Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
June 2015
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Poems on this Page:







My Mother's Feet

by James Reiss
                   Unsightly, with bunions, 
they lost their shape, she says, because of poor-fitting
hand-me-down shoes she wore as a child. How many games
of Kick the Can added to their width I can only guess,
not to speak of the runaway genes of her mother, no sylph.
If the tiny, bound feet of Tang Dynasty ladies seemed lovely,
hers fattened on the sidewalks of Bradhurst Avenue,
one toe poking out of a hole in her sister's sneaker.
Walking to school, she taught rowdy boys to crumple
when their fists missed her and their balls caught her boot.

Now that she's come down with a new bout of cancer,
she says she's just out of breath. She gave up cigarettes,
booze and Unitarianism, as well as the ham-handed
surgeons who sewed her up twice. She'll rid herself of this
old sidekick cancer, this tumor the shape of a soccer ball. . . .

         Her voice trails off on delicate, hesitant feet.







each day

by Susan B. Auld
each day

I am thankful
           for waking another sunrise

and ask
           to be better than yesterday

accepting that I am who I need to be

this prayer
           I send to the top
of an ancient oak
where the wind gathers
and carries it
further and further
from my heart

but no less felt
           beyond the sun
moon   stars   or   by the earth
and oceans of tides and seasons

here now
forgiving winter's indiscretions
a spring rain greens the grass
on both sides of the forsythia hedge

its flowers as brilliant as they need to be







Poppy Fire

by Bonnie Manion
Can you look at Georgia O'Keeffe's
oriental poppies without seeing
those blossoms as flares? Her bursts 
of orange in a cobalt sky suddenly
become fire squirted into black night, 
giant explosions rocketed above 
our dark fields and stacked city
geometrics, their razzle shattering
our small hopes, dazzling any
earthbound expectations.  


(Published in Bellowing Ark,
also in The Oak and Gray Squirrel,
and The Storyteller)







possibilities

by Steven Kappes
a truck passes on the highway
a whistling humming
like lonesome in the pines
or the wind through canyons
 
a sound that burrows deep
into the heart and soul
that urges you to move
to head out somewhere new
to leave the safety and comfort
the boring day to day life
 
the sound that led men
out of the jungle
onto the prairie and farms
across the mountains
into cities
 
that no matter how civilized
finds the raw nerve of unrest
makes you think
 
what if







Peaceful Journey...A Poem For PJ

by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
(I Will Always Remember You)
Over the years we've met in many a cafe to discuss The Project(s).
You were motivated by my passion for writing so much about the subject.
We laughed and shared stories of childhood commonalities,
Though you were from Scranton and I am from Chicago, which are two totally
	different galaxies.
You were very focused with your interviewing technique and you really wanted
	to know why I chose to write so prolifically,
About Cabrini Green and who I was dedicating my story to so you could convey
	the feeling specifically.
Together we pored over so many poems
Then you asked me which one I liked the most,
You told me that you really enjoyed 'Ghetto Teachers...I Will Remember You'
	so with those words in mind that is what I will post:
I will always remember your thoughtfulness and kindness,
I will remember your creativeness.
Your open mindedness.
Your foresight,
Your insight.
Your sense of humor.
I will always remember when you met my teenaged son and tried to find him a mentor.
I will remember the way you spoke about meeting the
dance troupe from Washington, DC.
You were enlightened and fascinated.
I will remember the food drive you started for patrons of 'The Project(s) to
	bring canned goods to help support St. Mathews food pantry in Cabrini.
I will always remember how you stopped in the park to pitch a tent for the
	members of a Cabrini Green reunion.
I will always remember seeing the intense Project(s) rehearsal.
I will always remember how you approached the residents of Cabrini with such
	humility and not like inanimate objects.
I will always remember the way you looked on the opening night of The Project(s).
I will always remember you, PJ.
I wish you a peaceful journey.







My Father's Love

by Chris Holaves
     As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you;
                  John 15:9

My father's love was a lion's paw—
Shielding,
Guiding,
Setting boundaries,
Protecting me from harm.

