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Poems by ISPS Members
December 2011
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Cappella Sistina

by David Bond
The night Floyd Massie took me underground
into a float-dust chaos and the scattered dice

of coal chunks we swerved to miss, on south to 
double-cribbed No. 2 Entry where he worked 

as a bolter, I remember the shadows from our
cap lamps discoing on the gray shale roof,

flickering across fossils of ferns and giant horse-
tails, a black mosaic of drowned forest.

Twenty years past and I recall Floyd's tedious
joke about the dull bits being as sharp as me; 

I remember "Too much damned torque!"
And I cannot forget his upcast bearded face, 

arms lifted against the falling kettle bottom, 
like God trying to separate light from darkness.

Captain Eddie

by Mark Hudson
Edward Rickenbacker served in France,
he escaped by the seat of his pants.
A war hero in World War 1,
He shot 26 German planes down by gun.
1935, he was a hero to the nation,
he worked at Eastern airlines for the duration.
But then World War 2 started to bubble,
and "Captain Eddie" was aware of the trouble.
He visited Germany, and began to realize,
America's airpower was behind German size
Germany was building army under the Reich,
and it was something "Captain Eddie" didn't like.
He was flying to Atlanta on a plane
An accident occurred because of the rain.
Eight people died, the pilot as well,
Rickenbacker survived, with tales to tell.
His skull fractured, his left eyeball loose,
broken ribs were not used as an excuse.
The survivors were rescued in the freezing cold,
Rickenbacker survived because he was bold.
He got better and continued to aid,
in the war effort he wasn't afraid
October 1942 he set off in a plane,
the plane stalled and Ed didn't complain.
He insisted the plane fly anyway,
He refused to slow down or delay.
They were flying over the ocean,
With a flight free of commotion,
When suddenly the plane ran out of fuel,
Yet Captain Eddie kept his cool.
They had to ditch their plane in the Pacific,
getting in rafts to live the horrific.
No water to be had, four oranges only,
they drifted at sea, terribly lonely.
After six days the fruit was consumed,
And it looked like the people in the rafts were doomed.
When a seagull rested on Rickenbacker's head,
he grabbed it, and choked it till it was dead.
They ate the bird raw, in order to survive,
and Rickenbacker helped them to stay alive.
After 16 days of being lost at sea,
the navy came to rescue and free.
Some of the people in the raft had died,
but Eddie always fought with pride.
Eddie recuperated in two weeks,
and went all over the world to speak.
He spoke to soldiers overseas,
encouraging the world to fight Nazis.
In World War 1 and 2 he was saved
In order to protect the home of the brave.


by jacob erin-cilberto
a mother starts forgetting
turns the channel
her favorite show painted on yesterday's canvas
with colors that have un-pronounceable names
like evangelical ecru
flesh quilts being
sewn from a womb
a child pressing a remote
found itself in the gloaming
wearing sunglasses so it couldn't see the decay
the erosion of senses that burnt away
with the morning dew of realization
she twists the stitch with nimble fingers
then touches her forehead with less than nimble
that unravel
and finds herself re-layering her life into
accessible moments
that become half-hour reruns
her kids will watch years from now
trying to remember her
as she was
when the coverlet connected
into a clear picture
with just a simple sun's antenna.

The First Snow

by Donna Pucciani
Veiled mortality, shredded, 
fragile, marking the end
of something warm and brown
and earthy. It helps us forget life
and our attachment to it.
The empty pleasures of flowers

and heat lie beneath it. The blue 
of sky and cornflowers hides behind it.
Birdsong and cricket-chirp 

have evaporated into its pale void,
the sounds of autumn muted underfoot. 
The world wears silence 

like a coat too heavy
for shoulders bent with age.
In a pretense of gaiety, we decorate

ourselves and our houses with
the bright garb of desperation, 
waving to a neighbor shoveling,

to another searching for a shovel.
We watch a car slide back down
a hill, its useless lights glowing

red with failure, and we stare,
wondering where its destination 
waits, empty.

