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Poems by ISPS Members
December 2016
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Whitman at a Grain Depot

by James Reiss
By a loading bay that smells of millet
I tell him about photos of the Okies
in pickups piled mattress-and-bedstead-high
over empty stretches reflected
in the hollows of their cheeks.

He reminds me that Mathew Brady traced
the worry lines of an earlier generation
bivouacked beside muskets, knowing no campfire
could warm fallen comrades,
no plow unplant the human harvest.

I tell him the First World War
was fought overseas by farm boys gassed
in fields seeded with mines, the orchards
ripe with snipers twenty years later.

Then was it wrong to call those barnyards lonely
because their owners were missing in action
and the horses stumbled up to their fetlocks in mud?
Is it wrong to compare corn tassels to the sun-
beaten hair of women on welfare?

A giant combine is parked by a silo here
where a spark could rain ash on our heads.
Surveying the stockpile of grain,
Whitman seizes a fistful
and calls it bone meal.







rooms for rent

by jacob erin-cilberto
any of the old Beats who are left
have nose hairs stretching to the page
and arthritic poetic fingers
pushing the century mark
they read old poems left in their attic minds
 
trying from memory,
but failing to find sense of the words they cared so much about
when a time was that some actually listened,
 
now everyone just talks and rants 
and promotes his or her own wounds
bleeding profusely from the mouth
or the page,
 
but no one reads anymore
they just drive past the nursing homes
riddled with disinterest
spilling sonnet sodas on concrete hearts
 
devastation in numbers
young poets write graffiti prose
against a wind of change
 
sniffing at the breeze, 
trying to imagine
how the Beats ever found
any rhythm at all....







haiku

by Julie Warther
New Year's Day
the nurse helps her shed
last year's gown







The Christmas Angel

by Jill Angel Langlois
Christmas was mystical as I recall,
gazing at myself in the antique glass balls.

The little music box I held to my ear
made Christmas so special year after year.
“Silent Night” played as I hummed along,
not understanding what was meant by the song.

Then Christmas lost its zeal
when I thought Santa wasn’t real.
I felt torn, hurt and broken inside.
When Christmas lost magic and meaning, I cried.

So Christmas and I, we fell out of touch.
The emptiness and fear was almost too much.
I closed my eyes and I began to pray
for an Angel or a miracle to happen my way.

Then I knew my Father had heard my tears
When He closed the gap from my childhood years.
He sent an Angel to me from above
To teach me these things with care and love.

She spoke of a little boy in a manger,
but I’d heard that before, the boy was no stranger.
She taught me the reasons for why he was born,
to wipe away pain and bring joy on that morn.

I had so much to learn and so far to go,
but she took time and was patient, 
and helped me to grow.
Through the years with her as my guide,
I’m now able to rejoice at Christmastide.

Thank you, Father, for the special gift I claim,
my Angel, my friend, with whom I can proclaim.
We sing “Silent Night” and together celebrate
Your joy that’s replaced our sin and disgrace
because through Jesus, your Son, you’ve wiped clean the slate.







The Sea

by Frank Hubeny
It’s wetter than I want to be
And so I choose the land.
My weighty friend, great gravity,
Prefers that I should stand.

A boat is an alternative,
But some do sink out there.
Why leave the land and try to live
And float in some nowhere?

There are those creatures in that deep
Who wishy-washy roam.
I’ll count on waves of dreamy sheep.
I’d rather sleep at home.







Lighting the Way

by Caroline Johnson
After caroling house to Victorian house,
we nominated my brother to line up
the luminaries outside our front sidewalk
in the brutal cold.  Each brown paper
bag held sand and one fat candle,
purchased from our local church
with my Dad’s donation.
 
Breezes seeped through his thin skin.
With scarlet cheeks, foggy breath
he carefully bent down in the wind
to light each one, not wanting
to start a fire or wake up the ire
of my Father or Santa Claus.
 
We looked out the bay window
as he worked in the snowfall
and we hung each ornament
each angel, each strand
of tinsel, lights.
 