My father's strong arms caressed and lifted me.
His grizzled cheeks brushed me. 
His calm mien commanded with
A stalwart face. He made me feel secure
And soothed. Always watchful,
He drew me closer.
I touched his mane and sensed his fatherly love.







Knight of the Realm

by David LaRue Alexander
Whoa unto thee
Oh knight of the realm
with your polished armor
and your crafted helm
 
For you face a foe
who will not yield
to your sharpened sword
or your bulwark shield
 
The enemy you face
not an armored rival
or ferocious dragon
threatening your survival
 
No, the enemy you face
lurks beneath your reflection
unseen by others
it escapes their detection

Yes, the enemy you face
the one which draws your ire
Is your own putrid heart
and its evil desire







Yellow Leaves in Sunlight

by Jill Angel Langlois
A fallen tree in the background, 
a log of a passing era
where the Continental Army gathered
to fight the war, not on some foreign soil,
but in our own backyards, amongst our families.

Charlestown quickly fell to Cornwallis,
as did many other towns.
So many dead,
yet we are committed to independence.

Threading through the innocent and unbiased trees,
the backdrop for the unfurling drama,
reloading our muskets, killing each other,
as the sunlight shines through the yellow leaves.

We march to the drums and flutes.
The beat carries us forward into battle,
masking our insecurities, our fears.

The French and Militias strategize in the immutable trees.
At night, fog is apparent in the candlelight,
a welcomed protective cover.

I sit by the fire melting the liquid soldiers for musket balls
left behind by my dead son.
I pray for strength to continue
amidst the blue streaks of fear in the night
disguised as courage.

In the morning, muskets blasting.
The dawning of a new day.
Hope for a new world,
yet Militia, Army shrink in number.

Sunlight streaks through the yellow leaves and
lights the dismal scene.
Smoke from burning churches,
from burning bodies strewn amidst the ashes,
fans the building hatred.
More leaves shudder to the ground.

Seasons pass.
The yellow trees are bare, in stasis, not touching,
but feeling, seeing, knowing the horrors,
logging their tales throughout time.

The yellow leafed ground receives the blood
of her innocent
and of her guilty.
The soil turns red with their sacrifice.

Militias return to camp from burying their dead.
Why do men feel they can justify death?
Before the storm comes, ride proudly.
Stay the course, more determined.

One last lead soldier melted over the fire,
tamped down in my musket with a renewed focus,
aimed toward hatred,
toward havoc,
toward chaos,
toward the Red Coat who killed my son.

At home, the yellow leaves are scattered.
The sunlight narrows on the blood-stained lawn.
Women wait for news, and men.
Women howl in grief and pain.
Their sons will not return.
Yellow leaves sputter to the hardened ground.

Freedom from tyranny 
was won before the battle for it, 
but still this battle in men's hearts,
this grief in women's.

The yellow trees in sunlight have witnessed
centuries of bloodshed, grief, and sorrow.
They are immutable, they stand strong.
Against the storms of life, they survive.







Postcard from the Chicago Water Taxi

by Gail Goepfert
Late August—
In the concrete hollows of the city
thirty-three steps down,
the water taxi
bellies up to the landing
long enough to swallow me
and a dozen more.
 
Alone in the bow,
I stand a speck of flesh and bone
beneath high-rise pillars
of iron and steel.
I am the figurehead
of the pint-sized vessel,
silken blouse,
flapping skirt,
flirting with the river.


(Published by Highland Park Poetry
Poetry That Moves)







Antique Barn

by Michael Escoubas
(An Etheree inspired by the Calendar Art of Colleen Eubanks)
Hills
of green
mint frolic
under Holstein
hooves. This fresh, high grass,
cool to the cuds of cows,
awaits its transformation
to new milk every day while the
Antique Barn awaits customers
who will buy an old wheel or an old churn.







In the House on Emerson Street

by Marcia Pradzinski
Quiet comes every time I pass 
	the blue gym mat 
		where you sat watching videos

the quiet 

not the kind that stilled the air 
	as we read Goodnight Moon,

not the kind loaded
	with patience—waiting
		for the school bus and your hugs

not the quiet comfort 
	of baby-warmth 
		cuddled in my arms.

It is the quiet that blooms to silence, 
	a voice lost that packs the house 
		tight with emptiness.







