Vol. 8  No. 4    An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society    April  2009

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  @ Free


When you think of spring, you probably immediately define spring as warm weather or rain, but soon you will think of flowers as the best definition of spring.  You probably have flowers in your front or back yard.  If you live in an apartment, you may well have a pot of spring flowers in your window.   You probably can count the number of flowers you have growing from bulbs, but if you have flowering trees, you cannot count them, for you have flowers by the thousands on your dogwood, red bud, Bradford pear, and crabapples trees. When you look carefully at these trees, you feel rich.  Your poems, of course, are like these flowers, increasing in number and hopefully in beauty also.  This spring celebrate the talent you have as well as the flowers your talent has already produced.  In times of recession, it is nice to feel wealthy.  Let your poems fill your coffers.  -- Tom Padgett
GRIST 2009 is the current project of the Missouri State Poetry Society.  As a member of THIRTY-SEVEN CENTS, you are also a member of MSPS.  Therefore, you have one page in the state anthology to fill with your poem or poems.  Each of us should select a poem of 37 or fewer lines for this book, whether or not we plan to purchase a copy.  If you choose, you may send two short poems that total 35 lines [to allow for a second title].  Please email your submission to by May 1.  Dawn Harmon of Cuba, Missouri, is our editor.  Details for purchasing a copy will appear in the next SPARE MULE and in the May issue of THIRTY-SEVEN CENTS.  You may submit poems that have never been published or that have been published but not in GRIST.  Why not send your poem/s in todayBe sure to tell the editor what city you are from, your local chapter [THIRTY-SEVEN CENTS], and your email address.


Poems by Members

Missouri State Poetry Society


Summer Contest

Spare Mule Online

National Federation of State Poetry Societies
Strophes Online


  For a gleaning from my reading this month, click here.


Click Workshop and do some of the lessons there.
If you have an idea for a new lesson, send it along. 

Spare Mule Online and Strophes Online available by clicking the underlined titles.

Our state president is encouraging us to enter the MSPS
Summer Contest

Visit our MSPS Bulletin Board for news of events and contests in our area.


For an encyclopedia artcle on

For six of his poems visit

For more biographical and critical material, see

For a teachers' guide to Wright, go to

For an evaluation of Wright by Robert Haas, see




Ted Kooser, former U. S. Poet Laureate, in response to an interviewer for National Public Radio, stated that his "project" as laureate was to establish a weekly column featuring contemporary American poems supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska.  This column appears in online publications (such as Thirty-Seven Cents) as well as hard-copy newspapers.  Poets are asked to contact their local newspapers to inform them that such a column is available free to them and to relieve the editor by explaining that all of the poems that will appear week by week are accessible, not obscure, poems. 

American Life in Poetry: Column 203

To read in the news that a platoon of soldiers has been killed is a terrible thing, but to learn the name of just one of them makes the news even more vivid and sad. To hold the name of someone or something on our lips is a powerful thing. It is the badge of individuality and separateness. Charles Harper Webb, a California poet, takes advantage of the power of naming in this poem about the steady extinction of animal species.

The Animals are Leaving

One by one, like guests at a late party
They shake our hands and step into the dark:
Arabian ostrich; Long-eared kit fox; Mysterious starling.

One by one, like sheep counted to close our eyes,
They leap the fence and disappear into the woods:
Atlas bear; Passenger pigeon; North Island laughing owl;
Great auk; Dodo; Eastern wapiti; Badlands bighorn sheep.

One by one, like grade school friends,
They move away and fade out of memory:
Portuguese ibex; Blue buck; Auroch; Oregon bison;
Spanish imperial eagle; Japanese wolf; Hawksbill
Sea turtle; Cape lion; Heath hen; Raiatea thrush.

One by one, like children at a fire drill, they march outside,
And keep marching, though teachers cry, “Come back!”
Waved albatross; White-bearded spider monkey;
Pygmy chimpanzee; Australian night parrot;
Turquoise parakeet; Indian cheetah; Korean tiger;
Eastern harbor seal ; Ceylon elephant ; Great Indian rhinoceros.

One by one, like actors in a play that ran for years
And wowed the world, they link their hands and bow
Before the curtain falls.

  American Life in Poetry: Column 205

Memories have a way of attaching themselves to objects, to details, to physical tasks, and here, George Bilgere, an Ohio poet, happens upon mixed feelings about his mother while slicing a head of cabbage.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

I can see her in the kitchen,
Cooking up, for the hundredth time,
A little something from her
Limited Midwestern repertoire.
Cigarette going in the ashtray,
The red wine pulsing in its glass,
A warning light meaning
Everything was simmering
Just below the steel lid
Of her smile, as she boiled
The beef into submission,
Chopped her way
Through the vegetable kingdom
With the broken-handled knife
I use tonight, feeling her
Anger rising from the dark
Chambers of the head
Of cabbage I slice through,
Missing her, wanting
To chew things over
With my mother again.