Christmas is light
after all.


(Published on the Highland Park
website "Muse's Gallery")







cracker store*

by Steven Kappes
a  broken soot-blackened slab of concrete
stands like a monument to the once thriving store
that stood on the spot for a century
watching the trail become a highway
watching wagons hauling oranges
become semi’s with belching engines
watching a handful of tourists in straw hats
become an invading army clearing the everglades
making their homes along the roads and rivers
watched the flames that consumed it in the night
 
now its invisible shade watches
cars and trucks parked on the crushed stone
around a flea-market on a Saturday afternoon
country music being played in the background
while the aroma of barbeque and french fries
drifts across the crowd at tables beneath tents
to raise money to help the unfortunate
though they cannot bring back
that which is now gone forever
to live only in those people’s memories

*Florida cowboys were called “crackers” because
of the crack of the bull whips they used to herd
cattle.







Learning to ride a bike

by Nancy Ann Schaefer
To the parents I once knew: The Dad 
who danced sock-footed as I balanced 
on his toes, Old Spice from Christmas 

tickling my nose. The Mom who taught 
me how to bake & hem & knit woolen
caps; the smell of sugar cookies cooling

in airy kitchen when home from school,
shaken and spent, my telltale hands 
chalk-caked from blackboard shaming,  

buffeted by figures unfathomable as
Rubik’s Cube, unruly—brain & fingers
out of sync, unsteady, like on my bicycle

without training wheels for the first time.
Mastery did come, Dad running beside me, 
strong hand guiding handlebar, Mom calling 

You can do it! Keep peddling! firm push, legs
pumping, acceleration, equilibrium—joy drunk
on speed & freedom, wind whistling at my back. 

And now, years later & I am grown: Bad news,
the doctor says. Your husband, father… AD….
His words punch the antiseptic air. Mom’s voice, 

so sure before, is fretted & low; her eyes, search 
beams sweeping over his face, white coat, diplomas. 
Silence. The doctor clears his throat, looks 

away. I squeeze her hand. I’m here Mom,
 I’m here. Peddling hard against the wind.


(First appeared in The Rockford Review)








Dad's Pocketknife

by Wilda Morris
I never saw Dad clean a fish
or whittle a horse with his pocketknife,
the indispensable tool he carried
everywhere. He never knew
when he’d need to pluck tacks
from the sole of my patent leather shoes,
extract a bent nail from the kitchen wall,
flick chunks of dried mud
from brown work boots,
or open a letter from his son.
 
His pocketknife lanced leaves
from rhubarb, harvested
daylilies gathered for Mother.
No. 2 pencils quivered
beneath its whetted blade,
dirt under his fingernails
yielded to its probing.
He sectioned pears, peaches,
apples into neat portions.
 
The sharp blade cut tape
as Dad opened boxes: the tie
I gave him for Father’s Day,
the blue sweater at Christmas
from Grandma Kessler,
years of ribboned gifts carefully
sealed in colorful paper,
wrapping he handled so carefully
it could be used another year.
 
Now on his fifty-fifth anniversary
that same knife slits through tape,
discloses the pocket watch
Mother gave him to keep track
of the hours which remain.


(First published by Rockford Review,
Summer-Fall, 2011)







What Rabbits Know

by Michael Escoubas
From my early morning
vantage point, just up
with a cup of Folgers
in my hand, and looking east.

I see my furry friend
resting on December’s apron,
Nature’s compensation for
this puff of winter fluff.

Last summer the same ground
was home to fragrant mint
and oregano. Columbine and
spiderwort sang as if in choir.

Yet, this once-warm-earth
still flourishes. The rabbit
knows that this very spot
will birth his family in spring.