Red Dress

by Kathy Cotton
For this anniversary I planned to bring you flowers:
a bouquet of favorite red roses to cascade
over our names, carved side by side above our wedding date
 
and flanked by digits of beginnings, endings—
my birth date followed by a tentative dash.
Yours, by finality.
 
But this year I bought no saddle of silks
to ride on the time-galloping back of black polished granite.
Instead I drifted from flower shop to dress shop,
 
where I bought this red sheath, hung incongruently now
with a row of jeans—an anniversary dress to decorate my closet,
a remembrance of your whispered words:
 
I knew I was in love with you when you were eighteen.
I saw you sitting on the swing,
waiting for me, wearing a red dress.






Inside the Inside of Love

by jacob erin cilberto
raisins don't melt,
they shrink
i am the raisin to your heart
i shrink within the confines of your love
i dry up in the illusion of you
 
edible imaginings
a box of hopeful longing
and i become smaller than my wisdom
a tiny bite of reason
 
and you are the reason,
i'm insane
wishing i could melt away from you
but instead,
 
i am the raisin in the sun
and you are the rays
i long to be under
 
no matter my state of mind.






You Speak of Med School Cadavers

by Jan Presley
I 

You tell me the heads
are draped in gauze at first,
face down, for easier entry of student blades
into the backs of those they'll love
before the whole thing's over.  What begins
as terror cloaked in banter, ends in gratitude,
the intimate gift of the open body.

You tell me how you'll return the favor at death,
your body a lesson beneath somebody's pry.
Your hand below my shoulder blade
you trace a right angle: the first cut,
you quip, a flap of the skin's tenting
into the human soliloquy.


II

Cadavers are oily to touch.

Once you left the lab for lunch
and ordered Italian beef; 
formaldehyde stench on your hands,
the sandwich damp and gray—you couldn't choke it down.
Each day at the lab you wore the same clothes,
stink so persistent you torched them at year's end.

You joke, you'll tattoo your chest NO CODE,
and on your back a dotted line, CUT HERE.


III

Here, for the skin of your back, a tattoo,
indigo bio-script wreathed in trumpet vine:

	I treated the poor and the old,
	sat at the silent deathbeds 
	of penniless women,
	listened to veterans
	exhume childhood grief. 
 
	Taught my daughter 
	to drive in bad weather.
	Grew orchids, shot targets, made lists, stacked books. 
	I hated to be interrupted.  I was a warm kisser.
	
	I once looked into a patient's throat.  
	Surprised at what grew there I said, Oh shit.
	Dear Reader, I'm your text now,
	your legend, cover to cover.


IV

When the head is at last unwrapped from its gauze
and the face appears, the skull waits for the saw.
But worse than the face, you say, the hand,
that cut a shard from the ball of a foot,
or poured cheap vodka down;
its fingers curled around a thigh 
or fisted in rage.  The corporeal totem
of the hand, angelic, monstrous.
If not proof of the body's Soul,
then proof the Body's obstinate grist might do.


V

So they will search you,
muscle, nerve, artery, ligament, bone,
not knowing how you
slept beneath these three thin blankets,
your hand at the base of my head,
my hand at your spine's low arcing,

how we drowsed, dream-moving 
to  the ceiling fan's whir,
Death at the window on its dogged watch.
Beneath our hands, 
blood and breath rendering time.


1st Place Poetry SCOPE Magazine (2008) (revised)






Window

by William Marr
no window is big enough
to hold the panoramic views
of the world
 
so smart human beings
convert all sceneries
into virtual images
 
on the streets
          at the beaches 
                  on the mountains
                         in the wilderness
the only scenery that remains —
 
people standing
                  walking
                          sitting
                                 squatting
                                          reclining
all stare at the tiny windows
in their hands







Voices of Touch

by Patty Dickson Pieczka
	I saw everything with the strange
	new sight that had come to me.
					Helen Keller

Water was the first word,
melting through my hands
until ice broke free from my mind.

A casement unsealed in my endless
night and opened another's soul,
released me to what I imagine

light to be, something pure and clear, 
the scent of sun-dried grass,
a squeeze of orange on my tongue.

