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Poems by ISPS Members
April, 2018
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Poems on this Page:







Drought Ghazal Variation

by Jenene Ravesloot
One hour ends. Another begins. Our groundwater
leaks arsenic and metal. Branches snap and seeds 
rattle. Our groundwater leaks arsenic and metal.

The bees are leaving. The hives have collapsed 
little by little. The crops are twisted and brittle.
Our groundwater leaks arsenic and metal.

Farmlands turn to dust. We're slowly dying here, 
hour after hour. Noonday shadows almost glower. 
Our groundwater leaks arsenic and metal.

Fine dust creeps through every kitchen. Dust heaps 
in every room. Why try to sweep it with a broom? 
Our groundwater leaks arsenic and metal.

The children say the water tastes sour. They won't
drink it. It is noon. And then it's midnight. Our 
groundwater leaks arsenic and metal.

Dust moves through every room. Dust heaps like 
powder. And to think we once had safe drinking 
water. Our groundwater leaks arsenic and metal.

Seeds rattle on branches. The moon's a phosphorous 
stone. A branch clicks, clicks, clicks like an old bone. 
Our groundwater leaks arsenic and metal.

Dust begins to climb the stairs. We lie down, but 
we cannot sleep. Dust begins to heap on the landings. 
Dust begins to seep. Our groundwater leaks arsenic 
and metal.


(First published in the DuPage Valley Review, 2017)








San Diego

by Mark Hudson
In January of 2018,
 people joined at the same scene.
In San Diego they gathered together,
under relatively good weather.
Historians, planners, and architects,
looking for historical places to protect.
They were all a historical committee,
looking to survey the famous city.
San Diego is a place well-renowned,
but they hoped to investigate the ground.
They want to see landscapes tales they tell,
on the very earth on which they dwell.
They want to try and study the design,
so the history of the city they'll be able to define.
Historic buildings have a story unknown,
and like archeology it needs to be shown.
Rural parks and ranch complexes,
will be discovered through group reflexes.
Urban plazas, parks, and yards,
will be explored, it shouldn't be hard.
Nature evolving can contribute to loss,
but these historians will be led by their boss.
They believe the land of their ancestors,
led to many San Diego investors.
Native American culture gets credit,
for their love of nature created etiquette.
They've seen old cobble sea walls,
they've seen the Marston House halls.
They are just trying to detect some clues,
but it was important enough to be in the news.
They've found old trees and vines that survived,
From the eighteen hundreds, they're still alive.
There is enough history to write a whole book,
you have to go to the landscape and look.







Mountain Vista

by Michael Escoubas
This pristine skyline
an endless highway of cobalt blue
punctuated by a ridge of pines
poking through misty white clouds
curls down miles of rocks and crags
like a river rushing rolling
thundering so deep in the valley
that eagles soaring high
on an updraft look like moths
small and insignificant
when measured against this
vast vista of creation of which
I, as man, am no insignificant part.







Thank You Lord

by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
I didn't know the day I was arriving and 
I surely don't want to know the day that I'm leaving, 
But I thank you Lord that in the interim You keep my heart resting and heaving.
Thank you Lord for allowing me to look beyond my circumstances, 
Thank you Lord for bestowing upon me so many second chances!
Thank you Lord for my health, strength, family and the capability of divine discernment. 
Thank You Lord from Infinity to infinity until my internment.
Thank you, Lord for placing people in my pathway to teach me lessons. 
Thank you, Lord for allowing me to see another day in which to receive blessings!
Thank you Lord for giving me the activity of my limbs,
Thank you Lord for placing sunlight in a place that was at times dim!
Thank you Lord for the times at work that you bridled my tongue,
When I was so exhausted and nearly reverted back  to talking like I was young!
Again, I want to say Thank you Lord, I did not know the day that I was due to arrive
and certainly don't want to know the day that I am leaving, But I thank you Lord that in the interim You keep my heart resting and heaving.







Summer on Lake Michigan

by Charlotte Digregorio
No salt air, 
no booming waves,
the folding ocean waves
of my surfer youth.

