Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
October 2001
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Practicing

by Tom Roby
My dad developed me.
We would fool around
with the pigskin
every weekend.

I never knew why
he threw passes for hours
like Johnny Unitas --
"Slant out five, cut right three.
Fly twelve down, drift back."

The ball was always there
on one side or the other
too high or too low --
he never said where.

So when I caught the shoestring
spiral that won the game,
I did it on my own.

We talked once
about how much
I had practiced --

"Remember how I developed you."

"Oh, when was that?"







Wrigley Field

by Bob McCarthy
sunny days
blue skies
green ivy on the walls

cotton candy
peanuts
beer
ice cream

base hits
runs scored
outs

fly balls
ground balls
errors

some wins
some losses







Returning Kathy's Call

by Larry Turner
You tracked me down here in the east
where we've retired, near him and our other sons.
You want to get in touch with him
again after-what?- these fifteen years.
You told me what you've been doing.
I told you what he's been doing.
You asked if he married. I said
he's living with his longtime partner Andrew.
You asked me to pass your phone number on.

When I told my wife, she remembered you from your name.
How could your voice and name not unlock my memory,
much as I've thought of you? I must apologize.
But that's not what I wanted to tell you.

It's your name I didn't recognize;
I remember all about you. You played
the piano. You had that self-confident
manner, rare among the high-school aged.
But that's not what I wanted to tell you.

He's living with his longtime partner Andrew.
You said he didn't know, back then.
I said I don't know when he knew.
I know more about the teen years
of my lesbian friends than those of my son,
and isn't that the way with parents and children?
Weren't you at that graduation party at our house?
Wasn't that other girl there too? The one his teacher fixed him up with
for the prom? The one the teacher was having an affair with himself?
The teacher must have known
if you didn't, and I didn't.
No, I never would have told you that.

Then months or years later, after you both
started college, he said he talked to you.
I asked why he wasn't dating you.
He said you had a boyfriend. I said,
"It's no surprise, the way you keep ignoring her!"
I saw you last much later, at some reading
in a Chicago bookstore.
But that's not what I wanted to tell you.

You didn't know, and I didn't.
But then that night he was home from the east.
He said he had something to tell me.
He looked so ill at ease I thought,
"Oh God! He's gotten some girl pregnant!"
That's how prepared I was for his news.
The first thought that entered my spinning mind:
He's not a complete idiot. There's a different reason
he let you get away.
But that's not what I wanted to tell you either.







Renewal

by Pat Petros
The V-wedged geese are flying high
through stone-washed blue October's sky;
a sign of fall, like new-mown hay
and bonfires turning night to day.

Now trees wear bright painted faces,
with tie-dyed leaves wind displaces
to crunch under children's feet
as they come skipping down the street.

By technicolor leaves we know
it's time for nature's magic show.
She plays her yearly autumn role
which lifts the spirit--soothes the soul.







Soulful Slot

by Carol Spelius
So you are tired of your boring life?
Of your busy husband or your bossy wife?
Of the fast growing inner strife?

Be not unhappy with your lot.
Give yourself credit for all you've wrought:
for the many confrontations you've fought.

Your life is more than a blot or dot.
No matter what you've sought and lost,
your life is better than a graveyard plot.







A Drunk World

by William Marr
so much pent-up sorrow
so many beer cans popping
and the world froths
and the world overflows







News Muse # 39

by Richard Oberbruner
Despite Man's inhumanity to man
you can still lease a brand new
Buick Rendezvous for
$345 a month
none of
which
were
de
stroyed
by fire in the
worst attack on
U.S. soil since quack
grass infiltrated suburbia.
"The Taliban" opened on Broadway
to a barrage of gunfire. Survivors
and audience members alike
said it was the most exci
ting opening night
since front row
center for
"U.S.S.
Ari
zona"
back in
1845, give
or take histor
ical accuracy. Suicide
investors are seeing an up
ward trend in the downward spiral
that makes such an active stock. Mean
while, Prosperity sprouts a pair
of fiber optic wings hover
ing near the succulent
ATM hole. Anxious
angels trying to
give up smo
king still
don't know
where to
stick nicotene
patches. Other
angels complain a
bout second hand smoke
clogging their armpits. Con
gressional leaders are still stuck
on how to figure out what it takes to
prevent terrorist attacks prior to
the legislation it takes to
apprehend those who
obliterate count
less Ameri
can lives
from
acts
so
heinous
it takes real
life special affects
to suspend the disbelief
of consumer confidence. A
merican history was so boring un
til we let our guard down. Mountains
are now forbidden to grow any tall
er for security reasons. Any
land form "shale be trim
med" via strategic ex
plosives upon ex
spouses who ex
cell at exit
wounds.







Echoes of Earlville

by Alan Harris
When someone first revealed to me
that I lived in Earlville, Illinois,
I had no inkling there was ever
any other place to live.
Show me another town where trains
would wail from creek to crossover,
glissando-ing like slide trombones.

I remember winter nights in bed
when long steam-engine whistle toots
would bring about deep slumbering--
reliable as lullabies.
Soon progress dared to usher in
the brassy, strident dissonance
of diesel horns, "long-long-short-long,"
which set the window panes a-buzz.

Percussion also spread through town
from near the Farmer's Elevator--
during harvest rush, staccato
pops from John Deeres lined up near
the scales sent complex polyrhythms
further east than the Legion Hall.

Earlville was small, so most knew most--
for everybody's good, it seemed.
Few homes were listed, bought, or sold
without a buzz of estimates
proceeding through the telephones.
Transgression stories relayed at
the noisy downtown coffee shop
made patrons want just one more cup--
and filled the owner's till enough
to pay the waitress and the cook.

In Earlville, peaceful though it was,
occasional embarrassments
were held quite close to home and hearth.
Shrewd townsfolk having secrets knew
the power that perfect silence has,
so that even at the coffee shop
no mortal ever was the wiser.

I wonder whether Earlville now
is still the way it used to be.
Are the same things happening today
except to different residents?
Do trains still pound those west-end switches,
filling town with jazzy rhythms?
Do policemen cruise the streets at night
and watch for tavern stragglers
who think booze helps their driving skills?

The Leader prints the deaths of friends
I used to work and joke beside,
their laughter now a memory.
Obituaries fail to tell
the grief and joy these townsfolk knew.
If Roman Catholic, they find
eternal rest on holy ground
off Union Street just east of town.
For Protestants and "faith unknown"
the Precinct is the plot of choice,
out by the blacktop south of town.
I'll join my townsmen there someday
when hidden forces that I trust
decide it's time I go back home.

Although I can't be sure I'll hear
those trains at night from where I rest,
the living folks will surely hear
them on and off between their dreams.
As each nocturnal freight train bawls
through town, then fades out west or east,
light-sleeping heirs to Earlville's past
will pull their covers up a bit,
turn over, and go back to sleep.







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