Words tumble into my fingers.
I hold them like a shower of shells,
like mint leaves, smooth stones,

the startle of snowflakes; 
each has its own feel 
as it breathes against my skin. 

Questions touch their way 
down ancient corridors; every crack
and crumble tells its own story.

My hand is sweet clover, trails 
of peach, a soft-feathered bird 
lifting me through the opened window, 

where the scent of clematis 
and smilax climbs the stone 
wall of the house and transports me 

across thousands of miles
and all the years I have lived
as I fly from this unspoken tunnel






With You

by Donna Pucciani
At the local burger joint tonight,
we make a feast: fries, kosher pickles
and guilt, drink the local brew and argue 
over a film I liked, you didn't.

We note that the huge banks of snow
haven't yet melted from this nightmare
of a winter, and talk of a friend
with dementia, just placed "in care"
by an exhausted husband.

The world weaves itself around us,
over the stained mulberry carpet,
through the beery smell drifting in
from the bar, around our fragmented talk,
our trademark yes-no-yes-no.

In an hour, with a bitter wind at our faces
after the hearth's deep assurances,
we will head for the car in the gathering 
gloom, thinking of perhaps
a movie to watch at home tonight.

Suddenly you reach across the table
to smooth my hair. 
I ask--Static electricity?

No, I just wanted
to touch your hair.


(First published in Common Ground Review)






To Jack K.

by Bakul Banerjee
Why did you put a man on the moon?
To let him escape from a cozy cocoon?
Under moonlight, girls in love swoon,
though we know love ends too soon.
Did the moon god grant you a boon
to let you watch them from the lune?






Degas' Woman

by Mary Jo Balistreri
A woman bends for shells in the early light,
the ample tenderness of her curved back
a soft charcoal outline Degas might have
rubbed, making summer out of pastel and canvas.
Across her bare feet, a song of morning swooshes
pale green against the rounded, still form.
Small children inch into the surf, 
their flowered hats blooming like water lilies.
The woman's spine, bent like a fishing rod, 
bows to the sea's abundance, a connection
of give and take generosity. 
Finding her treasure, she rises, the shell
cradled in her cupped hands. She smiles,
pleased with the beauty she holds as the children
draw near to see. Up above gulls wing in the sheeted sky,
their looped script black and silver.

The sun shifts, the shell gatherer, and memory nests:
curved line inside the woman, inside the observer,
inside the poem. In the ongoing present
nothing is ever lost.






The Point

by Jeanne Gerritsen
I stand erect next to my comrades.
Smaller than the others, I have seen more action
than they have to this point.
Who knows who will be next? And when?

Our capabilities are finite, but
our purpose is pure:
to influence the world where we're directed,
infusing duty and discipline with distinction.

We stand in a dark enclosure
as we await the next advance.
I sense movement, light.  We tumble, we rumble, 
we fall, we roll to our sides. We wait.

I'm picked! Up I go! I'm pink with pleasure!
Poised, I await my assignment.
When directed, I drive down
to the sector where I am to do my work.

I advance along the textured land 
that rasps against me,
to make my curved and straight movements 
alongside and over and around my neighbor's remains.

When my work, bold and delicate, is done after a time,
I'm removed from my assigned space.
I'm lifted, carried, injected, twisted, honed and toned 
until I'm fit for duty again.

Given a rest while compatriots do their duty,
I take pride in my participation,
knowing that together, with our commander, 
we'll reach the point of it all:
a magnificent colored pencil drawing.






In the Spring Garden

by Wilda Morris
Beginning with two lines by Miroslav Holub
Perhaps the suppressed laughter
of the flowers out there in the garden,
 
the red tulips, nodding their rouged cheeks
in the spring breeze, I mean,
 
perhaps their laughter mocks the marigolds
still in small pots, awaiting the security
 
of warm weather, fearful of freezing,
unwilling to wed themselves to icy soil,
 
scared of snowflakes falling again.
Or perhaps it is just small jokes
 
the tulips share, nodding to acknowledge
how much humor adds to the atmosphere,
 
predicting how soon rowdy sunflowers
will break into raucous laughter.


