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Poems by ISPS Members
December 2017
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Poems on this Page:


by Jenene Ravesloot
Light and shadows move across your arrested limbs. 
You cannot run away. Each part of you flickers, 
seems to long for flight, but you cannot run away.

Your eyes, at dusk, appear to be set on fire with 
a sure and even inner glow, though nature has been 
altered here. You are not real and cannot run away.

Your leap on welded legs is aerodynamic; a study 
in chrome plated steel. I move my warm hands across 
your body that cannot tremble with fear or run away.

The thrust of your flanks speak to our mutual desire 
for escape. I turn and walk back to my car. I'll return, 
I say. You cannot run away.

(First appeared in the chapbook
Art Gets in Your Eyes, 2017
Highland Park Poetry)

The Shadow of Christmas

by David LaRue Alexander
Christmas has a shadow
                         Didn't you know
It's there just beyond the yule tide glow
    Though you may not see it
                  beneath the new fallen snow
But it's there
       Oh yes.... it's there
Away from the bright and shimmering light
              the shadow of Christmas roams the night
It traverses all the dark and gloomy spaces
                           seeking to find the smallest traces
     of the evil men do in their secret places
Remembering each and all their faces
And though I've never seen it
                                     I've been told
                     a tale almost a thousand years old  
How it takes the darkness 
                                            from each man's soul
and then turns it into
a lump of coal
So come Christmas morning
                             in your stocking you get
A lump of coal
               you dare not forget
Exactly what fate
                     that person met
But then....
              even better yet
You'd best remember
                    when comes December
The shadow of Christmas
                    is always watching
                                always stalking
                                         never balking
                            its duty too
Discover precisely
                 what's inside
                                     of you
Christmas has a shadow
                         Didn't you know
It's there just beyond the yule tide glow
    Though you may not see it
                  beneath the new fallen snow
But it's there
       Oh yes.... it's there

Christmas Snow

by Michael Escoubas
The double-yoked Clydesdales
barely strain hauling the sled.
Their hot breath snorts into icy crystals
as grandpa urges them on
through a fresh fall of night snow.
Our cargo is precious:
the family Christmas tree.
Sled-rails swoosh through
white powder. The horses' tack
creaks and jingles a happy song.
A redbird lands on a spruce branch,
lifting a spray of snow into the crisp,
clean morning air. It's the time
of year when smells of smoke and pine
wrap our lives in common things. Lord,
your music floats on waves of Christmas snow.

Chicago Winter Dibs Haibun

by Tom Roby
What a gift! December feels like Spring.
Enough snow melts for us to bike the streets,
but big city plows have piled up too much ice
and slush in curbside parking spaces.
Residents shovel the piles onto the parkway to
open gaps, to take possession with whatever
is at hand, to make curbs into outdoor
garages. A large pink dollhouse shames
anyone who dares think to move it. Rocking
chairs guard a pair of sawhorses across the
street. Two crutches rest on a pair of
mismatched suitcases.

in the space between 
life size Mary and Joseph 
room for anyone 

fictitiously real run-on

by jacob erin-cilberto
you have a gruesome beauty
fair skin, unfair heart
you lay waste to those who love you
your sky falls upon them
creating false dimensions
of drenched vision
weather beaten dreams
your effervescent eyes pierce through walls
they fall down
like the men you level with your
twisted betrayals
as you carelessly comma-splice
your life together
with theirs
rocky trust crumbles
into bleached stone
you whitewash the truth
into your truth
constantly averting a life sentence---
i thought about writing you into a poem
but you're not worth words
a semi-colon
or a period
of attention
and there is a gruesome beauty
in that.

Night Rain

by Bonnie Manion
Night rain falls 
with a soft 
pitter pat

darkness hides
all beneath
her big black hat

dawn emerges
swiftly, stealthy
as a cat

Frozen Word

by Kathy Cotton
(a Fibonacci diamond poem)
in blue breath,
an icicle on
my lips, an ellipsis of sleet
in a frosty speech bubble. Words slide over a pond
where schools of thought huddle like fish
in winter torpor—
dark and deep,

(From Ink to Paper, 2017)

Growing Old Together

by Patty Dickson Pieczka
If you'll be a splintered guitar
blossoming its song to the sky,
I'll be contentment that curls 
beside drums of dissonance 
and lulls them into silence.