No jagged monoliths
or coastal mountains of
black bear and elk,
my childhood mysteries.

Just the lake's equilibrium
in morning light and soft air,
small white footprints to trace.

Not even a stone's throw
disturbs the lull.
Ripples float away
 
with thoughts of my thoughts
reaching sky's end.







How To Make a Paper Airplane

by Tom Roby
Place an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper in front 
of you so that the length is left to right.
Fold the length in half and crease. Fold the top left
end of the folded sheet so that it lines up with
the center crease, forming a right triangle. 

Fold the sheet again, making a scalene triangle.
Fold the side one more time to create a trapezoid
wing.  Repeat these three folds on the other side. 

Secure the six folds by a  inch tab from twin
cuts, made with scissors, on the undercarriage 
about 3 inches from the nose of the airplane. 
Add appropriate insignia, launch, and

watch your airplane sail on a breeze, glide
coolly past a high-rise window like a gull 
pilots crosswinds, or a hand reroutes clouds 
or a milk butterfly flirts with buildings until 

it skims lower, parks at a curb, sidles like an
albino cat around the hubcaps to the sidewalk,
floating for a while—a giant jellyfish in a small
sea of sunlight before 

it puffs off again in the way that a kite without
a tether lofts into the touch-me-not sky.
   

(Published in the Muses Gallery,
Highland Park Poetry, 2016)







My Life Is a Poem (and I've just been slammed)

by Lennart Lund

You want Anger dripping from the stage in big Mississippi River flood stage rivulets like greasy, grimy, corporate gofer guts.

You want I should slap-whap-rap you 'side your head like Ginsburg's Dharma hitting a bridge embankment eighty miles an hour at four in the morning, high on mescaline and crazed cerebral convolutions' conversations with themselves.

You want me to rip the cable channels from the wall to fulfill the ancient prophecy that the Revolution won't be televised, won't be super-sized, won't be whatever else I can find to ad lib rhyme in a diatribe.

And you want this without pause to draw a breath, to rub a shoulder sore from windmilling or grab an elbow that banged into the f-bombing open mic.

(God DAMN that hurts!)

Let's have some Truth right here, if not at the beginning then at least some point before the end. I'm good and pissed. Yah mon, yes my brother, oh be sure my sister my lover my loving mother, filled with holy anger that consumes me wholly (if that turn of phrase is not too academic). But it's not what you might be thinking if you're still thinking, choking while you're drinking in my dust on this unpaved dirt road Main Street.

I'm in my Sixties, not my Teens or Twenties. Good looking women call me Dear, just like they do your grandpa who I'm old enough to be. I take a dozen drugs a day that all make amphetamine easy to pronounce, and the pity is they're all legal, and no fun at all except for keeping me in one piece instead of scattered splattered tattered 'cross the Cosmos like I used to be. I can't get pissed on cheap red wine no more, cuz if I do my prostate-like-a-golfball wakes up angry in the middle of the night, and then I'm really pissed.

You want dharma, karma-drama? I'm not the FNG, the Friggin' New Guy, anymore. I'm just some Freakin' Old Guy, living in a fog.



(First appeared in National Poetry Month Anthology 2013)







black as night

by Tom Chockley
black as night
make of it as one will
coyote calls







You Are an Artist

by Idella Pearl Edwards
You are an artist.  Yes, you are!
You were born with a need to create.
It's time to get started, to share your talent
Before it is too late.

The observations of your eyes, 
The feelings in your heart;
They have great need to be expressed.
NOW is the time to start.

It doesn't have to be through paint,
Or sewing or words or song,
There are dozens of ways of expressing your soul,
Just don't wait too long.

I hope you aspire to be inspired
And awaken your creative gene,
You are an artist!  Oh yes, you are!
The best is yet to be seen!







The Widow and the Rescue Cat

by Kathy Cotton
We are both old, well grooved
in the customs of our species,
wary of change,
so I wooed you incrementally,
like the college boy wooed me
a half-century ago: sitting nearby,
then close, then touching,
slow to grow in familiarity, trust, love.
Now you are my constant companion
as was he, beside me
where I sit, where I sleep and dream.