(This poem was first published in the
anthology, Petals in the Pan, ed. by
A. J. Huffman and April Salzano.)






As It Is

by Ivan Petryshyn
And nothing changed,
And nothing's ever changed-
We are just living the same chain,
We are just living the same change-
Again!
We say "hullo!"- we are alive,
We do not greet – "I don't know you!",
We do, what's good, what is now due,
But changing are a few.
Ideas pour onto the heads
With very same, too wet, raindrops
Looking at crowds from our tops,
As aviation OPPS.
And, after rains, there comes the sun,
The judging star to let us be,
To let us call "I, you and we",
Not paying any fee.
After sunrays, there comes a cold,
Less than two-fold,
More than three days,
Enlacing with the ice the bays
And polishing, with frost, the ways,
Whatever could be our case.
We smile the sun,
We stare the storm,
We lose, what's done,
We die, when born,
We mend the ruined and the torn,
We hate in hide, and we adorn,
We fry the meat steaks from the corn,
We drink the wines from pure dew,
We work, we study, but a few.
We pray, announce and declare,
What always seems to be so fair,
But some priest, really, does dare
Accusing others of the share
Of the dirt dust of the dirt war,
As he was doing that before,
Before there came the dirty war,
Against and for, against and for,
Against the peace, for the hostile-
Let them be killing for a while,
Let them be singing "thanks to God!",
With songs a-hiding the young's lot
Praying a lot. Till a new not.






Reminiscence

by Candace Armstrong
I am grasping at your memory.
It's so hard for me to understand
at times.

When I think back I remember you
falling asleep in your leather chair
most nights

with The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
falling again, open on your lap,
unread.

How did I get my love of reading
when all I know you handed down was
hard work?

It must have come from your dreams for me 
to have all the things you never had
in life—

a love of books, the time to read them,
fond memoirs of your sacrifices.
My Dad.






Five

by Tracy Costello
Sunlight cascades through the window of old, 
the hands of a girl reach up towards the glow. 
She's five today, one finger for each year. 
Her heart is so happy, her day full of cheer. 
The day will be filled with wishes and treats.  
How wonderful five is, how fast it retreats. 
Those same little hands have quickly grown old,  
the fingers are twisted, the knuckles are worn.  
That same little girl, her soul is still five
but her body and hands are barely alive.  
Today that girl would be 100 and five,
her hands long gone, but her spirit soars high. 






Magic Tricks and Politics

by Mark Hudson
    There are many different paths to find spirituality, but not all roads
lead to Rome.  In a recent article in the paper, a love-struck man
longing for his deceased lover went to a New York psychic, hoping
to contact his dead lover. The psychic responded by cheating him
out of more money than has ever been done in history.
She created all kinds of delusions, including a fake time machine,
a reincarnation portal, and he bought it hook, line, and sinker.
I mean, I may read my horoscope as a joke, because it's free,
but I don't take it seriously.  The amount of money she swindled
was so astronomical that they had to put her in prison for fraud.
Or another instance where a young lady dated an old man, and
swindled him out of an astronomical amount of money. She too,
is going to prison. Although, what was the octogenarian expecting?
Either way, it could've resulted in a cardiac arrest.
So as far as magic tricks, or con jobs, anything can be turned into
a con job. Supposedly the man who made the posters for Obama
to promote hope in his campaign changed his views and labeled
him a con man.
However, I find that it's easy for me to look at someone like a
politician and use them as a scapegoat, as if all my problems
are somehow their fault. I would not describe myself as a
democrat or a republican. 
However, a recent article about Joe Biden gave me a chance to
accept him as a human being. A photo showed him grieving
with his family at the funeral of his son, who was also a politician.
This was not what they call a photo-op, where a politician poses
in front of a camera in some sort of self-serving selfie.
You cannot fake grief and mourning.
A writer in the article states that a younger age, when Joe Biden
had a different tragedy happen to him, losing other family members,
the young writer wrote a hand-written card of sympathy and snail
mailed it to him to console him. Joe Biden wrote back a handwritten
letter with expressions of gratitude for his concern. Nobody hardly
writes letters anymore. They don't even teach penmanship in school
anymore.
As much as I complain about politicians or the state of the world,
I will not mock someone in a state of grief such as this. I've been
there before myself, and eventually it happens to us all.






