Illinois State Poetry Society
Poems by ISPS Members
December 2007
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Poems on this Page:

Middle-Winter Midnight

by David McKenna
Starglow casts a skin
of sparkle on sleeping snow
windswept    deep    pale blue

Splintered whiskers in
swollen rings of moon halo
spin a fleshy hue

Shivering thistles
whisper secrets to a breeze
wafting through soft light

Our old oak whistles
low    sweet and slow melodies
this long winter's night


by John Pawlik
It is late
At night
And there she is

On her chosen
Side of the bed
I can hardly
Hear her breathing
Such a look of quiet
On her face

It is the peace
She seems
To have found

With me the way at times
She sighs and smiles
In her dreams

How do you explain
What it means . . .

To those
Who've never known
Or believed in such things

It's all
I ever wanted

Winter Snap Shots

by Patricia A. Hare
White hot sun piercing snow clouds
and reflecting on frosted surfaces
causes my eyes to squint,
blink, focus and snap shut.

A pinpoint iris picks out congregations of beige corn stalks huddled
together waiting for emancipation, salvation, life after death.

Silently, black barren tree bodies,
stripped of their cover, wave seaweed fan branches challenging the gray
day to break, shake awake, warm the soul.

A red barn flashes its gypsy cape at ponies blowing heat smoke out from
under their horsehair tents, longing to move, shove, race to the top of
a distant, beckoning hill.

My eyes, the shutters open and close.
My mind, an album in repose.
Oh! I'll open that album
on the next hot and humid summer day.

Lucidity Awakens

by William Vollrath
the subconscious exhales
electric inner worlds
surreal and remote
release their tenuous grip
lucidity beckons
then flees
chambers of dark
protest their demise
shadows melt
cryptic revelations cry
gnarled fingers grasp at the night
morning pierces reluctant eyes
consciousness emerges
cautiously through translucent doors
into an expectant dawn...

Faith in the Fall

by Mark Hudson
Birthday wishes to myself
Approaching the age of 37
A time to reminisce
A time to reach for Heaven
Ah! I love this time of year,
Autumn brings the leaves down
Halloween brings the orange
Pumpkin with a twisted frown.
Halloween keeps my Octobers
Busy with fright and fear,
Which means November 12
My birthday, is quite near.
I celebrated this year with my family
In October, for my parents went
To Florida, lucky them,
It's always time well-spent.
On my time with them,
I went to the art supply store.
And also a pet shop,
Got some catfish and more.
But now the wind blows the leaves afar,
And the wind warns of winter days.
Cold is no friend to me,
When old man winter stays.
Thanksgiving looks promising,
I'll spend it with Carol Till.
The night before I'll go out to eat,
My sister will take the bill.
But could I be lonely?
It couldn't possibly be true
I've got more friends than ever
Plenty of fun things to do
But when I reflect on my life
Many birthdays before
Everything led up till now
So what am I living for?
If there's not a God in Heaven
There's no meaning to this play.
I'm an actor with no lines
A kid who forgot to pray.
I want birthdays in eternity
Where the frost is never bitter
In a spiritual house
Without this emotional litter.
So a birthday toast
To the one and only holy ghost
He's the one who matters most.
He can be the sacred host.
And to those I knew in the past
I wish them home to the Lord's house someday
I wish to go there too,
It's not always easy to obey.
But I know salvation is a gift,
That everyone should receive.
Accept his free gift,
Don't let the serpent deceive.
So this fall, my spirits won't sink
There's a lot to be grateful for.
Here today, gone tomorrow,
I can't really ask for more!