And though we are both old,
you let me cradle you like an infant,
small warm body pressed at my breast,
sleepy head on my shoulder.
I bury my face in your purring,
hum the lullaby of a young mother
with her newborn.

But you are not the tabby shadow of
buried husband
or married son.
You, old cat, are the surprising
rescuer of joy.


(Encore Prize Poems 2016)







Spring Magic

by Sherri Baker
When I was a young girl my mother was ill quite often,
my father worked shift work, and I was an oops baby.
My brother was married and his children were about my age.
My sisters, already making lives of their own, weren't
around very often, so I was kind of an only child in a big family.

On one occasion of my mother being ill I was to go
after school to my aunt's house, where my grandmother
and my great aunt lived. My aunt always had a smile
and a treat, my great aunt would dance with me in a circle
singing in German. I don't remember ever hearing my
grandmother's voice, but I have imprinted in my memory
the day I stopped in the road and just watched as my tiny
little grandma was hunched over picking dandelions
out of their front yard.

I finally went in and found an old cup and my aunt said I could 
have it. I decorated it elementary-school style, crayons, glue
and glitter. And I kept it till my mom came home. Before I 
gave her my masterpiece, I, of course, filled it full of dandelions,
and put it next to her favorite chair hoping to make her happy.

I eventually had three children of my own, plus a few children
that weren't mine but stayed with me when they didn't have
anywhere to go. I've been given dandelions in cups, bunches,
and sometimes just a simple single perfect one complete with the root
(in case I might want to see if it will grow in a window).
And if anyone wants to see the true face of spring, look in 
a child's eyes when they give you their perfect smile, and a bright
yellow dandelion. Then the look on their little faces when it's
time for them to make a wish and blow the no longer yellow
dandelion out into the world. Spring is in the wonder in their eyes.
That's the full circle of the magic of spring. 
It blooms bright and flies away on a wish.






Winter's Swan Song

by Marie Samuel
In the fall of that final wintery year
A plan was born to make a way
To celebrate a life well lived & loved
And share ideas to help our cause
To show and write, to make a change
For earth and air and waters plead
An Eco arts swan song aria of color,
Text, and shapes that plead for help
For care for all our needs both friend
Or foe  must share this fragile space
And all must work in this crucial race.
So my Swan Song travels far and 
Wide, a final tour in my golden years
To show my fabric blooms and such
To talk and meet & share these songs
Of love and loss, of dreams and fears
To all who care our planet's fragile fate 
Rests with folks trying to do their share. 






the revisions we never got to write

by jacob erin-cilberto
extra spaces in the margins of conversation
elicited responses of silence
then indents in paragraphs of comfortable unspoken lines
 
fragments of our history 
which used to be one complete thought,
but we broke up into commas and semi-coloned arrhythmia
hearts that quit beating together,
 
i still remember the soft heaves of your chest
against my ear
when you wrote me into our impassioned essay
 
but ink runs dry to the bone
and our bone of contention
was an imbalanced timing
 
the margins grew wider with distance
the punctuation of us 
was an ending of the ellipsis 
that merely implied reconnoiter 
 
and now we are an old paper in a folder
gaining dust in a file cabinet of feelings
alphabetized in some odd sequence of distorted memory
 
with me thinking there should have been a title
and a different ending
written with more concrete closure
instead of some imagined figurative language
 
that left the what if's 
open to too much interpretation.






Hello Sadness

by David LaRue Alexander
Hello Sadness
My old friend
Haven't seen you
Where ya been?
I can barely
Remember when
Perhaps it's time
We meet again
 
But first
Before we do
I must apologize
To you
 
For it seems
When last we met
I did somehow forget
To make the proper good-byes
And my departure was a surprise
 
Yes, I'm sorry
But it's true
I had met
Somebody new
Thought I no longer
Needed you
But now he's gone
and left me too
 
So how about
Another date
Perhaps tonight
Half-past eight
I'll bring the ice cream
Don't be late
I'm so excited
Can hardly wait






haiku

by Gail Denham
our spring is slow this
year, its cheery presence hid  
brilliant snow hold court






Waiting for the Day To Turn Decent

by Carole R. Bolinski
It's trying to be spring and
the world is crazy.