How will we bear it
for months on end, this cruelty
so immaculate, so enticing?

There are whole days when
we would die for a cup of coffee
and a blanket, a bed pillowed

in snowy quilts, the naked warmth
of another’s thigh and shoulder,
the blood of the moon, and darkness
running as the wind blows white.

(First published in Frogmore Papers, U.K.)


by William Vollrath
in a most
rare gift
of nature's
love & magic,
aged, but sturdy,
nurturing, lush,
velvety treasure,
this precious elixir,
seductive, crimson
infatuation, whispers
for my mouth to again
surrender to its kiss,
the irresistible, warm
ephemeral sedation,
heaven for one man's 
restless, troubled soul

Pending Declaration — A Gazal

by Bakul Banerjee
I dispensed advice, but forgot to say I love you,
or those thousand ways I wish to love you.
But, did you see the patch of green grass
under the snow, whispering my love to you?
Today, did you step over that oily puddle
with splendid swirls, screaming my love to you?
Did you walk under the maple trees that shed
golden leaves thinking how much I love you?
Through this phone, as I touch you through space,
there is just one declaration — Mama loves you.

I Believe in Mother Christmas

by Rick Sadler
I love making up poetic visions of our Lady Madonna
Imagine her face in the candle flame of her persona,
Her face swayed back and forth in the gentle breeze
The candle echoed her image that levitated with ease,
The brilliance from her light was too bright for my eyes
On a star light night as the Red Bird wings the skies,
Then she's floating in the mid air circling all around me
As though she's bobbing on the waters of a great sea,
Knowing by the twinkle in her blue eyes and her smile
Without a doubt she's the Virgin Mary from far as a mile,
She's wearing a crown of Holly leaves and a golden cross
In the center of the crown shinning with a very high gloss,
She had a soft woman's voice that vibrated every where
Through out my room was so enchanting in my solitaire,
When she said yes to God as his window we call Christmas
Like she did over two thousand years ago as her gift to us,
Christmas is that supernatural season of holiday miracles
That can occur in times of distress in our life's carousels,
So if the Christmas Lady of the candle should appear to you
Please tell her Merry Christmas for me is what you should do,

Muse on a Gray Day

by Gail Goepfert
Pluck a gardenia to plant behind one ear.  
Catch a glimpse of a cedar waxwing's feast in the crabapple's arms.  
Weave a basket from coconut fronds.

Sing campfire songs as flames illumine the stars.  
Sand down a peach pit to make a ring.  
Study the fishing bobber attached to the line on grandpa's bamboo pole.  

Crank the rusted handle on the homemade ice cream freezer.   
Lattice the top and crimp the edges of the rhubarb pie.  
Ignore the mess of making cutout cookies.

Dry off in the afterglow of swimming a mile.  
Uncurl the fingers from the handlebars at the end of an all-day ride.  
Pamper the feet that hiked 17 miles for a Mississippi catfish dinner.  

Kiss the apple of the baby's cheek and inhale the scent of her skin.  
Stroke the matted teddy in the rocking chair. 
Reread letters penned by well-remembered hands

On a gray day lest we forget.


by Farouk Masud
crystalline, confetti snow falls slowly,
like stars from a cosmic explosion.
They've fallen to envelope our lives
with days of frigid erosion.
Like plankton being sucked into
the void of an ancient leviathan,
they incessantly fall.
they keep falling—
like condemned human souls
into the abyss we call earth.
Mother Nature's dandruff
covers her bare shoulders.
Forests shivering,
shaking their glacial limbs,
trying to brush away
the cold sting of snow.
Shrouding her body
with its unwarm blanket.
Burying her beauty
in an ice cube coffin.
A frozen,
meek solitude.

our very existence melts away
with the persistent snow.

Farouk Masud is now published.
Please write to
for details.

