchanting green.

The fountain,
forever elusive, is above
in the sky's perpetual arc, a well
of cerulean youth.

And it was yours, ours,
all along.

Don't Follow Me

by Michelle True
Don't follow
me down unlit paths;
I barely have
enough illumination
for myself.
Don't climb
the mountains
as I build them;
a landslide is likely
without any warning.
Don't swim
behind me
through the sharks;
they are already
nipping at
my heels.
Don't run
towards my goals
that beckon
in the distance;
they are always
further than
they appear.
My path
may not be
right for you;
you must make
your own.

Don't follow me.

? (Insert smirking Walmart face here)

by Abby Strasser
What a shame his school did not offer "Biology"
their fountain of knowledge out of order.
What a shame he might have won that scholarship
you know the one given out by that all-American company
his mother worked for at a discount for a discount.
The one that bragged about how they valued her service,
how proud they were to be a part of her community
with the school that had offered no "Biology," and they only having 5 scholarships to give away in front of the cameras because competition raises the ratings and brings more viewers the message of the smiley face like the one now painted on her son whose dreams of college have just been shattered by the biology question about skin.

Young Love

by Larry Turner
Sandy's long red hair flowed down her back,
Martha's long black hair was coiled up tight.
Sandy's home like mine was out of sight
Of Martha's hilltop home that had a pack
Of servants. Martha's father had a knack
As businessman, his profits a delight.
Farewell to Sandy, once my favorite.
Let Martha's world provide me what I lack.
At Martha's birthday party, my hope grew
When cross the room I realized she bid
Me go outdoors with her and with her view
The garden, where she whispered as we hid,
"Now I am six years old, the same as you.
So I can beat you up." And then she did.

Christmas Mourn

by Mary Blinn
6 a.m. in the grey chill
no glorious streaming
seraphim announcements of
suffering's end. After a
whirling descent Susie Snowflake
hit the pavement hard and
disappeared overnight;
one more Baby Jesus
found wrapped in swaddling
plastic, laid within a dumpster
tears frozen in his eyes;
a scuffle of rummaging rats
grunts some kind of
hallelujah chorus,
the slaughter of innocents
continues to flood
hospitals with cherubs
black eyes
burnt skin
cracked ribs
broken wings.
Bob Cratchit indulges
his own crutch rather than
feel of weight of Tiny Tim
upon his shoulder.
God help us.

Illinois Prairie

by Bonnie Manion
Once nomadic Asians crossed the snow-crusted northern
land bridge, they discovered a virgin continent previously
unknown to human habitation. Over thousands of years,
stone age tribes of the North American plains survived
by following the animals they hunted in cyclic migration.

Stretching far to the south of the City of Big Shoulders,
a pair of rails winds over undulating glacial moraine
left in place ten thousand years after retreat of the last
northern hemispheric ice age. Hoary mammoths, bear
and buffalo have long ago disappeared from this land.

Chocolate colored soil, rich with loam one hundred feet
deep, is the legacy of the last ice age. Untilled in human
history until little over a hundred years ago, its swamps
now drained (but precious moisture maintained with
underground tiling), our flat Illinois prairie has become
an inexhaustible and versatile bread basket for the nation.

Millions of acres of grassland have given way to the reach
of the tractor. A sea of ten foot high waving grass has been
breached and tamed. Billion bushel corn and soy crops now
flourish where groundhogs and foxes once scurried. Loping
highways carry citizens of far-flung towns across this prairie.
But the sun still rises gold in the East, and sets red in the West,
as it has ever since man's first encounter with the great plains.

The Puppeteer's Tale

by Sally Calhoun
--from Nature As Psychoanalyst Without Interpretations . . .

As by a dark cupboard memory swallows up people from the past
over the years,
and their qualities and essence squat in shadow,
until something reaches, with fingers tangling in their strings
and shining hair,
and draws them out gently for some new sunlit dance.

Who writes the script?

The nickelodeon starts in some enigmatic way,
and the person dances to its tune, in our midst,
sometimes with others,
sometimes in the lustrous spotlight of a solo part.

A third-grade teacher,
or Mr. Wolowenski from the ice cream store.
A cameo appearance,
or perhaps a soliloquy hurtling through the night.

But who writes the script?

Memories come unbidden at times,
like a swatch of sampled cloth,
or a person's unexpected few lines, or a sudden summer rain,

or some other act of nature.
The swing of a skirt,
or a half-tousling swat.

A famous quote,
or the first-grade teacher, who said
"There's no such thing as can't!"