Leaves pile in corners
anticipating the next storm
Ravens bullyrag the smaller birds
Everyone trying to find shelter
from April rain, lightening, tornado
We're all waiting   watching
for the unfamiliar
because...

The world's gone crazy.

Anonymous attacks keep me
in hibernation, killing time
until the weather 
unjails me from inside
because...

People are going crazy.

They argue about gun control
Who should or shouldn't
enter the country. Some say,
It's psychotic out there.
Adversity thick as fire.

I yearn for a little warmth, 
to get on with life, and,
for the day to finally turn decent.






Goldilocks Speaks Out

by Wilda Morris
I go into the world,
my golden locks in braids
tied with blue ribbons,
unafraid and full of curiosity.
I find a house with raspberries
in the yard. A poodle jumps
in a puddle. I jump in too,
lose one black patent leather shoe.
A baby bear watches
through the window, laughs
at my gaffe so I think
maybe he'll come out to play
on this warm summer day.
 
Mama Bear says no, they have to go
to the store. They need more milk
and porridge. Come another day,
she says, when Baby Bear can play.
 
I have a knack for not giving up
so I leave, but come back.
They are gone but I open the door,
go past the coat rack, skip across
the floor to the table, already set
with three bowls of oatmeal,
steel-cut, of course, with cinnamon.
I taste each helping, already dipped,
and from each cup I also sip cocoa.
I say Baby Bear's is too cold,
but that's a lie. Nor do I try his bed.
His chair is so small it hurt my left hip.
 
Papa Bear's bitter cocoa burns
my lips and when I sit in his place
I feel so small blush reddens
my cheek. I try Mama Bear's seat,
where the cocoa is sweet
and the porridge just right for me
and my baby doll. I have a bit
of a fright when the door
pops wide and I find three
bears by my side. I smile then run away.
 
At home, I still keep tasting
what my mama cooks, testing what
my mama says and does, till the day
I catch on that not too hot
is a bit of rot taught to keep a girl
in her place. I decide to face
a bold future. It's just a canard
that a blond can't think very hard
and can't stand up tall.
I'm smart and courageous
even with my back to the wall.


(First published in Weird Sisters
Scablands Books, 2017)








falling leaves

by Steven Kappes
tiny leaves from the live oak tree
alongside my house
hard brittle leaves
with edges sharp as knives
fall like hailstones on the roof
pile up in the corner of my patio
lay like drifts of snow
alongside the house
where they are blown
by spring like winds
nature's price I must pay
for much needed shade






Butterflies

by Mary Jo Balistreri
from the Turkish Hills flit
		over a tapestry of bald-headed buttes
		sheer rock cliffs of chalky blue 

skitter across undulating frets
in orange-winged flutter
		above the weft of woven turf
		visionary threads of mindful seers 

Monarchs spin the air    hover on white-blossomed trees  
shop the flower-strewn meadow   where darting free
		or sipping from a trumpet's golden flute
		stir memories of childhood's wonder and surfeit.


(Form: Timothy Hayes, 11-line poem
Each end word formed from title)






A Broken Road

by Patty Dickson Pieczka
Taste of snails, of salt,
of remorse; opals of blood
necklace the moon.

Unbraid the night song
smoking through my hair.
Empty the lake from my eyes,
the sap from my bones.

I will give these things
to walk backward, to send
the sun from west to east,
to float a leaf upstream

and make the clear path visible
through knives of sunlight,
each sweet polkberry dripping
its own poisonous word.
 
I reach into the past
with hands of dust.


(Previously published in
Bitter Oleander)






Cosmically Created Color

by Frank Hubeny
This April is still colorless.
Bright blossoms aren't yet here,
But I recall sweet blooming fall
Well hidden somewhere near.