Mad Dog

by David McKenna
their footsteps
bite deep
into hollow flooring

and yet
when they scream at me
I smile 
at their cracker faces
and cannot hear a sound

pearls of emotion
sweat through my veins
until I leave them

and I laugh to myself
as I listen to their thoughts
from another box

I enjoy being cruel to them

it's the only time
that they ever truly know
I have power

and accept me for being
what I am

a bureaucrat

Hit and Run

by Kathy Cotton
Your headlights lured me
from the comfortable curb
where I waited, hands secure
in my pockets, dreaming
about the risky ride
a hitchhiker might take.
Down the slight slope of road
you inched in neutral, with me
pacing long miles alongside,
chatting through your half-open
passenger window. Then you
shifted into drive, foot heavy
on the accelerator, elsewhere heavy
on your mind. You pulled away,
bouncing me from the rear fender
back to a curb, unsheathed hands
waving wild at the tail lights of
a slow-motion, hit-and-run.

Heavy D

(for Dwight Arrington Myers) May 24, 1967 --- Nov. 8, 2011
by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
Today I shed tears
For the man who was
Light on his feet and
Easy on the ears
The party rapper
Who gave us hits like
Money Earnin' Mt. Vernon,
Mr. Big Stuff and Now That
We Found Love
Who exited our earthly stage
on Nov. 8 and is now rapping
with the angels above.
I remember when I use to blast
his albums in my bedroom in
the late 80's and early nineties,
My mother would yell up the stairs,
'turn that down!!'
 I did for a few minutes
then I'd turn it back up and she'd
come upstairs and find me-
Then she picked up the album and looked at the cover
and asked me 'who is that rapping?'
My reply was it's 'the OverWeight Lover!'
Then she said 'he sampled James Brown,
I like that... it's okay, Doreen, you don't have
to turn it down.'
Then she started tapping her foot and bobbing her head
Then she asked me 'is there a video for this record'
and with a smile 'yes' is what I said.
On that day I was so happy my mother took interest in one of my favorite MC's
So from the bottom of my heart I want to say I love you Heavy thanks for the memories..


by Steven Kappes
we saw the house
the first time
on a Sunday afternoon
the willowy girl agent
with her handful of brochures
waited alone behind
the dining room table
showed us around
but we were already sold

while the paperwork
crept slowly forward
we would
drive by in the street
circle to the alley
look longingly
at the garage
where I would
have a workshop
the double window
in the dining room
where the family
would gather
for holiday celebrations
the small window
over the kitchen sink
where my wife could
picture herself
gazing out as she worked

this was to be
our forever house
where we would stay
until death finally
claimed us

yet now our lives changed
by unforeseen circumstances
we are leaving
turning over the keys
to someone new
forever not lasting
as long as expected

On the Importance of Wonder

by Bonnie Manion
More important than cooking dinner,
More necessary than ironing, dusting, or making beds,
More satisfying than weeding flowers or kneading bread,
Is the need to nourish and satisfy a spirit of wonder.

Wonder at the gleaming green of uncut grass,
Wonder at the flickers of silver in sunlit treetops,
Wonder at the sweeping synchronized flight of birds or fish,
Wonder at the workings of an amoeba or a mosquito,
Wonder at the unswerving reliability of the sun in its path,
Wonder at the interdependance of everything in the universe.

Open to God's will for me and for all of His creatures,
Loving creation while detached from the need to control it,
Responsible to pass on this love to another human being today,
I resolve to attach the highest importance to wonder.

(Published in Poetry of the Spirit Anthology 2009)

Recollecting Peonies

by Laurie Lee Didesch
The peonies nod their heads as if beckoning. Are they serving tea and cake? 
If so, I will gather my dolls in their finery. The peonies are bright pink—
standouts in the garden that came with the house. They could take first place 
at the fairgrounds. Yet, they are unfamiliar like distant kin or far-off lands. 
I am lured like a fish that finds a worm. I place the blooms in a mason jar 
and shield the petals while adding water. Soon, my mother comes upon them; 
she shrieks at the swarm of ants. I now know that shadows lurk in the corners.