The marionettes linger in shadow.
They are no longer complete as people,
but glimmerings that flicker past
and fast,
in moments of leisure, or desperation,
or intent,
or aspiration.

But who writes the script?

Sometimes months later, years later, we know,
and nothing told us before who bade them
reemerge in a polka or a skip.

Only the memory duels with us,
as with spears carved by our being in progress
and tangles with the old variegated strings
caught by the charge of life's swift, frolicking trot.

Night Stand

by Wilda Morris
Jane Kenyon thinks
she is dead. She
writes no more
poetry. Leukemia,
not melancholy,
dragged her away.
But she sits
beside my bed,
whispers in my ear
of cows in the snow,
cats by the stove,
rock, leaf, bird song,
love, death, lies,
the silver thimble
and the medicine
jar. All night she begs
me to read aloud.

(First published in SecondWind, No. 4 [Winter 2004], p. 6.)

maiden fair

by Steven Kappes
she could have stepped
from a calendar
or painting
head down
face hidden
beneath the brim
of a straw bonnet
long purple skirt
swirling around her ankles
flowered blouse
of contrasting yellow
she is out of place
out of time

she should be
lounging in the front
of a canoe
rowed by her lover
on a quiet pond
with lilies
floating the surface
or strolling slowly
through a meadow
filled with wildflowers
butterflies swirling
around her head

instead of here
in the city
on a blustery
fall day
dodging cars
and buses
and foolish students
on bicycles

hiding her face
from the wrong world
in the wrong century

What the Night Offers

by John Wolf
Once in a while the heart lets go.
Evening over, the last guest leaves.
A screen door slams, bounces
once, twice, then settles for the night
in a frame worn smooth
by endless arrivings and leavings.
The porch bulb crackles, fuses,
fades, like an oak log's final ember,
and summer's busy swarm flies off
toward a distant glare.
Now, only darkness. And the slow
sound of rocker rails on old pine.
Overhead, clouds drift silently,
polish the moon to a soft patina.
Along the shore, tall grasses loosen
themselves to salt-scented wind.
Sounds that were always there—
cries of doves, wings of owls—
hang in heavy air over dark water.
Who can say if what the night offers
comes from outside or inside.
Does it matter, anyway?
How lightly the thin stones of longing
skip on the clear lake of a contented heart.

A Roving Eye

by John J. Gordon
Salute this seaside sentinel,
Soaring straightly toward the sky,
Challenging inclement weather,
With its dazzling but roving eye.

Dispensing light, its sweeping beam,
From afar, a periodic dot.
Piercing ever thickening fog,
Never dwelling on just one spot.

Soothing sailors within its sight,
What creates this warm sensation?
With polished lenses and tiny light,
It is simple magnification.

There Is More

by Gwen Ames
There is more to them
than the layers of words
mortared together with verbs

Ornately clad with adjectives
standing tall
supported with the steel of nouns

They rise skyward
row upon row
they do

Visitors come to view
and review
rattle the metaphors some
peer into them
to face their own reflections

But the architect has mapped out the details
of every adverb, inner rhyme
every corner, niche, and connotation
nailed together
with sounds, explosives, repetitions

Come look! he shouts
pointing to his juxtapositions
Allusions, allegories
promised past the door

Come right in—
      I'll show you,
there is more, more, more,
      oh so much more

Sealed in One

by Dr. Sarada Purna Sonty
Love comes from heart

Mind makes it bond

Soul comes in between

Makes lust pristine

Mind and heart play

The game of Osmosis

Soul in deed with a smile

Showers joy of intimacy

Mind tells stories few

Heart brings feelings hew

With Sun from rosy dawn

Across the dewy lawn

Time with silent feet

Marking mosaic patterns

Slips into sparkling stars

Now remain "You and Me"

No more melancholy "we"

City Spill

by Alan Harris
Chicago traffic this morning
roars and beeps
like a cheap video game.

Freakishly, at Wells and Adams,
a speeding bicyclist's paper sack
spills his stash of shiny bagels
all over Wells Street.

Heads turn.

Two dozen bagels kiss the street
at crazy angles,
then goofily twirl on empty centers
until gravity calms them down
in front of some cars at the light.

The bicyclist jerks his vehicle
over to the curb while hissing
inaudible words of concern.

Wells Street, now set like
a sudden breakfast table,
displays to the public
a tasty temptation
with not one taker.

Idling cars restrained
before the strewn bagels
by a red light
now turning green
begin to roll bagelward.

As if witnessing
a friend's execution,
the bicyclist clutches
his empty sack and
glares with grim indignity
at the squashings.

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