The Dream-Maker

by G. C. Rosenquist

There is an electric valley between both hemispheres
And a miniature madman with a neon palette works there in its shadow
He's an artist of the absurd and paints with bold, bright brush strokes
Lightning fast from the past
Scratching the brain with velvet diamond dust
He makes the ground leap like frogs
Turns thick marble pages over in an old book
Paints portraits of the ones we love then makes us swim in sticky sheets
Cuts scars into our imaginary skin that burst with cotton candy
Rolls pink flesh away from cold, clear skeletons
Turns falling leaves into black bat wings
That fly through the three fire rings of a Holy Hell Circus
Slaughtering white-faced phantom clown creeps wearing wiry, blazing hair
Throwing their twitching limbs into a giant screaming box trap
Then hiding in a hollow cloud where the mind resides

The end comes only when it starts making sense

Flowers from Iraq

by Farouk Masud
Beautiful flowers used to grow in Iraq:
full of promise and hope.
Then one day,
a phosphorus downpour
killed them all.
Now, only weeds grow in their places.
Where do you think flowers go when they die?

In Heaven,
Allah waters these flowers daily
with his tears--
tears of joy,
not sorrow;
for these flowers are laughing and playing once again...
like children are supposed to.

Last Days

by John Wolf
The wind lays its wild baton
on the calm ledge of dawn.
The storm has passed.
The symphony of leaves is over.

Once in a while, as clouds exit
the deep blue doors to the west,
a final yellow note trebles, then
octaves down to silent dew.

As always, a few individualists refuse,
confident in the old knowledge,
like morning stars, like river stones.
Who would not admire their radical zeal?

Guardians of summer, be strong,
hold tight against the inevitable,
and do not yield to ice or wind
or the bitterness of time

your lofty vantage of color and light.
Sing once more from your cold minarets,
bow at last from your brittle stages
and remind us all

how beautiful earth is
even littered with the dead and dying.

Mary's Christmas

by Rick Sadler
I dream of the Virgin Mary, that I believe
in a valley of twilight, on Christmas Eve
Over the hill, I see, rise a pair of hands
In their center, the face of Mary, over the lands
Moving slowly toward me, in her graceful style
All around her, was a brilliant light of her smile
She stopped to speak to me, ("Pray for this rhyme,
That there may be peace at this Christmas time,
To all your families that are near and far,
Tho they may be parted, I bring the Lord's Star.")
At this she began to disappear out of sight
I heard her say, Mary's Christmas into the night

Mary Christmas


by James L. Corcoran
Overnight the rain turned white
Everywhere the crystal sounds
In the movements of grey light
Swirling blowing quietly found
Falling drifting in our sight
Through the early morning rays
Virgin cover snowball fights
Tasting what the clouds all say
On the tongue tip that excites
Remaining through the scatterings
Of midnight's speculation's height
Waking up the pristine memories
On all the children's faces bright
With their loud triumphant cry
All is well and good and right
As long as snowflakes fill the sky

Forbidden City, Beijing

by William Marr
how cruel a punishment
being pushed out to be decapitated
at the Meridian Gate
the poor old official must stumble through
one long corridor after another long corridor
one huge mansion after another huge mansion
one tall threshold after another tall threshold

after a treacherous road to power
an endless road to the dead end
on the uneven brick floors
one can still see his indistinct footprints
markings of calumnies and heavy chains

(Appeared in Poetry International,
Issue 10 2006)

Her Own Personal God

by Dr. S. V. Rama Rao
The hibiscus flowers
of dark yellow shade
are awaiting in the flower basket
to decorate the gods
in the temple,
wondering when
they would be strung as garlands.
God Sri Rama
will not set out
to hold court
and give 'Darshan' to devotees
until he is decorated
with flower garlands.
Devi Sita
sits near her husband Sri Rama
and is waiting impatiently
to go along with him.
Brother Lakshmana Swamy
is pacing up and down
getting angry
not understanding this undue delay.

The 'Chamanthi'
fully blossomed like the full moon,
the thin red bordered
tender mango leaves,
the jasmines
that bathed in white fog,
the 'Parijathas'
that are ready to drop
with just a shake of the plant,
are watching and eagerly awaiting and
wondering when they would
go for the worship.

She won't set out anywhere
until after she made her
offering of worship
to her personal god
who dwells in her own home.
She knows that
Ayodhya Rama
Is waiting
along with
and Lakshmana.