(Previously published in Third Wednesday)

Miss Putnam

by Wilda Morris
Miss Putnam's body had been laid
in its grave long before Samantha
knew it had been a lie     a lie
which had lain against her heart
for seventy years, chained
her mind     pressed needlessly
on her hands     forcing them to
lay unmoving on the table
of her life     and now with years
passed   her path strewn with
fragments of opportunities spurned     
broken against the hard
metal chains of a teacher's
rejection     at last she knew
she was not dumb after all
she had raised bright children
who had never felt the lash
of Miss Putnam's angry tongue
or ruler    never been told
at age six that they were stupid
because the up and down lines
the circles of penmanship practice
came so hard    so uneven from
schoolroom pencils    she could spell
and multiply as well as her daughter
with the PhD    her son with the
master's degree and three books
published    and looking back
she knew    though she never finished
twelfth grade    she had learned from
the hard life to which she had been pushed
by lack of education and self-worth
she was smarter even than Miss Putnam
for she never laid a hand on a child
never told them    you are so stupid  
you'll never amount to anything.

Crown Point

by John Pawlik
I seem
To be saying
A lot these days
It was very cold
Probably late
In a field jacket
Liberated from
The Marine Corps
Many years before
I was there
With a rifle
In my hands
I was alone
The dawn air
Was crisp and blue
There was no wind
The limbs of the trees
Didn't move at all
The forest was silent
Except for the sound
Of my boots as I walked
In the snow
Away from any road
Whatever job it was
I happened to have
I don't recall
If I was with anyone
Or in love at the time
I do remember
I shot nothing

Political Rehabilitation

by Jim Lambert
I fell out of a first floor window,
the sky neither fell nor cried.
Cushioned by curtains, I wasn't hurt.

Of course I denied that it happened—
after all, how can one fall out of one's first floor window?
But it was You Tubed, Facebooked, and Twittered.

So I misspoke, I said, like Gerald Ford
talking about Poland, and George W.
talking about Victory in Iraq.

But then I was CNNed, Fox Newsed, and MSNBCed.
I hadn’t "written" a new book,
so that did me no good.

I hadn't even had time to read the last one I "wrote."
So to save time, I just apologized.
Then someone anthologized my apologies.

It was a substantial list,
so I formed a committee
of well-known apologists—

men who had acted stupidly
and later sold more books
appeared in more movies
and got front row seating at concerts.

They suggested that I go into rehab—
a place where you take your sins,
apologize again, and find God
or medication.

The sessions were boring
but the medication was great
until I fell out of a basement window.


by David LaRue Alexander
I saw her!  I swear! 
I wasn't hallucinating she was right there. 
Don't tell me it can’t be so. 
I'm not crazy, I know what I know. 
She was wearing her wedding dress sitting in that chair, 
running her comb threw her long brown hair. 
She looked right at me, and gave that smile. 
The one I haven't seen in a long, long while 
Thereupon she stood up and I heard her say, 
"Darling I love you, but I can't stay." 
Then just for a moment I looked away, 
and when I looked back... 
she was gone. 
Now I know you think  I've lost my mind, 
but I assure you it's nothing of the kind. 
I knew she'd come back and I'll tell you why. 
When she grew sick she looked me in the eye, 
and said: 
"If I go before you when I die, 
and we're not together don't you cry.” 
"For here's a promise on which you can rely.
I'll come back and say good­bye!


by Marcia Pradzinski
your eyes catch 
lock  me 
into space
of Mediterranean brilliance.

your hands sink me.
we mirror.

I reach
groping and
razored silence.

Cut, scarred
I prove the diamond.    