If you'll be the lip of the lake,
your sand molded into the shape of dance, 
I'll be clinking bracelets,
swirls of red skirts,
the fragrance of kiwis.

If I am deep satin ripples
shimmering the evening sky,
would you be a heat mirage?
A twitch of leaf? The day
winging from its crimson perch?

And if a handprint stops the wind
and crows swarm, plucking dreams
from the dark, I'll be a wild red rose
thorning its way through tooth and stone
to lift you up my body's trellis.

(Previously published in Scarlett Leaf Review)


by Arthur Voellinger
Three inches
of snowfall
were enough

For the firm
of Roll
and Stack

To attract
with a knack

For construction
or destruction

Aunts and Ants

by Mark Hudson
	At my aunt's Christmas party in Ohio, my cousin
told me a story about my aunt that I never had heard.
	"Did you know that when my mom was a kid
she went fishing with your dad, and she sent the fishing
hook flying in the air, and the hook landed in your
dad's eye?"
	"I never heard that one." I said.
	I then began to tell her about E.W. Wilson, a
scientist I read about who was the leading expert on
ants at Harvard, and wrote the all-time classic textbook
on ants.
	"Was he an anthropologist?" my cousin joked.
	"Oh, I get it. Good joke." I said.
	I then told her about Wilson, who is still alive
in his nineties, who loved wildlife early on in childhood,
and was destined to be an expert on wildlife until he
was fishing and the hook to his eye left him partially blind,
thus limiting his focus to ants.
	"Oh, don't talk about eyeballs while I'm eating!"
my cousin said. "The two don't go well together."
	We were in Ohio, a place where they claim a unique
food, sauerkraut balls, which are like hush puppies with
sauerkraut in them. I guess you wouldn't want to eat
those after you'd been discussing eyeballs.
	Although, everything is politically incorrect
nowadays. Speaking of eyeballs, I remember one time
in creative writing school I wrote about a character who had a glass
eyeball, and she was at a salad bar and couldn't find it
among the olives, and the teacher said, "Well, I don't
find that very funny. I have a friend who has a glass
eyeball." I think I got a D in the class.
	I tried to once rhyme "highballs" and "eyeballs"
in a poem I wrote, but it was kind of corny. Or perhaps,
	There is plenty of time in life for aunt's Christmas
parties, and sauerkraut balls. I guess in Ohio they have a
tradition where they have sauerkraut balls to try and have
good luck in the new year. 
	One of my relatives said it never seems to work.
He keeps eating the sauerkraut balls and it never seems to
bring him luck. I wish I could have one of those right now,
but I'm back in Chicago on January the second. Happy New Year!


by Jill Angel Langlois
On that cold December morning,
my sub-zero heart beat slowly,
then slower.
As I opened the door,
my face caught the brisk air —
an eternal chill gripped my soul.
My icy fingers struggled for the latch
as I wrenched the creaking car door open,
my diminished breath frosting the windshield.
Freezing tears escaped
as the tires crunched over ice and snow.
I was leaving, the damage done.
Shivering in that awareness
and my newly created frigid reality,
I arrived lifeless at work that morning —
A glacial half-smile
met me in the mirror
as my heart froze completely,
and I shattered like crystal
on the cold bathroom floor.


by Donna Pucciani
Snowfall changes everything.
Safer to be in the sky's
dark womb of cloud,
a dying star nestled in
cold beyond comprehension 
than to become a single flake 
among thousands more
settling randomly
on branch or lintel 
among mounds of strangers,
only to melt in February floods,
slip into the gurgling gutter
with no goodbye, and then
evaporate who knows where.

To live is to die
below the safety of a grey
sky, hovering,
tentative, uncertain.
One thing is sure--
neither spring's apple blossom
nor summer's orange lily 
will ever know you,
recognize your small
icy fingerprint, your hexagonal
purity of heart on their own
patch of dirt.

Who will recall 
your brief descent? Only
the pine cone that lodged you
for a moment, or the acorn
that slid your white waver
to the forest floor,
your infinitesimal brilliance 
gone in a moment's celebration.

