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

Us. Them.

by Christopher Kuhl
The word, the stone, the leaf.
Witch hazel.
The everlasting beat of time passing.
The fierce pleasures of whiskey.
War looms.
		War will always loom. And break out.
		In prehistoric times, small clans wandered.
		You were the People; the others were not.
		You killed them and you ate them.

Violence still rules.
Violence roams a world where no one is welcome.
We all are The People.
We all are The Other.
We do not eat each other anymore.
Black. Brown. Yellow. White. Red. 
Jews. Christians. Muslims. Atheists.
Straight. Gay. Lesbian. Bi. Queer. Trans.
We shoot, we bomb, we burn.
We collect heads and put them on display.

		I smother with rage and sorrow.
		Maybe I will do what my brothers did before me.
		Leave the world in a deep sea of my own blood.


by William Marr
crossing the ocean in summertime
what joy what joy
on a desolate superhighway in Maine
he was chasing the wind
riding the waves and soaring into the clouds
half a century later
he finally caught up
with his stunned

Note:  Recently I was told that to renew my
driver's license, I would need a letter of
clearance from the State of Maine concerning
an unsettled case of speeding ticket issued
in the summer of 1977.

Ghost I Am

by Michael Lee Johnson
Here is a private hut
staring at me,
twigs & branches
over the top—
naked & alone.
I respond to an old 60s doo-wop
song:  In the Still of the Night
Fred Parris and The Satins.
Storms are written in narratives,
old ears closed to a full hearing.
I'm but a shelter cringing.
In age, nightmare pre-warned redemption.
Let's call it the Jesus factor,
not LGBT symbols in Biden's world.
I lost my way close to the end.
Here is this shelter in heaven
poetry imagined spaces
prematurely still not all the words fit,
in childhood in abuse
lack of reason for bruises
rough hills, carp that didn't bite,
and Schwinn bike rides
flat tires, chains fall off, spokes collapse—
this thunder, those storms.
Find me a thumbnail
image of myself in centuries of dust.
Stand weakened by nature
of change glossed over, sealed.
Old men, like a luxurious battery,
die hard, but with years, they
too, fade away.

Keep the Outside Outside

by William L. Lederer
Aren't windows wonderful?
They protect us from the outside.
Wild nature is pitiless.
Who wants weather inside?

Keep storms at a distance.
Watch them in awe.
That transparent resistance
gives us the ideal law.

To be snoopers in air conditioned.
Part of the scene without sin.
No danger in your position.
It's a solitary win.

And yet I heard somewhere 
billions of birds die each year
flying into panes out of curiosity
with absolutely nothing to fear.

Somebody should look into this.
Birds could have been on their way.
Instead of splattering gratuitously,
they'll learn or they'll have to pay.  
We're having a party.
We're new in the neighborhood.
We invite all races and sexes.
Open hearts and heads understood.

Then somebody has the nerve to tell us
some hard and cruel facts.
So what do you plan to do about it?
Show all the birds maps?

I don't mind being questioned.
But when neighbors out of the blue
stick stickers across your bay window.
It's an effrontery to our stew!

The Missus and I throw everybody out.
I hope they learn better manners. 
What's that outside? Huge beaks and bricks.
Now here comes noise and flashing banners! 


by Susan T. Moss
It's easy to be overwhelmed
by looming cityscape
on a dark day

before light's break
through stormy gray sky,
sunshine reflected

off towering glass
and steel high-rise guardians
over inhabitants below

waiting for touch down
of solar-sifted brilliance,
a calling to look up

in anticipation of a better
day bathed in possibility,
a chance to overcome

trivialities, be lifted
from the shadows
and follow the radiance.

After Our Surgeries

by Jill Angel Langlois
I do not try to hold the screw to tighten
I do try to wash my face and lay the pills
I watch TV with my husband, and read
They are the same story
He is the same now, tries harder
The pain is excruciating
Still we get better
It is the beginning of the end
Norco dreams seem ridiculous
Pain seems inevitable
Balancing up and down the sliding scale
Of our current reality
I don't know what we need
He doesn't either
Maybe it's enough that the
Turkey sandwiches were good today
Tomorrow will be different, also the same

One Day, Soon Perhaps, or Later

by Lennart Lundh
I will sit at the edge of the mountain

and make music
and write a song
and paint the rising crag
and gather words into a poem

you will be with me

and you will wonder at their order
and you will climb despite your fears
and you will sing a delicate echo
and you will dance in perfect time

I will see you there

in the shadow of the jumbled stone
from a distant vantage
from memories you leave
in the warm hold of my heart

so that if I am alone
I still will not be lonely

(after the 1957 photograph 
Cellist, by Robert Doisneau)

Let's Meet Outside of Time and Space

by Tom Moran
Across from the pizza garden,
behind beach tents
where dolphins eat taco meat
on chocolate bread.
We'll comb sunflower seeds
from our hair and 
dance to the Day of the Dead Band.
Rollerblade through Pompeii.
On our second honeymoon,
Pegasus awaits in a world of no signs.
"Do not enter", "One way only",
"Do not drive through smoke".
Awake in a yard
where lazy daylilies
swivel to snag the sun.
We'll watch commuter trains
leave the station
like sausage links.

I spend the day with Gwendolyn Brooks

by Wilda Morris
Gwendolyn gives me a tour of the South Side, 
shows me a little boy, mouth stuffed with licorice,
without a nickel for Sunday School, an old couple 
in a backroom flat eating beans from chipped bowls,
and those seven teens playing pool at the Golden Shovel,
still thinking themselves real cool.

We watch Mary Ann make love 
to a Gangster Disciple, flash the big diamond ring
he got her (we know not to ask how or where). 
When a hearse drives by, Gwendolyn bows
in tribute to DeWitt Williams, Alabama-born,
plain black boy, on his way to Lincoln Cemetery. 
She hopes the hearse will drive past the Savoy 
where, with women and wine, DeWitt found some joy. 
Gwendolyn takes me to the projects where gray rats 
skitter into shadows. Chitterlings and cabbage 
cook on old stoves, their scents mingling in the halls
with the stench of urine and yesterday's garbage.
The Ladies of the Betterment League come—
with their rose-tipped fingernails and high-heeled shoes—
reaching out to help those they deem the worthy poor,
the very worthy poor—not too dark, not too dirty
or too dim, never touching anyone, trying not 
to inhale the putrid air. We watch their frightened eyes
as they flee back toward Glencoe and Lake Forest.

Gwendolyn shows me the nice neighborhood 
where Rudolph Reed bought his dream home, moved 
with his unwelcome family. We hear rocks shatter windows,
see his wife change the bandage on little Mabel's head. 
Her whimpers, the crimson gauze, her father's murderous rage,
his blood-covered body, will haunt my nights with dread.

One can't be sure one has a home in this fractured world, 
Gwendolyn says, One wants a teller in a time like this.
And I say, Ah, yes.

(Originally published in Quill & Parchment)

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