Salting Ash

by Gail Goepfert
So quickly my mother's body
lied
about her living.
No flush on her cheek.
She stiffened long before
they could take her away—
her mouth
frozen in an o.
 
It barely grieved me
to look at her—
so unlike herself in the casket.
It was prearranged
she'd be boxed,
sealed, buried
in an earth-bound plot.
 
I don't want a casket
beneath the ground.
 
Strew some ash of me
with the conch and crab
that ride
the steady clout of wave—pain-free
I'll tumble in the foam.
Let the gulls cry
and the terns squawk
making tattoos
in the sand.
  
And salt my ash
in a curled peel
of birch bark left
like a snakeskin
on the forest floor
where lady slippers
and forget-me-nots rise
in spring to the drumming
flicker.
 
In the bold
hours after sun rouses
and before dusk darkens
panes, let waves and woods
exhale my name.


(First published in
Olentangy Review)






309 Garza Street

by David Bond
I doze as you drive to Del Rio 
two points west of due south
green gradually shifting to burnt brown

food not for gringos any more
hot like this three-alarm sun 
scorching the blanched Miata's paint

scorching us to Titian portraits
as we taste the dust of Texas
Hill Country, miles and miles

of stunted juniper, shindagger cacti 
and a livid roof of sky that never ends.
On Highway 90 we pass an occasional

iron gate gilded in the glare, the metal
calligraphy of Lone Star esteem—
the San Carlos Ranch, Dos Arroyos

the limestone castle of The Maraca King.

At Uvalde I say let's cool off
awhile in the park but you won't.
The hourglass backspins forty times 

and a NO MEXICANS sign appears
when your family stops for gas.
But now you speak of restoring your

Grandmother's old house on Garza Street
cracked walls, weathered adobe 
clogged scuppers from mesquite debris.

We mourn the broken past yet mend
what we can, crossing San Felipe
Creek under a star-spangled sky.

And later, bedded at the Cielito Lindo 
we fall asleep to KDLK, Hot Country
as border drones glide soundless overhead. 


(Previously published in
chapbook 309 Garza Street)






Pastoral City

by Maureen A. Geary
Skyscrapers decorate evening horizon
Jutting from firm foundation at varied heights
Just as the Japanese garden here lies in
Aside Grant's statue, revelers launch their kites
Streets allow passage, a boulevard ties in
A grand prairie with ever present man made lights
The two now married, molded into one flesh
So that its children may settle, thrive and mesh






glass beach

by Jennifer Thiermann
glass beach
no sharp edges left
to her remarks






Cloudy with Occasional Rain

by William Marr
he has been searching
for a familiar silhouette 
bright and lively
on the gloomy sky
 
but all the while the sun hides behind the thick clouds
the wind holds its breath and the rain walks on tiptoes
they simply follow the script of the forecast
and play their roles
 
on the big screen of the sky
a tedious daytime soap opera of life
without climaxes and anticlimaxes
drags on all morning
 
finally he decides to switch the channel
by repeatedly blinking his eyes
but is surprised to find himself
an indispensable part
of the play






Kid Stuff

by Myron L. Stokes
Wise guys quip
that Christmas is kid stuff.
Perhaps they've got something there.
Two thousand years ago
three wise guys chased 
a star across a continent
to bring Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
to a kid born in a manger
with a glorious idea in his precocious head...

As bombs detonate and dismember
the unsuspecting and defenseless,
pointless bullets rupture fragile neighborhoods,
classrooms, theaters, nightclubs and churches,
assassinating the innocent from
their purpose and destiny;
men and women with scaly hearts 
and venom for blood 
unflinchingly feast on other sadistic acts,
the real wise guys know
that we've got to chase stars again,
get back to that Kid Stuff
born two thousand years ago.






Getting a Handle

by Barbara Funke
for Marge Piercy's "To Be of Use"
What would we do without them?
Blades would slice our palms,
pans would fry our fingers,
drawers crack our nails,
latched doors deny us.
When put to good use—
as in image, equation—
they help us get a grip
on the natures of things.
We grasp detail and theory
to throw both like a hammer
for the farthest, most fathomless arc.