(From Edges by Donna Pucciani,
Purple Flag, Chicago, 2016.
First published in Journal of the
American Medical Association)


by William Marr
in the race with tiger and dragon
it's incredible that rat won
to put the Chinese zodiac in a fair order
there's one strict rule all must obey
no shortcut or back channel allowed

Wanting to See the Amazon

by Wilda Morris
When I say I want to see the Amazon, he assumes
I mean the statue of Penthesilea in the Louvre.
He's thinking perhaps of the exposed breast,
legs bare from boot top to kneecap. He's thinking
warrior. Woman. I'm thinking river. Rainforest.
He says Achilles killed her, removed her helmet,
was so stunned by her splendor his heart stopped.
He says Achilles wept for love that might have been.
The river flows not from tear ducts but tributaries.
It's not salt water but fresh. It shoves sediments
out to sea. It has no sword. While I think
of the Amazon's mouth opening into the Atlantic,
he thinks of the Aegean Sea and the sneering lips
of the statue or sensuous lips of the lifeless woman
lifted by Achilles. He says the Amazons originated
in Pontus. I say the waters flow from peaks
in the Peruvian Andes. He lies on the love seat
pondering the sad end of Penthesilea. I order tickets
to tour Brazil and Peru, not Paris or Pontus.

(Originally published in After Hours)

Hard Candy Memories

by Sherri Baker
My childhood memories are like hard candy.
Some are sweet, some sour, and the best
are smooth and taste like butterscotch.
My mom always had a baggie with a few
pieces of hard candy in her purse. On holidays
she would get the pretty ones that went in the
candy dish and stuck together. I didn't like
the sticky ones, they weren't like the good ones
in her purse. The purse mints were special. If your
stomach hurt the  peppermint ones came out,
crabby or bad breath made wintergreen ones appear.
Butterscotch was just a treat, like when
my dad worked during the evening and
my mom and I would sit outside and swing for a while.
We'd watch the fireflies dance in the sky,
or listen to the crickets chirping. Sometimes
she was happy and it was nice, just the two of us,
she would bring out her bag of candy
and I would be delighted with a smooth piece
of butterscotch or surprised with a sour lemon drop.

I usually loved to swing, to be outside, to
breathe in the crisp evening air, but in this memory
there's no candy. She's wearing her pink
nightgown that I hate. It makes my stomach hurt,
makes her talk wrong, and there isn't a special candy
to fix what's happening. I know that tonight
it's chilly outside and her hands are cold already.
I'm only ten and I have goosebumps from the cold
air and I don't want to be outside anymore.
I can see the goosebumps on her arms too, but I don't
say anything and we swing. Back and forth,
back and forth, back and forth, and I'm so very tired,
but it's my job to hold my mom's hand. I can't let her
go back into the street where she could get hurt or
lost, so we have to wait on the swing. Wait for
Dad to get home from work. I know how his face
will look when he sees us swinging outside
so late. Tomorrow's a school day and
we shouldn't be out here.  I already know
the television isn't going to work until
he fixes the part she takes off when she wears
the pink nightgown. He's going to be
tired too, but it's a different kind of tired
that I don't yet understand because I'm
only ten. I know he doesn't mean to look
at me like it's my fault, actually he probably didn't,
after all, a ten year old's perception of life isn't always
accurate. We finally get to go inside and I say I
have to pee, but really I want to clean the
mirror with the lipstick words on it. I'm not supposed
to know those words but I do, and if he
sees them his sadness will be worse and
sometimes the lipstick words cause the yelling to start.
The yelling makes me cry and I'm just so tired.

Mom is finally falling asleep, the words
are gone from the mirror and I hear the
television come back to life. I make my dad a ham
sandwich so he can eat and I can pretend I
don't hear him crying ever so softly. I put extra cheese
on the sandwich to cheer him up. He's watching a
western movie and pretends to be happy about
the extra cheese. Extra cheese is like candy for fathers.
We never talk about the pink nightgown nights,
so I smile and pretend everything is OK and say goodnight.
My eyes are so tired and I wish I could throw away
the nightgown and everything would be okay. Instead
I cry softly into my big green stuffed frog, hoping my
dad doesn't hear me cry. I finally drift off into sleep,
dreaming about other nights,
and butterscotch candy.