The Hour Glass Runs Dry

by Gail Denham
The hour glass runs dry. Flashes
of satellites and planets color my nights,
brighter and brighter, closer now. They
pry open my eyes as I lie on my bed.
 
My clodhopper uncle, Dennis, says it's simply
a thirty year cycle, whatever that means.
"The rogue light eruptions scour the universe
in random spirals. No cause to panic."
 
Yet I see the sands of all time slip ever
quicker down the smooth glass surface;
counting, grain by grain, our years,
our days, our minutes,
 
fueled by uncertainty, insane wars,
covert invasions of undetected foes,
creeping waste, corruption, greed,
cruelty, indifference.
 
His hour glass may be stuck at snail
speed. Dennis, the clodhopper, is dead
wrong. The heavens peel open the night sky
till black slides aside in small clumps…
 
…and my glass reads "ten till."






Retro Rant

by John J. Gordon
(A Senior Rap)
Don't think of me as old and saggy
just because my face is craggy
I'm still hip and love to rap
advancing age no handicap
Cool quipster 
Antique hipster
My stream of consciousness pours out
from some internal wordy spout
I intersperse four-letter words
to scandalize adoring herds
I boldly spew out gosh and darn
These edgy words spice up my yarn
Word master broadcaster
Grammarian disaster
I prowl a mean suburban street
prepared for anything I meet
A gang sign turns me ghostly pale
Oh wait it's just one more yard sale
It's true I often blow some weed
A well-trimmed lawn demands this deed
Suburban hood
Mis-understood
A bland routine as business owner
makes me seek a new persona
Play the role as fiercest Viking
pillage stuff that's to my liking
Embrace a gritty world that's tense
display my rage as I dispense
a down and dirty street-cred rap
I'll finish it   after my nap
Veteran napper
Vintage rapper






Perennial Blues

by Tom Moran
Good
kids are
pruned before
they can blossom.
Their deaths leave bare spots
in a tender garden.
Cheated of beauty,
I cry inside
for a bud 
that won't
bloom.






Chicken Pox

by Phillip Egelston
Chicken:
Tail-teasing, freezer-lying.
White.  Some Upright:
Chest Out, Best Breast Forward.
Wrapped in morrocan skin-wrap
Under wraps: see-through, price-tagged.
Price?  I pay the price.
(Pine for chicken paucity.)
I'm falling into
General chicken declension – 
Descending to a fried
Or finger-lickin' denouement.
Words stick – sticky, itchy.
Internal ichthy – Ichthyosis?  No.
Can't scratch.  Scratch?
Scratch out living.  Living?
Poultry, paltry living:  Lean.  Fevered.
Pox!  Threat.  Curse or Worse!
Must sort it out.
Beginning?  Where begin?
Ovum.  Egg.  Chicken?
(Sunny-side or Coq d'Or?)
Tired and Scrambled!
Chicken Little, sky falling... Is this
THE END?
Onward!  Into the valley... Oh no!
Cock calls.  Blasted rooster!
Must be quiet:  Sleep.  Perchance to...
Paawk, Paawk, Paawk, Paaawk!!
The brood:  Up at the crack.
That's it!  Had enough!!  "Squaaawk!!!"


(Appeared in William And Mary Review)







$275 Each

by Carol Dooley
Camera shots
Her view skewed, wandering
Untethered

A black and white world
Not right or wrong
But colorless

The ocean cold, the wind brisk
A subway, chariot
To the underworld

Buildings but no people
Small town, foggy night
a single street light haloed

Empty, tuneless, lonely






Ambiente

by Susan T. Moss
What I know of Spain is espadrilles,
tapas, rainbow-colored tiles, its
chronicles of civil war and religious
purges – a place where voices

curl upward from café chatter
toward my unshuttered window
and the ghosts of Cervantes, Lorca,
Jimémez whisper their poetry

under a full moon competing
with clacking bells from
hallowed churches on narrow
cobbled streets squeezed

between stone buildings
with hanging marigolds
and bird cages amid neatly
pinned laundry two floors above.