The Possessed Pizza Delivery Man

by Mark Hudson
The stranger the pizza delivery man got,
the more he looked like he drank a lot.
Forgetting the pizza he probably stole,
we found it abandoned by the telephone pole.
The cardboard box was abandoned in the ditch,
the crumbs were being eaten by a Halloween witch.
A monster energy drink was also on my list,
of the things the delivery man had missed.
The pizza delivery man didn’t understand,
and the witch showed me her green wedding band.
I thought that it was a marriage that was doomed from the start!
I really couldn’t tell the couple apart!
Then they sort of shifted into one entity,
their flesh became one, I had no serenity.
I said, “Halloween is way too weird this year,
give me Christmas, with tons of reindeer!”
And then the two-person creature shifted,
got in a sleigh, and to the sky he was lifted.
Was it Santa, up to his same old tricks?
I wasn’t expecting to see good old St. Nicks!
Then a red-nosed reindeer appeared with a grin.
He had a bunch of anchovies dripping from his chin.
“Sorry we ate your pizza, but Christmas is near!
We must go worldwide to spread holiday cheer!
We needed to be well fed to do our task!”
I said, “If you wanted pizza, why didn’t you ask?
When Christmas comes, no milk and cookies
will be out for you, you shape-shifting rookies!”
And the sleigh turned into a pizza sculpture,
I began to eat it like a ravenous vulture!
Once well fed, I began to survey the scene,
shouting, “Merry Christmas! Happy Halloween!”
To the trick or treaters, I cooked cookies with a pinch
of sugar and green color, looking like the Grinch!
I told them, “Here you go; this is your gift for each holiday,
take the candy and now please go away!”
Don’t throw eggs at my ever so humble abode,
or I’ll get a witch to turn you into a toad!
You may be kids now, too, so go kick the can,
I was one once, now I’m an ornery old man!
Let me sit and eat my pizza in peace,
and no, none of you can have a piece!
I’ll give you a tootsie roll, the pizza is mine,
it has special powers that are evil or divine!
And so I ate the pizza sculpture for many moons,
and read novels by Stephen King and Dean Koontz!
This was the way to become a fixture and a legend,
in my own mind I was my own invention!
I had become a pizza, covered in pepperoni,
for my acting abilities, I’d be getting a Tony.
And now I could frighten the kids beyond belief,
frightening them into brushing their teeth!
Some people go door to door, seventh day Adventists,
I go door to door as an advertisement for dentists!
Don’t let your kids eat pizza, make them eat fruit,
that way on Halloween, they’ll look rather cute!
But for me, it’s a little too late to be a health nut,
I haunt the streets of the world, pizza in my gut.
A cross between Frankenstein and Jabba the Hutt,
A ghost and a mummy, resembling King Tut!
And I haunt the world on Halloween, looking for Anchovies,
while generations of teenage girls still listen to Bon Jovi!
I am the indigestion ghost; buy my pizza by the slice,
have a little taste, your soul may be the price!
And when all the graves are overturned on All-Soul’s Day,
My pizza physique will be rebuilt like molded clay.
Maybe reincarnation is true, and a pizza won’t be me,
I’ll return as a piece of broccoli, for all eternity!
I guess you get a new body when you get to paradise,
but my first question for St. Peter will be, “Got a slice?”
He might say, “Up here, we only eat tuna,
and now it’s your time to meet the big Kahuna!”
And so in paradise, I play my harp on the cloud,
I hear the rock ‘n’ roll from hell and it’s loud!
I sit and eat broccoli, and every good boy does fine,
every day in eternity, the sun will always shine.