Autumn Saijiki

by Tom Chockley
a short haiku sequence
fall reference:
in steady rain
one gray coyote

sandhill cranes
in the same wind
red maple leaves

turkey-sausage breakfast
at the shelter

messages in the dark

by Steven Kappes
I sit at the computer
your words appear
but before I can answer
more words arrive
I try to answer the first
but get intertwined
with the second
while your reply
refers to something earlier
that I had almost forgotten
love mixed with longing
and silly things that happen
all lost in a thicket of words
as if nothing at all is real
and none of it is important

double rainbow

by Jennifer Thiermann
double rainbow
promises promises


by Frank Hubeny
The day turned cold and dark. We went to bed.
Our eyes closed on a starry, winter's night.
Visitors appeared and we were led
Through lost, forgotten, ancient, truer light.
Their messages grew clear with inner sight.
When morning showed the brightness of fresh snow,
Those secrets we uncovered we let go.


by Maureen A. Geary

Looking, listening too                    
               heaps promptings
          with wordless wonderment
                    providing a notion
          of due north direction
               on the path
          carefully constructed
               from fathomless ocean
          "Out," each avenue calls
               adding stones
          to the yellow brick road
               wielding locomotion
          Colorful strokes loosen
               knotted fist
          Loopy letters construe
                    semblance from commotion
          Cradling Paddy's fiddle
               fulfills my
          nurturing instinct and
               aesthetic explosion
          Expressions exuding
          liquify icy hearts
               allowing devotion

Race Against Time

by Mary Jo Balistreri
As if Turner had painted speed
on the Gulf, boats were lost
in frothy foam,
spray-spewing fountains, 
race so close that all we saw 
was white-washed canvas,
life mimicked art. 

We took root in the sand,
astonished that disappearance
could be that beautiful.


by Monty Mittleman
Among your fields
Listening to Kildeer,
As mice eye the biscuit in your 

To Each Lost Love Its Elegy

by Lennart Lundh
This is for you, for me, for us but not only. 
This is for the haunted, and for the ones 
who never thought to be their ghosts. This is 
for the scars, and for the ones who thrust 
love's knife. 

I'm holding the memory of you right now like 
you held my breath in yours the first time we 
made our bodies offerings on the altar of 
mutual need.

Twelfth Night

by Beth Staas
The stable's boxed, its toy-like figures stored 
on closet shelves, along with ribbons, bows, 
leftover cards with pictures of Our Lord
who lies on manger's straw in swaddling clothes. 	
Next, ornaments, bright lights, the Christmas star,
three kings, six camels, grandma's silver bell.   
The oxen, sheep and lambs have strayed afar,
tucked in Tad's brown-bag lunch for show and tell.
Fat Santa's sleigh contains one lonely elf,
while candles left to burn throughout the day  
left puddled wax upon the mantel shelf,
the finish scourged, its coating stripped away.
Outside trees genuflect with snowy breath
as Advent's closing joy prepares for death.

Soap Opera #7

by Carol Dooley
A wedding invitation!  She smiled
and thought, oh, a trip!
A trip to Germany.
It was time for a visit!
Also a chance to see her husband,
her foreign husband, now without
a green card, without a visa.
Tomorrow.  She would worry about that
tomorrow.  Along with plane tickets, vacation
days, tax filings.  Tomorrow.
It would be a quick trip.  Stay with friends.
How lovely!  Oh, he is flying to Madrid.
She would love to see Madrid.
And Barcelona again.
And friends.  Matt and Diana.  Would
they be in Spain or Norway?  And Chris.
She could visit them...


by Kathleen Robinson
You may awake some night to
understand that just one
of your many facets
has assumed command—
perhaps    for     far     too long,
beyond the point

of any possible utility.
Perhaps your sense of nurture
ran amok—like the lover of cats
with dozens or scores of under-
fed, half-wild companions.
Or creative spirit misdirected:

now the very space you occupy
chokes with piles of dust-
encrusted, sunbleached findings,
random bargain buys for 
a collage unborn, the
sculpture, painting, quilt—

your masterpiece within.
Will you have wisdom then
to truly see that life is brief,
it's time to focus and refine
your sense of who you are and

what you might yet do?
Time to choose just one
metaphorical kitten to cherish,
with fierce responsibility
for your dreams and—yes—

your future self,
here where you are
and where you yet may be.

their tempest

by William Carey
Their fable began with a frightful Christmas storm.
They didn't make Florida, flight fouled by sleet, the norm.
After falling that night from his recliner and airport anxiety,
the fellow I recall as Dad (morphed by marooned Milan to Stranger, brain failing)
visited Doctor, who cancelled travel to their paradise isle.
Mom did not foresee this brave new world,
this Chicago winter captivity for two old duffers who can't crack ice anymore.
Exiled to a swell suburb, held by the spell, they might be Ferdinand and Miranda,
locked in love and flailing, in someone's memory yet boy and girl.

