Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
April, 2023
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Poems on this Page:


by Charlotte Digregorio
A tanka sequence
i wish i could brush my hand again
across dapper Dad's fedoras 
gifted to his friends 
after his death
when i was a child

after Mom's recent death
i open her trunk with silk shawl
black dress and four-inch heels
in style once more
yet too precious to wear

how unfeeling of my friend
who suggests i sell
those memories of Mom
for one hundred dollars
at the resale shop

The Road

by Hanh Chau
There is a road that
I ride on it is rough
It seems so far away
miles ahead of me
It is impossible to
find the way
through the tunnel
sometimes it feels lost
to know where to go
I refused to give up
to take the initiative
to remind of myself
always stay positive
to keep things going
finding the right direction
to the successful path
persistent is the key
when it comes to
face with challenges
to stand up bravely
overcome obstacles
accomplish the goal

Old Man Nye

by Gail Denham
...ekphrastic, picture of old country store, artist unknown
Julie thought she'd locked the store door, yet here come
old man Nye, scuffling up to the counter. "We're closed,"
Julie murmured, even though she knew it wouldn't do
no good. Old man Nye operated on his own schedule.
"Pound of fresh butter, Missie," Frank Nye said, loud.
Julie stepped back against a shelf, toppling tins
of baking soda. Nye's daily garlic intake was legend
in these parts. His breath erupted like a heavy fog.
"And a jar of that honey — like to spread it on Nellie's
homemade bread, and I put a dab in my coffee. Scoop
out a pound of that coffee. Make it fresh, mind.
Then two pounds of white sugar and some gumdrops.
No. Two bags sugar. Put the candy in with the sugar."
"You might trot out a please". Julie murmured.   
No reason to rile the old coot. Riled up, he was
a caution. He'd rant till the cows came home.
Sudden, Nye went quiet, stopped talking. Startled,
Julie looked up, watched the old man go pure white
in the face. He leaned hard against the cracker barrel.
Julie ran round the counter to see Mr. Nye slide down.
She ran for a glass of water and wet rag. Just then
the door flung open. Rachel and Amos crossed to Nye,
lifted him. "Wha..." Julie stuttered. Her face felt warm.
"Not to worry, Miss Julie. Gramps havin' one
of his spells. Not 'sposed to have sweet stuff. I'll bet
he ordered candy. And he hasn't been taken them pills
Doc give him."
"I'll fill his order, quick." Julie watched the kids kneel
beside their gramps, hold him up as they left. Amos
opened the gumdrops and passed some to Rachel.
Julie wished this summer was over and she could git back
to school, let Pa run things. This store took a toll on a gal.
On the other hand, she pure admired the way Amos
and Rachel cared for their gramps. Warmed her heart. It
must be hard. And she did feel sorry for Old Mr. Nye.


by Carole R. Bolinski
She's a stranger to me
with wicked hands.
Her hair pulls straight
from its curly cob.
The mother of my aunt's husband,
married to the grandfather I hardly know.

She wears long cotton dresses
and Oxford shoes.
Standing over me with her cane
high in the air, yells
"Go to sleep!" This alien
who says, "I'm your grandmother."

While I wait for my parents
to heal in the hospital,
she keeps secrets
babysitting me and brother.
I don't like her smell or her breath.
"She's not a nice person,"
my father says.

Her cane steadies her gait
while I'm hoping she falls
and breaks her evil spell.


by Janice Doppler
A mix of island residents and visitors, probably Americans, gather at Herring Cove to celebrate Canada Day. Most chat in pairs or small groups. Hands on hips, a half-dozen men discuss where to place fireworks then set to work. Tweens climb on rocks exposed by the falling tide. Girls and one boy create beach-pebble sand art. Squealing children wave sparklers. A double-crested cormorant dives and surfaces with a fish crosswise in its beak.

evening cool—
mosquito repellant
scents the air

A couple walking hand-in-hand pauses to inspect something at water's edge. The man yells that a harbor seal pup needs help. The pup and a large piece of driftwood are entangled in thick nylon cord. The seal wails in protest as strangers collaborate to unravel the mess. Two men stand nearby and watch. As the seal swims away, one of them laughs derisively and says, "Landlubbers. It was only a seal."