My Black History Poem

by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
I want to lead you to safety like Harriet Tubman, 
While we are on our way
I want to stop traffic like Garrett Morgan, 
Before we get there, I want to right all wrongs like Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, 
While we are there I want to ensure that our minds and spirits are in the right place
	and then we will get our hearts pumping like Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, 
So that we can run through fields of gold like Jesse and Wilma, 
Then dance to the beat of a thousand drums like Katherine Dunham and Josephine Baker,
I want to be the first up to bat like Jackie and HANK, I want to resound through your
	ears and your memory BANK, 
Like Mahalia, Marion and Billie!
I want to fight battles like Muhammad and Joe,
I want to take a stand so that others may sit in comfort, 
Like Ida and Rosa, 
I want to give of my time, life, heart, mind, body and soul so that future generations
	won't have to sit in the dark and sit on the sidelines like Martin and Malcolm.
I want to soar through the bluest of skies like the courageous Tuskegee airmen and
	Dr. Mae Jemison. 
I want to be the first beauty you recognize like Vanessa Williams.
I want to undermine and backhand stereotypes like Althea, Venus and Serena Williams.
I want to paint broad presidential brush strokes of the the First Lady and her beau
	with hues of justice like Simmie.
I want to act like Kings and Queens like Harry, Sidney, Lena and Cicely.
I want to live on through the pages of your memory, Like Maya, Zora, Lorraine,
	Langston and James, can't you see? 






Foraging for Scraps

by Lennart Lundh
The hawks, bloody beaked and sated,
leave four dove wings in the ditch
as a peace offering to the ravens
who might otherwise harry them.

The man, taken for a dawn stroll
by the dog who demands his hours,
brushes dirt from the white shards
and gathers them for further use.

Home, his own fast broken,
he turns them gently in his hands,
marvels at the delicate webs of bones
and comforters of soft feathers.

In his loveless chest, he fastens wings
in place of sails on his heart strings,
sets imagination's boat in the stream.
New horizons might allay her absence.






Christmahanukwanzaa

by Kathy Cotton
We weave this single celebration
from winter’s red berries
and decorated trees,
from vivid kente cloth,
blue Hanukkah ribbons,
black pride, white snow.
We weave together the knotted tangles
of guarded hearts.
            The light within each of us
celebrates the light within all of us,
the candle-flame beauty
of menorah, kinara, advent wreath;
the warm conversation
around a flickering fireplace
at the Interfaith Center where we share
sugar cookies, kosher donuts,
wedges of sweet potato pie.

This melting-pot December evening
is a celebration of joyful traditions:
            spinning the draedel,
            drumming,
            caroling,
an evening of telling precious stories
passed down through generations:
            the miracle of oil,
            heritage of Africa,
            babe in a manger.

Someone says,
A toast to peace!
We raise our glasses
of minted green tea or eggnog or wine.
To peace, we say.
To peace.


(Encore Prize Poems, 2016)






Angel Stories

by Sherri Baker
From my self-imposed prison,
I hear your voice through the thin wall
that separates us—like an angel sent
to release me from the solitary sound
of tears.
            Tell me a story,
a tale to free my soul. Describe a breezy
day with trees that bow and wave hello, 
children running free in wildflower fields,
laughing, singing. Help me remember
those days before I began building
my wall.
            Create a story
just for me. Let me feel, if only for
a moment, that I'm not sitting here alone,
inside my self-imposed prison.






An Adopted Christmas

by Rick Sadler
A  mother  cat  adopts  a  new  born  puppy  as  her  own
The  puppy's  mother  rejected  him  and  is  alone,

Surely  the  little  male  puppy  would  die  so
Very  young  from  starvation  left  in  the  snow,

Out  of  some  miracle  the  mother  cat  felt  bad
For  this  orphan  that  made  her  feel  so  sad,

Even  though  the  mother  cat  had  kittens  to  care
For  the  mother  feline  loved  the  puppy's  every  hair,

Even  animals  show  love  to  their  little  ones  no  matter
The  species  of  animal  is  born  to  hear  the  pitter-patter,

In  the  little  feet  running  across  the  floor  to  join  it's
Feline  sisters  and  brothers  as  this  lovely  story  fits,

The  little  puppy  was  not  asked  to  be  born  with  no  choice
Has  the  right  to  life  in  God's  plan  listen  to  his  voice,

I  praise  the  momma  cat  for  her  instinct  of  compassion
To  preserve  life  and  of  love  for  a  helpless  beings  situation,

So  think  about  this  story  of  love  and  life  in  her  adoption
To  choose  life  as  the  best  Christmas  gift  in  this  option,

It  is  through  the  inspiration  of  the  Virgin  Mary's  story
How  wonderful  is  Mary's  love  came  down  in  her  glory

Dedicated  To:   Molly






Listening to a Childhood Song

by William Marr
Flickering across the dark open space

a firefly...

               then two...          