Are the caregivers really all Calibans, Mom? Too big, too dumb, 
too talky, too lax, too monstrous to have underfoot and under her roof.
The proof, though, of Prospero's potion shows in her minor moves,
like those of the bloated battleship Dad crewed in earlier wars able to turn 
only glacially, shuddering, fighting change in direction through heavy sea.
"She's coming around, captain!" though so slowly it surprises me,
when Nurse wants to work longer shifts, that Mom approves.

She still does solo Sundays—for church if some grown child visits, or for peace,
if peace is nonstop vigilance and nonsense chatter with a tattered seaman
drowning like Gonzalo as the magical skiff sank. But both guys survive, 
smiling in first folios wearing ancient capes washed fresh of saltwater, or soft 
in kitchen chairs, in polos and stretch khakis (poof!) new after meal spills stank.

In this story Mom survives too, brave as hell
in yielding to some dream not hers,
in ceding mastery of her plan 86 years built well,
never quenching her bright spirit, her private Ariel.
She takes the endless Calibans to keep her man on stage
to strut his stuff as though living his own dream still,
desperate to find beauteous, precious mankind
in this wide world new to her,
in holy hope that Prospero or God might save his soul if not his mind.

Milwaukee's January

by Myron L. Stokes
Snow has fallen all night
and more coming.
Fresh, dainty, airily flakes
tumble like confetti everywhere at once.
There are no paths.
Each building is a hill,
all sharps are made round.
There is no mark yet upon
this manuscript of snow.
Where water dripped,
ice glitters, sheaved and stark.
Powdery dunes sift through door cracks.
Junipers and evergreens droop
from the weight of sugary ice-dust.
Frost embroiders softly lit panes.
Monstrous ice daggers drape porticos.
Gusts wallop leafless elms and oaks
and the city sneezes 
as indecipherable tourbillions
blow from the wind's lips.
Laughing children and frolicsome adults
build snow families, create white angels,
catch ice crystals on warm tongues
and stand with their palms out 
until they're white. 

I stand solemnly in my kitchen
sheathed in long-johns from my neck down,
feet snug in thick, wooly socks,
sipping aromatic hot chocolate 
laced with Baileys Irish Cream from a tankard.
I peer outside my snow-battered window.
The opacity of it flings a stream of profanities
from my liquored tongue.
I grieve for the petite, innocent faces of daisies,
the mystic vision of a pastel rainbow,
capricious, sun-imbued breezes,
any sign of green.

Poetry Is

by Debbie Neal Crawford
Poetry is
the song of a redbird
on a snow-capped pine tree
in late November.
It is the shine of the sun
overlooking the ocean waves
as it meets the horizon.
It is the strength of a tornado
leaving a path of destruction
in early May.
Poetry is
the words of the heart
written on tablets of flesh
that transcend time.

City on Fire

by Candace Armstrong
Mud-soaked newsprint patches holes in the wall,
but doesn't keep out the desert cold. Easy fuel
for rocket flames spreads black smoke spirals

like coils choking the moon, clouding a volcanic
sky spewing ashes of breeze-blown words 
upon the unseeing. Pain jumps out of windows.

Green space shrinks, melts into streets of screams
as the cool river crackles with channels
of hot flowing blood.

(Published in Poaintry2, The Collision of Two Worlds,
Shawnee Hills Arts Council 2017) 


by Carole R. Bolinski
I didn't think I'd do it.
Cut, whack, lop.
Piled it on the floor
then I continued to cut more, and still more.
My decision, quick, fast
I yelled to myself, "short, shorter —
short hair at last!"

Once flowing hair, lean and strong
long locks swishing down to waist skin.
Against shoulder, and against bare back,
against all odds, I'd never, never, ever, do that.

"Wow. Lovely. Beautiful.
Your hair," people would say,
only to be hewed, axed, sawed
from long to short hair in one day.