(2013 The Southern Quill
 of Dixie State University)






A Most Welcome Ailment

by Joseph J. Solberg
Love is a most welcome ailment.
It sets the eyes ablaze, which 
Instantly shout to the brain
Their desire to never blink again,
For fear of losing for a millisecond
This dazzling vision that has 
Turned them into black pools.
Serotonin and dopamine begin a dizzying dance,
Flooding the face with a hot, red hue that
Compels the enamored to shy meekly away.
A thumping heart has other plans though,
Persuading leaden feet to drift
In the direction of this lovely discomfort.
The heroic effort required to walk, however,
Leaves the victim unable to utter
Any recognizable word except for "Um."
Luckily though, the condition may be contagious,
As she is displaying similar symptoms.
With no known cure,
This affection may prove to be terminal.






Night Traveler

by Candace Armstrong
Moonlight slid across the sky,
peeked in first one window, then another
looking for me—
unmistakable pull,
flashlight beam illuminating
every slumbering corner.

I stood upon a square of light,
climbed its shimmering steps
to treetop level and beyond
ready to embrace the face
that filled my sight,
wrapped in the glow of its unseen arms.

It spoke to me of secrets small and loving large,
introduced me to the stars,
cradled me in aspirations.
When pink tinged in the east,
it laid the shell that shields my stardust,
contented upon my bed. 


(Published by Chicago Poetry Press,
The Poetry Writer's Guide to the Galaxy
April 2017)






Wing Walker

by Cassandra McGovern
A few remaining members from your flying circus 
airshow share memories about you and themselves

Wonder what you felt standing on the bottom wing of a biplane, 
balancing with arms outstretched, somersaulting untethered. I remember 

when I was a child hearing gasps, cheers, applause from the stands.
After the memorial, we all eat pieces of your favorite chocolate 

cherry soul cake, with a biplane taking off in red and blue goo. Then 
Uncle Charles and I board his two-seater. I had gently shaken your cremains 

out of a flowered Asian urn onto a long silky salmon-colored scarf, 
rolling it up, with a little slit at the top, so I slipped my fingers through

to hold it. I remember you jumping off while delaying opening
a parachute 'til seconds before you might have pounded into the ground.

As we gained enough altitude I leaned out the window, slowly unfurling the scarf, 
your bones and flesh puffing out in white streams, your spirit a prolonged contrail.


(https://atomicmicropress.com/2017/07/31/a-poem-by-cassandra-mcgovern) 






Mega Dreams

by Carol Dooley

I sort through paper scraps on the kitchen counter. No lottery ticket. "It's a two-step process," Mr. Know-It-All says. "Buy a ticket. Check the numbers."

I nod. But he is wrong. I'm not buying just a lottery ticket. I'm buying adventure. Dreams. Possibilities. Entertainment. A new house. A splash vacation. A chance to do good without feeling any pain. Security. A two-day rush. What if? What if? Like the thrill as a roller coaster drops.

So short a ride! Another dip, another turn and the coaster clatters to a halt. Reality steps in. But I haven't forgotten the thrill. Next week, next month, I'll ride again.







Bridal Wreath

by Bonnie Manion
Once, bridal wreath shrubbery
surrounded our back yard, grew
higher than us kids, in the days
when we used to burrow a cave
under its plethora of dry twigs
filled with white flowerheads,
which lent miniature bouquets
to decorate the place we buried
dead pets.  

But those bushes are gone today,
when I revisit the old home place
after forty years away. 






April Words

by Jill Angel Langlois
The slowly sinking light
is now shining over my right shoulder,
making my hand and pen
long moving shadows on the page.
At a loss for words,
having repeatedly forced them back
so they wouldn't come spilling out
at inappropriate moments
while I was doing something else,
less important.
No longer out of habit,
the words are far back in my mind
and memory,
hopefully not dead, just dormant.
Soon, with encouragement and warmth,
they will work their way forward, unafraid
to poke their little eager heads
through the melting April snow.