                               then three...

soon they multiply

become flashes of lightning

reveal ragged hills

                            and mountains


overflowing rivers     

                            and ravines


of a face






Waking to Wonder

by Mary Jo Balistreri
an etheree
Trees
tinseled
as snow fell
all night to drape
the dawn in silver.
Pristine, still, not a bird
in sight—the forest transformed—
a land of sugar plum fairies,
crystallized castles and coated chimes, 
the winter rekindling childhood wonder.






The End

by Carol Dooley
Early morning, woods frosted.
Footsteps amid the dead leaves.
A young deer moves, clearly heard.
 
Deer rough gutted.
A young buck, first antlers, a spiker,
dragged through the woods it once owned.
 
Clear eyes, large, dark,
search for the present day, the lost future.






Letter from the Desert Museum

by Donna Pucciani
Tucson, Arizona
On the coldest day in two decades,
Chicago's snow is heaped mid-thigh,
schools have dispensed with children,
and cars creep into a creamsickle dawn.

Tomorrow I'll fly there, if the plane
doesn't splinter into icy shards
mid-air over Oklahoma. But today,
I wander the Sonora to view the flight
of raptors over cacti, their wings
outlined black on pink hills.

From a safe distance I catch the eye
of a coyote, consider the pig-like coati
rummaging through the saguaro.
A ranger points out a Stellar jay,
brilliant blue, pecking near my feet, 
which will soon be snow-shod.

Hummingbirds hover and dart
in the aviary, and when I emerge 
under the sun's scalding visage,
I try to imagine my house back home
sunk low in frozen dunes.

Tomorrow night, as the snow plow
rumbles past, scooping hope
from crystal streets, I'll dream of 
javelinas rooting among the prickly pear.

(First published in Atlanta Review. 
Subsequently published in Edges
by Donna  Pucciani, Purple Flag
Press, 2016).






Encountering Refugees

by Bakul Banerjee
The locomotive rumbles into the Siliguri station
heaving and creaking to break the wheel rotation.
Passengers have packed their bags in anticipation
of journey’s end or taking another transportation.

Edges of the misty Himalayan mountain range 
draw country boundaries and stand sentinel. 
Mama cracks the heavy, barred window open
to let in the pine-perfumed air from the mountain.

Last night, parents spoke about possible delay
in transferring to the connecting train today.
Rumor has it – Tibetan refugees are coming down.
Who are these people? To me, it is a new noun.

Bengalis, Assames, Khasis, and Nagas I knew;
not Tibetans busy preparing their special brew
on their portable stoves glowing under tall pots;
not these strangers lost in unknown thoughts.

Wide eyes of the children pierce my child’s mind.
Adult faces are flattened by fear of unknown wind.
The odor of arduous travels and yak butter in tea  
assaults my nose. It wrinkles. I cannot help but agree.

Mama taps my shoulder; gives me rebuking eye.  
Promptly, I straighten my nose and apologize.






Facing Winter

by Kate Hutchinson
How can we face the winter again?
That white terrain.
 
A shard of ice, a freeze of breath,
a little death.
 
Infinite gray, the taunting wink of sun –
time's gaping yawn.
 
Rest now, rest.  How pointless the grief
when every fiber of nature – sedated,
wise, patient – knows the white terrain.
A little death, then chariots unleashed.






Mum

by Jennifer Thiermann
new widow
at his grave the scent
of forced narcissus






Judith's Gift

by Ina Perlmuter
The sound of your voice
from years ago
still reverberates
you called to say
your daughter
my darling niece
had suddenly died
 
On this
the anniversary
of that call
the gift
of her glorious smile
comes to me
and fills me with joy






With All My Love, Your Father

by Myron L. Stokes
You emerge from the Maya-blue 
Hawaiian waves, catching the solicitous
eyes of chiseled young men with corded arms
and granite chests. I watch you tug at the yellow
bikini that I begged and begged 
you not to buy. Ten years of ballet 
designed you into lithe perfection.
Hide your acceptance letters from Pepperdine,
Howard, Spelman and Brown
until my heart is strong enough to see you go.