I also know of Miró's quest
for perfection with the fewest
brush strokes, Goya's
Black Paintings,

flamenco's clap, stomp and strum,
ripening oranges scenting
the Mezquita of Córdoba,
Barcelona's salt air

and seduction of rioja tinto
sipped in twelfth-century walled
cities like Hondarribia or Granada,
where the Alhambra looms 

over the Albayzin, its dark rooms
weaving into more rooms with corners
of intrigue and hidden spaces,
inscrutable like my dreams.






The Tipple (Ars Poetica)

by David Bond
It's nine degrees and too quiet.
Smoke from a power plant six miles off
 
hangs like a purple wound,
jagged chase in the soft skin of sky
 
and it seems the cold has smothered too,
any audible sounds of labor.
 
Far down the tracks a Mo-Pac engine
throbs in dieseled cadence.
 
Above on the load-out platform
workers bunch along yellow-painted railing.
 
I climb the steel treads,
kick through piles of powdery coal dust,
 
across checkerplated flooring
where rusted boxcars pass below,
 
hoppers poised to belch dark cataracts,
the shards glistening, gathering as
 
the burden of mind, culled and channeled
to the headchute's Blackwall hitch.
 
Steam rises from metal thermoses.
Men talk among themselves,
 
their breath like spirit deserting flesh.
I join them at the railing,
 
look down to see a dead man
at the bottom of car number fifty-three,
 
chest-high snow like a blanket,
a stubborn barnacle the paramedics
 
later break loose with a washdown hose.
"Second one this year," the superintendent says,
 
dribbling tobacco juice into a styrofoam cup.
"Now get your asses back to work."
 
 
(Previously published in the book American Chicken)







The Holy Poltergeist

by Rick Sadler
I  was  following  the  smoke  of  the  Rose  burning  incense
To  what  my  dream  come  in  my  supernatural  sense,
The  smoke  lead  me  out  of  my  front  portal  to  a  garden
As  the  full  Moon  illuminated  the  night  shadows  in  pardon,
 
A  beautiful  lady  walked  up  to  me  from  nowhere  in  my
Mind's  eye  was  this  lovely  Poltergeist  I  greeted  in  a  sigh,
She  looked  like  a  elderly  woman  dressed  in  modern  clothes
Also  wearing  golden  spectacles  that  shimmered  on  her  nose,
 
Consisting  of  a  light  pant  suit  that  was  waving  in  the  wind
The  lady's  hair  was  long  and  gray  like  snow  flowing  end  to  end,
I  heard  an  innermost  voice  say,  "your  not  alone  and  remember
I've  always  been  with  you  and  I'm  your  mother  now  so  tender,
 
"I  help  you  find  your  car  in  huge  parking  by  the  large  image
on  car's  back  window  also  I'm  the  feeling  of  a  secure  page,
Of  your  mind's  book  of  going  to  hear  the  nocturnal  whippoorwill
To  see  a  Cardinal  flying  over  the  waters  of  the  Ohio  river  be  still,
 
The  night  descended  and  the  Fireflies  appeared  blinking  off  and  on
At  which  you  as  a  child  would  run  after  to  grab  their  tiny  neon,
Remember  when  you  was  a  little  boy  you'd  run  your  fingers  over
The  tops  of  the  leaves  the  plants  you  had  nurtured  to  discover,
The  Garden  of  Southern  Illinois  I  know  you  like  to  go  back  and  live
 
You  turned  into  a  rolling  stone  and  your  walked  among  your  fellow  men
By  serving  your  God  and  country  I  am  the  Virgin  Mary  here  in  this  glen,"






My Memories of Amsterdam

by Irfanulla Shariff
I visited you, Amsterdam,
Many moons ago 
And I still remember
Your outstanding 
Van Gogh Museum
Displaying hundreds 
Of eye-catching works of art
The spectacular view 
Of your traditional windmills
Your remarkable outdoor markets
Fabulous diamond factories
Bikes in abundance everywhere
Awesome small cafes
Serving mouth-watering 
Broodjes-Dutch sandwiches
And creamy cappuccinos
Street musicians playing 
Saxophone and accordion
Their sounds of melodies
Deeply touching the travelers 
Misty winds from the beach
Walking down your streets
The picturesque Amstel River
Glamorous canals 
And a boat ride
The charming skinny 
Magere Brug Bridge
Indeed you are 
The Venice of the North 
Where the land and river
Live in total harmony 