For Tony in Italy

by Donna Pucciani
Your oxygen tank follows you 
like a stray cat 

since the heat of October
rose in the mountain air

that you couldn't get enough of.
At the hospital, they drained

the fluids and gave you back
your lungs, fragile as flowers.

From one breath to another, Tonino, 
remember how sturdy you once were,

and how strong is the pure
north Atlantic air between

Chicago and Cosenza. 
Love the invisible force 

that keeps you
filling and emptying.


(First published in
Clark Street Review)






"Compassion Saves World" Today — A Hopeful Villanelle

by Emma Alexandra Kowalenko
Go boldly in our land, create path bright.
Defy bigoted storms that lead astray.        
Path steady, with trust your beacon, your light.
 
Resist drifting off your road, morning, night,    
Reveal compassion, the will, the way.        
Go boldly in our land, create path bright.   
 
Your ancestors and ours joined birds in flight,     
Straddled walls to where freedom held sway.      
Path steady, with trust their beacon, their light.   
 
Arm in arm, firm, strong, we express our might.        
Cherish our vision, our planet, each day.              
Go boldly in our land, create path bright.                  
 
Humanity, loving kindness in sight,
Sharing earth's resources, balanced we stay.
Path steady, with trust our beacon, our light.              
 
 
Mindfully shelter those touched by blight.
Real News blast... "Compassion Saves World" Today!
Go boldly in our land, create path bright.
Path steady, with trust your beacon, your light.






Stalking the Wild S-Word

by David McKay
Sleepily reading, struggling, I confess, 
to assess nuances between 
assertiveness and aggressiveness,
I was roused to alertness by--yes--all those S's.
I thrilled again to the hunt,
the stirring search for the elusive word
with five, or even six esses.

Trophies from the past include
The Contessa of Odessa word: dispossessed.
And The Princess Grace of S-words
falls to the regal possessiveness.
But the shining star, The Empress of Largesse,
is our S-studded senselessness.

Why this silly excess, this craze
that I should address THIS specific consonant?
The Mississippi, of course,
with its twisting, tortuous, sidewinding paths,
spelled successfully by every third grader.
Words with lots of esses simulate
the Big River's surging power,
spilling onto the page,
giving life to the lower letters.

But something I was reading, just last evening,
slipping toward sleep,
I saw another.
What book? What page?...
Ah, I just found it!
The Grace Kelly biography,
sitting stately there, page one seventy-seven:
"Hitchcock was dwelling on his star
with his customary obsessiveness."






Flats

by Barbara Robinette
A spray of forsythia spring's
greening mists my mind
I gaze at the orange guitar flat
steel microphone flat cold
and silent on the flat black cloth
They lie on promises of money 
fame and other nameless  
diversions out of tune 
to my forsythia mind






It Happens

by Maureen Tolman Flannery
The kind of guy who rode high in the saddle,
knew from his youth what he wanted to do.
He had a horse,
a pretty Appaloosa filly

bought with saved summer wages
that year he proved a useful hand on the ranch.
Bought a saddle too.
Had to sell them both when he went off to war.

Which war doesn't matter—
one that always seems to be ready
when a new crop of young men
faces manhood with uncertain future.

The boy expects the ranch to be the same
when he comes back. Its remembered landscapes
sustain him through the fighting.
But things happen back on the spread.

A sister gets married.
A blizzard buries half the herd.
They hire a new hand for branding.
The old man goes through what old men go through.

The boy comes home expecting
to buy back his horse and go to work.
He was just off doing what that recruiter
convinced him was his duty.

Maybe this youth is my lover, perhaps my dad,
or that boy in the grade behind me
who was good at math and cut his hand in shop class.
Which young man doesn't matter.

He has fresh blood on his hands coming back.
His boots pinch his feet.  They don't need him
anymore on the ranch and his mare was resold
two years ago to a farmer in Iowa.






Roses

by Alan Harris
If only one rose
ever in history
were seen to bloom,
what awe might be!

Now people yawn
at roses by dozens,
pretty weeds to eyes
that won't see.

If we but knew
we're each a rose
asleep in a bud,
might bloom we?


(Just Below Now)






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