Your naval and nose ring, 
the black anhk tattoo etched
between your shoulders, 
your marathon texting and driving,
the late night Beyonce concerts,
and your birth control implant afflict 
me to no fathomable end.
I itch to torch your iPhone, stiletto heels, 
mini dresses, lipstick, make up 
and everything else that pulls you from me.

Come back to the cradle of my arms 
and grasp my finger, gurgle and blow 
spit bubbles at me. Sleep on my chest again, 
snug in your pamper and scented 
with Johnson’s Baby Oil 
after your frolicking bath in the kitchen sink. 
Let’s share the Gerber pear puree
and strained sweet potatoes. 
Reach for me in your crib,
hands swatting like a short-circuited robot,
plump legs kicking in excitement at my goofy faces.

Let’s have tea parties in your pink bedroom, 
play beauty shop with your Barbie dolls,
watch “The Little Mermaid,” “Finding Nemo,” 
“Beauty and the Beast,” while we eat popcorn 
on the living room sofa in our socks.
Sit on my lap and play Patty Cake.
Sing The Eensy Weensy Spider
and Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.

Let me brush and braid your hair,
match your colorful barrettes with your dresses,
play hopscotch, jump rope, bake cakes
in your Easy Bake Oven.
Beg me to read “Mr. Pine’s Purple House” 
and “The Wicked Pigeon Ladies in the Garden.”
Tell me how funny I am and how you 
like to hear me sing. Show me how
good you can tie your shoes 
and write your name in cursive.

Sit on my shoulders at Magic Kingdom
in your Mickey Mouse ears.
Ride Dumbo beside me and yell, Weeeeeee, Daddy!
Share my funnel cake, turkey leg and cheesy fries.
Scream, Don’t let go of me, Daddy while 
we swoop and soar on Space Mountain.
Let me carry you asleep in my arms
when you’re too tired to walk,
your Minnie Mouse tee shirt stained
with chocolate and strawberry ice cream.

Beg me to race you in your new pink sneakers.
Recite the Lord’s Prayer like I taught you.
Yell, Watch me, Daddy,
when you ride your bike with no hands.
Run to me with my Father’s Day card
held high in your hand and hide my
Christmas and birthday presents in your secret hiding place.
Tell me that I’m the smartest Daddy in the world.
Tell me you love me, This much 
with your arms stretched as wide they can go.






Hemingway on the Left Bank

by Mardelle Fortier
Paris was enormous,
full of artists
in creative ferment.
We lived among poor workers
next to a sawmill.
The apartment was drafty and old.
I loved it.

Each day I wrote, first
in a cramped office,
later in cafes.  Coffee helped me,
wine helped even more.

I tried to find the one
true sentence

in that one right place
Paris.


(Prairie Light Review, Dec. 2016)






Learned from a Bird Brain

by Bonnie Manion
Hearing a random series of clicks
in my kitchen, I investigate to find
an energetic brown bird with red
markings on its wings and tail, 
a female cardinal, sideling along
the outside windowsill, every now-
and-then attempting to fly into one
of the closed windows, beak banging.
Not put off, she tenaciously repeats
this effort over and over, everyday,
day after day, all summer long.
Once, her scarlet mate briefly 
joined her on the ledge, but flew 
away as soon as he saw her fail 
to fly even once through the glass.

I speculate that she perhaps sees 
(but does not recognize) her own
reflection, perceiving it as an 
intruder into her territory.  Or, 
maybe she sees a space she 
wants to explore, unable to 
understand the glass barrier.

Famously aggressive, heretofore
whatever she could see was open 
to her world.  Now, her beak 
merely bangs ineptly against 
a wall she can see beyond, but
cannot penetrate.  This anomaly is
beyond the cardinal’s understanding.
Repeated attempts to fly through
the window are doomed.  But, 
she cannot resist trying.