Today

by Farouk Masud
Maybe one day they'll learn
And gain wisdom and stature;
Everyday I seek and yearn
To understand the world's departure 
From common decency
And good old family values—
Drowning in an immoral sea
Of rebels without clues.
Self-centered loners 
Are the order of the day—
Crackheads and stoners—
Idols:  straight, bi and gay.
They worship materialism
And Hollywood's defiled—
Secularism and liberalism—
Sodom and Gomorrah gone wild.
Maybe some day I'll break free
And be different from the rest;
I don't want their devilry
Within me to manifest.
Maybe today you'll learn
That we've conditioned our human nature
To set fire and burn
The virtues bestowed by our Creator.






On Viewing "Nighthawks" Once Again

by Sheila Elliott
Someone must have stood, watching, in this
Masterpiece of many windows, someone
One floor above. One like us,
maybe, as we would have been then,
Before texting saved our lives,
Before TV taught reality.
 
There—in the off-sight shadow,
Cast by a window's shade.  Believe it.
A face, featureless as a window's frame,
Comely, well formed, but background
To things of greater beauty.
 
A watcher who saw different things:
Turned backs, faces lost in periphery,
A counter's clean expanse.
An inviting space.  Many hear that call,
Many hope a chosen time has come.
 
Between the shade and the window,
Before the beveled glass,
There is a street, timelessly
Washed in the dawn-like light
That comes with the closing of a day.
There could have been a watcher,
There could have been a door.
Someone watching, a place empty
As a hotel's bureau drawer.






Words for My Friend

by William Carey
"More than one word a night?! "
"I play a whole game a day with others! Don't let the moss grow."
Smile-spat about electric letters is big as play, 
 if love is considered.
Engage in game—that's vital.
Particular words weigh less. 

Which threads spread from "mom"?
"Mother" grants more chances, expanses,
 more triple beefy scores.
Depends of course on effortless letters that pop (little kiss) 
 like scilla or daffs 
 after this record April rain. 
Anyway, assume FNOBURS and blank screen, clean slate.
Just MOTHER centered—crux of our lives, our hurricane's eye.
Play: MOB, SNOB, FERNS—that's it, I sigh? 
Short, ordinary trifles, 
 a hint of brag in the double B (come on! that's 8—you should play more).

Surround mom with right words.
Electric board rewards no-risk fakes, 
 but I don't want that game. 
Transparent emotion
 is jolting too, you know.
Surface skimming cuts volts but energy, too.
But trust, too.

Double-words but no double-talk. 
Triple-letters but no tripping.
Rather, trip but recover.
Let 'er rip: once, twice, thrice feel, 
 then words—single, double, triple—may score
 lasting gifts to Mom galore.






Ahimsa

by Nancy Ann Schaefer
What is this you and I?
this division, separateness
struggling for supremacy
—hostile & mistrustful
fight-faced, fists raised,
one against the other,
discordant & destructive?

When really there
is only one—
the we of us, of all of us
our mystic core
immortal, enfolding
dove-winged
into cosmic divine

Let's unlearn this way of war.


(First appeared in Numinous)






Night Light

by Alan Harris
Melancholy needs a walk,
so out I carry it at 11 p.m.
to study two universes,
out and in.

Our neighborhood is dotted with
random porch and yard lamps
lighting the way for nobody
and me.

An hour above setting in the west,
our less-than-first-quarter moon
smiles inscrutably like a queen
in state.

Gliding through the trees, she
offers only used rays to my heart,
but light being now difficult to find,
I accept.

With far-away stars shining only because
they must, above a neighborhood where
yard lamps are glowing, thanks to
owners,

a breath now washes through my chest
inviting me to turn my melancholy
over to night's infinite matrix of Beings
who shine.

I do, and return home with lungs full
of light from outer and inner space,
and from yard lamps left on for all
who walk.

(From Fireflies Don't Bite)






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