"To lessen my burden,"
I'd say as fact.
Cleave, chop, shear, short hair — the final act.
But secret wishes blow into the night,
as my tears choke whispers, I plead real low,
"Hair, oh, hair. Hair,
please grow."

Doubling Up

by Joe Glaser
Seeking inspiration
the old man without	    the old woman without
the many boys  and girls deep inside

comeback	             revival
competition             revision
conquest      rebirth

now and then becoming now
genders blending lumpily
together waxing creative.

(Published in 2016-17 issue of East on Central, Highland Park, IL)

Untrampled Foliage

by Sheila Elliott
Neither neglected nor prospering,
it was an empty lot, but it charmed
me that day the way a missing
tooth adds charm to a stranger's
smile. An open space on a road
that went on for miles, a space
beside a street where traffic 
reiterated dull refrains day and night.
Cars bearing so many lives,
passed beyond where I walked.
They would not see the leafy cluster
I spotted sprouting in a space between
crumbled portico tiles: two letters
from a long forgotten name,
from a building vanished.

Weeds are shirt tail relatives of
more desired blooms, I knew, but
that day it was so lovely,
the way the foliage
held the sunlight and
faced itself so firmly into
the vigor of the wind.
Without a halt, the street-side
parade of tuneless melodies
played on, while, for a moment,
I glimpsed the promise that can
begin in emptiness,
glimpsed the privileged ritual of
growing in a crumbled place.

Looking Out the Back Door of Jackie B's Laundromat

by Tom Moran
Metra train pulls into
the station and
passengers leak out.

Raising their painted umbrellas,
they drift across the ponding parking lot
like Monet's water lilies,
then scatter in different directions.

I soak up the stillness,
waiting for my dollar's worth of
drying time to be over.

Sleep Peacefully

by E. Izabelle Cassandra Alexander
Sleep peacefully, my beloved, blessed child
Your dreams are filled with wonders, so close your eyes
Your days filled with laughter mixed with good-byes
When you're gone I miss you, look your pillow's so mild
Angels watch over you at my request
And I'm here by your side to stay while you rest
I'll protect you from all that I could
The rest I trust God with, and I know that He would
I pray on my knees for wisdom, guidance, and strength
To be the best mom, you and your brothers deserve at length
I cherish each moment when I have you here near
Words could never do justice to describe what I feel
When I look at you as I hold you in my arms
When I watch you make your first angel in fresh snow
I say, "You're my angel", soaking in your sweet, innocent smile
Holding onto precious moments to keep time running slow
Depicted you by myriad pictures, but I never can
Capture fully your abundant, innate beauty from within
Your name, Annelise, means gracious, consecrated to God
That's what you are and my "Twinkle, twinkle, little star"
So, sleep my sweet baby and don't worry about tomorrow
The night is long and peace sets in
Tomorrow doesn't need any previous troubles to borrow
So, close your eyes and let your amazing dreams begin

Beautiful Women

by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
(For Venus & Serena Williams)
Inspiration Gemini's 'Pretty Lady' & Raheem DeVaughn's 'Woman'

I am not really into astronomy
I can't get aligned with the stars
But I am betting that sometimes 
Jupiter whispers to Mars
And Saturn speaks to Venus and
Says your sister is one of the finest
Works of Art I've seen thus far.
Blessed with voluptuous curves
Blessed with a wicked serve!
Blessed with a very strong will
Blessed with you, Venus a ride or die sister who is still...
Serving up pain out there on the court
Kicking much butt and not taking any shorts!
Kanye West mentioned Serena in a song
Because her body is taut and strong.
Got bodies like Goddesses 
Always being humble & modest yes!
Serena just added a hubby and baby to the nest!
Both of you are our generations ALTHEA!
People talk yang cuz they wanna be ya!
Love you both for continuously doing your BEST.
Again, I am not really into astronomy
I can't get aligned with the stars
But I am betting that sometimes 
Jupiter whispers to Mars
And Saturn speaks to Venus...

Two Wrinkles in Bliss

by Alan Harris
The sun is where
it needs to be.

Every breath
in every being
breathes the rhythm
of the Drummer.

All is permeating
every bit of all.

Except for the
peskiness of
atoms and egos,
might not this place
be heaven? 

(From Just Below Now)

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