Giants Walking on the Roof

by Candace Armstrong
Sun filters through the Douglas firs
   followed by snow, imperceptible at first.
Peaceful. Tiny specks of crystallized vapor
   floating, floating over all, 
failing to foretell

the turbulent fury of the arriving wind,
   thrashing through shaken boughs,
flinging ice-dressed needles, bark, branches
   from the swaying firs
like giants walking on the roof. 






A Very Merry Christmas

by Doris Frey
Christmas comes in many ways
To young and old alike,
A cozy shawl for worn out arms,
For fast young legs, a bike.
 
For Dad a necktie, colors bold,
For Mom a brand new dress,
And Sis will get that walking doll
Or I will miss my guess.
 
Across the land by trees lit up
With gold and silver glow
Christmas comes in once again
While kids all hope for snow.
 
But I have learned in years gone past
That the greatest gift of all
Will not be found beside the tree
Or in the banquet hall.
 
The greatest gift I love the best
Can be had every day.
It’s not a trinket, wealth or fame,
It’s simply when we say,
          “I love you!”






Cats

by Arthur Voellinger
One of the neat
things about cats
is they never talk back

Sure, they meow
and purr to
get their way

But a cat's glee
comes in running its back
just below someone's knees

That's when
an owner or a friend
can talk back...to a cat






Shadow

by Farouk Masud
My dark self:
Always there, 
With me,
Always--
Like the Devil!
Just leave me be.
Stop staring at me!
I know you're staring at me.
Stop grinning at me!
I know you're grinning at me.

I could walk forever 
And forever 
You'd mock my every move.
Merciless, 
Spineless!
You think we're friends
Just because I allow you 
To walk by my side?
For once,
Can't you walk behind me
So I may look dignified?

Fleshless,
Silhouette-like spirit!
Your complaints sicken me.
Your footsteps are louder than my own.
Your laughter eats my already mauled heart.

Instead of a shadow,
Why couldn't you be my very own genie
And grant me one wish:
For you to be human--
With bones--
So I may break them!






Recipe for Disaster

by Lucy M. Logsdon
First, stop cooking.
Let all the domesticity
of your lovely kitchen wither.
Let mold fill the fridge,
dishes pile in sink.  
Let the roaches gather.

The tidying of pillows, 
pictures, books, schedules,
and, yes, writing, forgotten. 
Weeds blossom. You're a wild 
field now; a pasture 
gone to seed.

Make a strewing powder:
lavender, peppermint, straw.
Spread on the linoleum. Still,
you can’t cover despair’s stench: 
rotten apples, vodka, burnt 
bangs, gaslit cigarettes.

Guzzle your drink. He’s not
coming tonight, or tomorrow.
Your poems are rejected.
The promise you arrived with,
a white pillbox hat, matching coat, 
falls off. Stop paying your bills.

What’s potential, but a chance 
to prove loss. Make another.
Kick your sleeping dog awake.
Break a mirror for good luck.
None of the given rules work.
You’re broken, a battered cat.

Grad school’s tin roof shelter
incinerated your pretty pawed feet.
Once the pet, you’ve doubled down
to the disaster. Heads shake
when you show up. No one warned 
you: talent doesn’t do disgrace.

Sleep in wadded piles of unwashed
clothes; grind your teeth at night.
Wisdom molars cut through 
bleeding gums. Bare them, then witness: 
you are the wreck your mother 
promised you’d become.


(Originally appeared in Vol. 3,
Thank You For Swallowing)






Beginning Lines

by Sheila Elliott
(For a Poem about 'An Old House')
The bricks were new, the floorboards strong,
The day we moved in there.
Someone planted a brand new tree,
Neither an apple, nor a pear.

The walls were strong, the plaster smooth,
The grass grew green in the yard.
We had no friends that moving day,
But soon, we had them near and far.