She is bringing
the garlands she has made
with hand-picked flowers
that feast the eyes
in heavily-loaded baskets,
with trembling arms,
walking ever slowly,
to the temple.

If those gods in wait
looked once
at this supreme devotee
with her skeletal body
bending with ripe old age
muttering God's name in herself
mildly, in low voice,
ever worshiping
Sri Rama
their anger, irritation and anxiety
would become vaporized
in one moment
like sprinkled perfume water,
once they see her.
Wouldn't god
be enthralled
with His devotees?

The gods in town
may be great for everyone.
But for her
any god is only secondary
to her own personal God,
at home.

Crooked Woman

by Donna Pucciani
Against a white-hot sky,
her dried apple of a body
bends over a naked man
swarming with insects.

I am human, I am alive,
he calls soundlessly.
In answer, she sings a hymn
of heat and charity.

In the dusty city of despair,
he is all bones, large, dark.
She is all bones, small, twisted.

Shrouded in white, she tries
to lift his broken frame,
her elbows bent levers
fragile as twigs,
with a grace nobody utters.

He knows on some dim level
that he must rise
from the teeming streets
into her arms, smile into
her toothless mouth.

It is for this she is needed here:
two souls, alpha and omega,
the loved and the lover,
locked in poverty,
where God becomes flesh.

(First published in
Common Ground Review)


by Mardelle Fortier
for Surya Bonaly
In red dress
the skater swirls across the ice,
a spreading wildfire. Drums beat
with a strange, strong rhythm.
In the night
the dark-skinned beauty seduces us
body curling around each musical note.
Spiraling, leaping, whirling
she fills the arena with a force
of nature.
The ice burns as she lands each jump,
pounces into the next one. We cannot
predict where she will move
as lithe arms singe the air
and feet catapult her into a back flip.
She returns to the ice with
a crackling triumph
scorching our hair to the roots.

(Published in Prairie Light Review)

Another City Night

by John J. Gordon
This evening's frenzied parties
scream for a carefully contrived creation,
  slightly shabby chic!

She selects confidently:
 a pricey, logo-branded polo
 artificially wrinkled for effect,
 cleverly distressed shoes
 designer price - thrift shop look,
 expensive, "destroyed" jeans
 form fitting, threadbare
 exposing glimpses of flesh,
 earthy makeup
 just shy of gaudy,
 meticulously tousled hair
 suggesting casual indifference.

Her costume complete, Courtney radiates
 urban, edgy, sexy!

Revelry bound, her exuberant mood sours.
A woman in a similar costume approaches.

Courtney's rival proves
a nightmarish mirror image:
 filthy, faded polo,
 tattered, stained jeans,
 street residue makeup,
 tangled, greasy hair.

They pass, each focusing on her mission:
 party through the night,
 find shelter for the night.

Courtney whines,
 homeless are, like, such losers!

Of Mace and Mien--the Gripes of Wrath

by Jim Lambert
CNN blasts into
the dealership waiting area
peopled by three men staring at the screen,
one woman magazine-thumbing,
and me reading a book
of David McKenna's poetry.

A seventeen year old convicted
of having consensual sex with a minor
is to be released from prison.
The Supreme Court
has overturned his conviction.

Wildfires burn in California.
A plan to provide
healthcare for children
is vetoed by President Bush.
"It would cost too much."

David's poetry is lifting my spirits
while one of the men,
his belly hanging bulbously,
frowns at the news.

The woman now sits with hands
folded properly in her lap,
her magazine abandoned
to the attention of sound bites.

"I was given free will
the instant my soul
blossomed into being,"
David writes.

I exercise mine and wonder
why the Supreme Court rules
on teen consensual sex
and if wars are considered affordable.

A few feet from my chair,
shiny new cars
leering chrome grins,
attempt to seduce me.

A mother has mixed whiskey
with baby formula
to quiet a teething infant.

A woman once told me
she had mixed tranquilizers
with her children's milk.
I wonder how they are faring as adults.