  American Life in Poetry: Column 208

To have a helpful companion as you travel through life is a marvelous gift. This poem by Gerald Fleming, a long-time teacher in the San Francisco public schools, celebrates just such a relationship.

Long Marriage

You're worried, so you wake her
& you talk into the dark:
Do you think I have cancer, you
say, or Were there worms
in that meat
, or Do you think
our son is OK
, and it's
wonderful, really—almost
ceremonial as you feel
the vessel of your worry pass
miraculously from you to her—
Gee, the rain sounds so beautiful,
you say—I'm going back to sleep.

  American Life in Poetry: Column 204
Memories form around details the way a pearl forms around a grain of sand, and in this commemoration of an anniversary, Cecilia Woloch reaches back to grasp a few details that promise to bring a cherished memory forward, and succeeds in doing so. The poet lives and teaches in southern California.


Didn’t I stand there once,
white-knuckled, gripping the just-lit taper,
swearing I’d never go back?
And hadn’t you kissed the rain from my mouth?
And weren’t we gentle and awed and afraid,
knowing we’d stepped from the room of desire
into the further room of love?
And wasn’t it sacred, the sweetness
we licked from each other’s hands?
And were we not lovely, then, were we not
as lovely as thunder, and damp grass, and flame?

  American Life in Poetry: Column 206

Ah, yes, the mid-life crisis. And there's a lot of mid-life in which it can happen. Jerry Lee Lewis sang of it so well in "He's thirty-nine and holding, holding everything he can." And here's a fine poem by Matthew Vetter, portraying just such a man.

Wild Flowers

At fifty-six, having left my mother,
my father buys a motorcycle.
I imagine him because
it is the son's sorrowful assignment
to imagine his father: there,
hunched on his mount,
with black boots, with bad teeth,
between shifts at the mill,
ripping furrows in the backroads,
past barn and field and silo,
past creek and rock,
past the brown mare,
sleek in her impertinence,
never slowing until he sees
the bull. He stops, pulls
his bike to the side of the road,
where golden rod and clover grow,
walks up to the fence, admires
its horns, its wet snout snorting and blowing
its breath, its girth, its trampling
of small wild flowers.

American Life in Poetry: Column 207

People singing, not professionally but just singing for joy, it's a wonderful celebration of life. In this poem by Sebastian Matthews of North Carolina, a father and son happen upon a handful of men singing in a cafe, and are swept up into their pleasure and community.

Barbershop Quartet, East Village Grille

Inside the standard lunch hour din they rise, four
seamless voices fused into one, floating somewhere
between a low hum and a vibration, like the sound
of a train rumbling beneath noisy traffic.
The men are hunched around a booth table,
a fire circle of coffee cups and loose fists, leaning in
around the thing they are summoning forth
from inside this suddenly beating four-chambered
heart. I've taken Avery out on a whim, ordered quesadillas
and onion rings, a kiddy milk with three straws.
We're already deep in the meal, extra napkins
and wipes for the grease coating our faces
and hands like mid-summer sweat. And because
we're happy, lost in the small pleasures of father
and son, at first their voices seem to come from inside
us. Who's that boy singing? Avery asks, unable
to see these men wrapped in their act. I let him
keep looking, rapt. And when no one is paying
attention, I put down my fork and take my boy's hand,
and together we dive into the song. Or maybe it pours
into us, and we're the ones brimming with it.




Lawrence W. Thomas

Successive generations come and go
but sometimes end before they’ve run their course.
The children would be saddened if they knew.

We say goodbye to many that we knew
too often prior to their time to go
because they failed somehow to stay the course

through accidents, disease, or war of course;
the older ones must bury those they knew--
the younger ones who should not need to go

and never knew they had to go that course.

Tania Gray

Re: A Cookbook for Poor Poets and Others
by Ann Rogers, NY: Scribner,1966.

There is a cookbook made for poets poor;
and whether they are penniless, or just
unable to write well, they qualify.
They need the cheapest food available.
We know this part applies to most of us.
And what besides stone soup can we afford?
We know it all is inconvenient;
too many dollar entrees sure add up.
So what’s for breakfast, pauper? Maybe grit?
(You have to order in the singular,
my friend.) There are no leftovers, let’s get
that straight. Take biscuits with no gravy; you’ve
been left out of the gravy train. For lunch
cook up some campfire beans with fat-free crumbs.
For supper, more variety: hot broth,
some carrot coins, a roast ham bone, and mock
the turtle soup, and some Depression cake.
I’m way too poor for Poorman’s Steak, I’ll choose
the no-meat chili, please. And for dessert,
let’s pass the humble pie. It’s good for you.