We wore out TVs and stereos.
There was a pool out in the back.
No one knew us on moving day.
In a month, we were part of the pack.

We planted flowers, we painted walls,
Rock music played all the time.
On Summer nights we sat outside
When asked, we said, "This house is mine."

But one by one, we all grew
And gradually moved away.
We left the house and the porch and the yard.
There seemed no reason to stay.

The other day I drove past
That house where we used to live.
Neither apple nor pear, the tree was still there.
It seems some things have so much to give.






A Distant Guitar

by Patty Dickson Pieczka
drapes its moon-drift
over the valley's hips
until dark hills vanish
into the sky.

Here is the sound 
of a heart's moan,
of water pulling away from sand,
of words dropping 
to the bottom of night.

Somewhere there are lovers,
teak trees and rum, tangles 
of wild roses peering 
through an iron gate,

while I learn once again
the taste of dark clouds,
the scent of ash in my hair
as traceries of geese smoke 
across the sky.

Somewhere dreams prism 
their reflections,
ring tiny glass bells,
whisper through the wings
of a dragonfly,

as I bind my feet to roots
of a chokecherry, 
learning to bend with wind
in the hollows of night.






The Heart, Mind, and Soul of Christmas

by Michael Talaga
We all want the “perfect” gifts
At our local department stores
But Jesus is the genuine perfect one
That everyone is really looking for
He is the one gift that is worth much more
Than any department store could ever sell
Because Jesus is the heart; mind; and soul of Christmas
Our precious Lord Messiah and Emmanuel
So remember while you do your holiday shopping routine
Focus on not what is visible, but what is unseen
Such as the power and love of Christ
Whom we celebrate - born on this day
The reason for the season and the only Son of God
Christ the Lord is holy and he is our hope and stay
Santa could never deliver a beautiful gift like this
No matter how many reindeer hitch up his sleigh
Isn’t it good to know that the heart; mind; and soul
Of Christmas is Jesus Who loves His children
Big or small; young or old; whatever age or size
The Prince of Peace shall forever increase
May this Christmas and New Year make us joyful and wise






Herman

by Gail Denham
The boy, Jacob, sits by the window
and names the stars. The stars stay
in place till called. Jacob breathes:
“Lead me down the right path, lit
by those stars.”
 
“That one on the right I call Jennie,”
Jacob says. “She shone so bright
last night, I left the curtains open
to speak with her.”
 
My questions flew
about the boy’s stars.
 
“I wonder what it feels like to float
in nothingness? Do they ever feel
crowded by other stars? What do
the stars tell you?”
 
“Herman over there looks mighty
close to Jennie.” Jacob says. As my
eyes blurred, I saw that Jennie seemed
to lean closer. I could swear she smiled.
 
“Herman has a new job,” I heard Jacob
whisper softly as we watched. “He’s
been assigned to a small girl in the
oncology department. Jennie says we
should wave a safe journey to him.”
 
A blink and Jennie rotated out of sight,
with Herman right beside her. I wished
them both “God speed.” Jacob smiled his
agreement and waved them away.






Contemplating Shirley

by Alan Harris
We worked well together
selling mystical books
to mystical people,
honoring their Visa cards
and their souls.

Our store was fragrant with packaged incense
and alive with hermetic energy from crystals.
Our books contained
the most magnificent perceptions
that money can open windows
into.

We played music all day
of flutes and harps
to reach our customers' hearts.
In a kind of preheaven we glided
through our store hours
with no eye to the time
or the weather outside.

There was the cancer, yes.
It sounded an undertone
in your voice
and added a depth to your eyes.
The chemo stole your hair
for a while but you kept on
selling inspired books
on healing and wholeness
until your curls grew back,
more blond and beautiful
than ever.

Now your body has transformed
into a clear vapor and a few ashes,
but I still see your warm eyes
and reserved smile
as clearly as when body
was your instrument of being.
I hear your quiet voice,
not the words but the quality,
and I know you are fine.
You left behind a gentler world
to come back to.


(From Inward in Words)






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