in gunpowder smoke
bursting colors

(Contemporary Haibun Online, December 2021, 17:3

Robert Bly Comes to Town

by Marie Asner
Bly tells poets to keep writing day and night.
Somewhere in gushing words is an idea,
an image that waits slowly, layer upon layer,
to be uncovered in yellow light
of street lamps and waking stars,
moving through walls and into minds
caressing whatever it touches.
His mouth curving sounds
into our patiently waiting hands.
He reads with voice deep and powerful,
a mosaic of roots and trees and sky.
   "sliding over ocean water a thousand miles from land"*
In landlocked Kansas, we feel the floor pitch and sway,
while phosphorescent word-waves cross the carpet
to lap at our letter hungry toes.

*At Midocean" by Robert Bly

Fragrant Day Sonnet

by Kathy Cotton
From scent to heady scent, we three friends walk
together through a little candle shop,
inhaling tiny samples as we talk
of soy and beeswax, drip and jar. We stop
to breathe in deeply old familiar scents.
Patchouli, cedar, lilac. Lemongrass,
verbena, lavender. Each represents
a time, a place: the stories we will pass
along while strolling to another store.
We breathe each other in—the fragrant blends
that we had barely recognized before:
bouquet of sisters, confidants, close friends.
The mingled scent of us now fills each room
and turns our simple day to sweet perfume.

(From Encore Prize Poems 2021)

My Heaven

by Sherri Baker
Brought up to believe in miracles, 
brought down by tragedy and loss.
Taught to look up to see heaven,
while bowing my head down in prayer.
Needing to find my faith,
I searched through a mirage of doubt.
Deep into my time of need, 
I find what I've been looking for,
straight ahead in a meadow,
full of light and life.
Here are all the colors of my world
and I know that you're right here.
I see you in the flowers and
I feel you in the breeze. The miracle
of my heaven is that it's always been
right here.

(From Sherri (with an i): Poems
of Love and Loss)

Killing Machines

by Candace Armstrong
Surely imbued with intelligence
homo sapiens succumbed
to a love of self so great
it spawned fear of others.

Crafting more machines of war
to affect a supposed protection
from the other—not unlike the self—
the race fell into self-destruction.

Some called for peaceful resolution
but fear gripped with cold fingers
outstripping commonality
elevating the very differences
that should be celebrated.

So, the paragon of animals
has savagely bitten its own back
killing its next generation
to try to stop the pain of fear. 

The African Drum

by Joseph Kuhn Carey
Rough carved beast,
coaxed out of the wood
with sharp tools, a good eye
and the will to create,
coated with purple dye,
swirls, circles and lines,
thin twisted black ropes
pulled down and holding tight
to taut white goat skin,
ready to be pounded
and carry the sound,
tap, slap, slither, snap,
you're part of the animal world
making your own beat
as you slide through the jungle
of cars, buses and asphalt and cement,
up to your hotel room
to rum pum pum pum away to
your heart's content in busy Jo'burg
after the cool Sunday craft
market with hundreds of stalls
at the top of the tiered parking lot
closes slowly down like a child's eyes
just before the slip into a happy
soft-shoe of innocent, easy sleep.

The Poet and His Craft

by Camille A. Balla
He sculpts, carves, whittles
a fresh block of words
he's been led to
by winds that whisper
or make him shiver.

Slowly, lines take shape,
come alive with sounds
the ear cannot hear;
reflections only seen
by the inner eye;
raw, natural scents
from the tree itself.

He pulls colors from a rainbow,
the surf, or maybe the sand;
at times he adds moisture
from a tear.

And as with raw wood,
he whittles—whittles, going with
the grain—braces the wood
to flatten a knot, smiles at its
character coming through—
will make a good piece.

He sands until is all-over smooth,
seals it with the joy of the craft,
a fine piece that holds
a part of himself—

Now transformed into form
     that lets the poem speak.

Published online in "A Year of
Being Here"  (Phyllis Cole-Dai, 2015);
Simple Awakenings
(Linebyline Press, 2010).

A Korean sijo

by Tom Chockley
eleven-fifty-nine, the
                New Year's Eve sound of fireworks
clarity of daylight thought
                lost for now in revery
before the clock ticks this moment
                holding my breath between dreams

More ISPS Poems | Haiga Gallery

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