David pulls me back into his poetry
and addresses the wonder of being--
writing of despair and loss,
and love and life and joy.

A man comes to tell me
that my van is ready.

The stock market is up,
34% of Americans believe in ghosts,
and 31% believe in President Bush.
Do these figures
represent the same people?

President Bush once said that
his favorite philosopher is Jesus.
I contemplate Jesus' philosophy
and hug David's book
while walking to my van.

David's words
harmonize sweetly
with Jesus' teachings.

I consider recommending
David's book
to the White House,

but I am afraid

they would think it


When You Were...

by Tim Breitzmann
When you were born
I loved you because
You were my sisters son

When you grew older
And would climb onto my lap to hear a story or two
I loved you because you were my nephew

When you grew into a young man
And kept me in your life
I loved you because you were my friend

You had to be my sisters son
You had to be my nephew
But you didnt have to be my friend

For that gift
I thank you


Echoes from my growing up in Venezuela, and leaving childhood friends there
by Andrew Rafalski
What is never, if not for always – not
I wake up to never every day
the never of old loves no longer
the never of old friends lost in the mists
of forgotten nations

Friends at the foot of the Andes
and on placid beaches of Margarita Island
pearl of the Caribbean

Remembering the cordillera
the hairpin roads of ever-burning hills
in the heat of summer forever
while in the piranha jungle
the Orinoco flowed on banks of slag
and gold,
nudging    titillating    flirting
with the fabled El Dorado

And me?
I climbed the mango tree
admired the hibiscus and
avoided the pretty and
deadly coral snake

And now, after never,
am still looking for my own
El Dorado

The Best Present

by Deborah Vitello
We met in high school
You were wrapped in a ratty army jacket
Blue eyes twinkling with mischief
No matter how dark things looked
You could always make me laugh
Looking nothing close to Mr. Right
Maybe you tried harder
Everyday was exciting
I never knew what to expect
Your mind was fascinating
Your emotions ran deep
Your creativity was like a kaleidoscope
Colorful and unpredictable
You made me feel safe & nestled in our love
Your soul struck a chord in mine
Throughout our marriage
We played some beautiful music
But it wasn't until you passed away
That I realized you had been the best present
I had ever received in my entire life

A Place I Go

by Bonnie Manion
There is a secret place I go
To seek serenity;
It's found within when I can slow,
Is known alone to me.

I yield the things that make me sad
And shed a silent tear;
Or ponder those that make me glad
And bask awhile there.

It is the place I learned to pray
With heart an open gate;
To find the guidance for my day,
I learned to humbly wait.

So now I seek not my own will,
Nor praise and sympathy;
But only strength to give away
Just peace and empathy.

(Read aloud at 2007 Sacred Arts
Festival, Durango, CO and published
to SAF commemorative booklet,
"Poetry for the Spirit".)

Listening to Christmas

by Alan Harris
Have you ever heard snow?
Not the howling wind of a blizzard,
not the crackling of snow underfoot,
but the actual falling of snow?

We heard it one night in Wisconsin
quite unexpectedly
while walking up a hill
toward our cabin in the woods,
a soft whisper between footsteps.
We stopped, switched off our flashlights,
and just listened.
All around us in the darkness
we heard the gentle fall
of snow on snow.
No wind, no sound
but the snow.

Have you ever heard Christmas?
Not the traffic noises in the city,
not the bells and hymns and carols,
beautiful as they are,
not even the laughter of your children
as they open their presents--
but Christmas itself?

Have you been by yourself
and just sat and listened to the silence within,
patiently, without letting the mind
race to the next Christmas chore?

Perhaps if you have,
you felt the pulse of all humanity
beating in your own heart.

Perhaps you noticed
an outflowing of love
for all your brothers and sisters
on the earth,
a soft sense of Oneness
with all that lives.

In the silence of a snowy night,
listen intently, holding your breath,
and you may hear snow on snow.

Serene, alone,
undisturbed by thought,
listen to the silence in your heart,
and you may hear Christmas.

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