(First published by Nit &
Wit in Chicago, 1983
Published again in
Cram 9 2010)


by Marguerite McClelland
I have frequented your haunts
even when I was young.
I took off on my own,
leaving behind me
the laughing unreality
of careless friends.
I have always sought out
your deep labyrinths,
feeling them, somehow,
more home than the sun-cradle
of beaches.
I have flirted with your darkness,
invited you into my young days,
come willingly into your fold,
and you have released me again
to mornings.

Perhaps you do not want me anymore?
Perhaps I've chalked up days enough
in your dark world?
Or must I too obey,
and bow,
and bend to your unforgiving end? 

A Gathering of Cardinals

by Chris Holaves

...behold, wise men from the East came to worship Him.
Matt. 2:1-2

December glorifies His glow
       after all the leaves fall,
       a painter’s palette
       with hues of silver, green, red, blue, brown, yellow, and gold.
       And winter gusts blow,
       trumpeters that herald in the King.
Nature adorns His royalty
       and prepares for His coming. 

Like medieval tapestry, junipers wall the garden, 
       stippled with blue and red cone berries.
       Snow falls to fill landscapes low and tall,
       cleaning the ground with white.

Near the center of these evergreens
       a forsythia bares yellow
       branches that curve their spider legs and stretch, 
       forming a trunkless tree.
There crested cardinals, black-bearded birds with red-steeple caps, 
       perch to announce His arrival, 

The garden is all white;
       purity's falling!
       The true King tonight
       was born in Bethlehem,
       and three wise men gathered around His manger.
       We, too, will ignore all danger
       And gather to honor Him.
       The wise men brought Him precious presents. 
       We cardinals light crimson this bush to a tree.

And all love the Baby the Father sent
       to save humanity.


by Anne Dudek Slota
There are quiet times to sit and muse.

For instance, to sit and choose
the time to be put here on this whirling sphere.

I would choose to see the star that shone exceeding bright
and see what the shepherds saw:  the sight 
of heaven's treasure, the lamb of God, His own Son, born in the stable that night.

Through the years I'd trod the land and watch him grow
and follow the path the Father chose for Him to go;
and hear him teach and be among the throngs He would feed,
watch Him fish at Galilee and witness each miraculous deed.

At Jerusalem I would be at that terrible journey's end
to stand near his grieving mother and his dear friends.
And with breaking heart watch the tomb be sealed,
waiting for the dawn of the first glorious Easter morn
when not the end but the beginning of eternity with Him for us had begun.

This is the time and place I would choose.


by William Marr
All hell breaks loose—
on this day
children wear hideous masks
to hide
their innocent faces
All hell breaks loose—
every day
adults wear innocent masks
to hide
their hideous faces

So Many Wings

by Mardelle Fortier
Every autumn the Monarchs gather
to soar South with the sun.
On wings of silent bliss, thousands fly
remembering bees with their
beautiful velvet fur and dancing feet,
the silk touch of wind's long fingers,
the summer that tiptoed away
with barely a whisper of warning.

Every September the Monarchs
flicker like lamps on huge golden
flowers, dreaming of sun
and readying for flight.

If we feel our way
to wildest sensitivity
we can grow wings
and go with them.

(Published in Time of Singing, Fall 2011)

Storm Tea

by Alan Harris
Please, come on in.
Those kerosene lamps,
the ones by the windows,
are flickering today.

Listen to November's gale out there
moaning through leafless trees
and twisting off sickly limbs.
The winterbeast clears its throat, eh?

How did you make it
through this windstorm
that rattles my picture frames
against the walls?

And why are you here
when no one else came?
But never mind my questions—
welcome, then, to tea.

Welcome, yes, to tea—
to tea from a pot I forgot I had
in a far corner of the cupboard.
Darjeeling today—I hope it's okay.

How did you find my place—
not to mention why—
or, did what's here
find you?

Now here, have some sips
and stay as long as you can,
for the wind outdoors
is surely fiercer than we.

Window lamps flickering
near you and me and tea—
given everything,
what else would there be?

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