Dewell H. Byrd

He walks with a focus
as if he’s a cat stalking a bird.
On this non-school rainy day
Ernie weaves his way through
the crowded mall food court.
No dirty table is safe, no bit
of litter escapes his attention.

Light blue shirt, dark blue pants,
phone receiver in his right ear
with speaker banging his chest,
dust rag and gum scraper in
hip pocket, Timex dangles on
his right wrist, Ernie looks at no one.
He shuffles on as consistent as gravity.

Moving, moving, moving---
a chair out of place, a stray tray,
waste bin full, dusty railing.
He requires no supervision,
does his job, helps fellow workers.

On his day off Ernie sits on a bench
on the boardwalk down by the bay,
tosses bits of bread to the pigeons
---iridescent flow of feathers.
They come closer with each toss,
take last crumbs from his hands,
scuttle away searching, searching.

Ernie leans back, hooks his elbows
over the bench, a faint smile on the
left side of his mouth, eyes half closed,
watches pelicans skim over the water,
day dreams, fly away, fly away,
I’ll fly away.

Pat Durmon

To thine own self be true.
William Shakespeare

nearly ninety of her years     long gone
     and I walk through wide doors and wide halls
          of the nursing home

for long years
     my mother wears a face like folded parchment
          frail spotted hands      a body
               no longer willing to obey

but inside      she smiles and says
     it’s the big joke      one thing about which she’s sure:
          she feels nine

maybe that explains it all
     coloring      circle-a-word      the euphoria
           creating a paper carnation      the beads
                  all the grinning behind homely joys
                       and those stories she spins

it may just be her way of letting the inside
     sing louder and louder
           as the outside lessens

Henrietta Romman

I know O Lord how much You have constantly loved,   
     and always cared for me,

Much more than anyone would ever dream of, even long for, 
     or still dare to see,
Under a vast umbrella of Your precious shed blood, here I  
     stand completely free,
Seated with You in heavenly places, my renewed heart can  
     behold Your sanctity,
To trust in You, to walk with You, and call on You, while in
     my humble humanity,

Now, O My Lord, with awe I bow before You, with the 
     greatest longing for infinity,
On You I build my daily hope, my love, my joy, my peace,
     my present destiny,
Till all my earthly life is spent, I wait for You each hour, with
     the greatest dignity,

Come, Lord Jesus, with Your resurrection, enrich my soul
     with grace and charity,
Of which Your fragrant Word foretells, would gently cover
     up my past identity,
Mercy and riches from Your royal Fatherly heart, You gave
     to conceal my poverty,
Performing in my life Your miracles; those tell of the great
     favor of Your Majesty,
Lord, hold my hands, never leave me till I share Your
     gracious, splendid royalty,
And dwell with You forever to enjoy Your awesome gift,
     my granted liberty,
In You is all my rest, my strength, my selflessly awarded and
     accepted sanctity,
No more suffering, sorrowing tears! Just rejoicing with Your
     angels in perpetuity.

Martha Thomas

Two houses in four weeks,
a possible villain’s touch.
Of arson this reeks.

The first was more timid and meek
with only partial damage
to its one-story, gray physique.

The second reached a much higher peak;
for hours to the house the flames clutched.
Yes, of arson this reeks.

Townspeople, neighbors, and curious kids sneak
a peek with too recent of memories and such
of the first of two houses in four weeks.

Spraying on the inferno the hoses leek,
but the wind plays in as a crutch
to the heat, and the spray falls weak,

crashing down on each thing that made her home unique:
Billy’s ball, Sue’s Dolly Dutch, and grandmother’s oak hutch.
Of arson this reeks.
Two houses burned down in four weeks.







Dave Gregg

No seasonal lack
of garb to bare

Abundant adjective

Inkwells spillover
with inspiration

Spring fires seeds
of imagination

A friend of warmth
and winter's foe

A faithful lover
who will never go

Saplings and flora
delight to sing

Unending praise
for beloved spring

Pat Laster

Mother Nature's joke:
three feet of snow
on April first

March wind in April
even the crows have trouble
with pine tree landings

after winter clothes are stored
45 degrees

Heather Lewis

Had she known how the story would end,
I wonder if she would have followed script.
She might have decided that the means
could not possibly justify the ends.
If I were in her place, I would have chosen
a different delicacy to eat that day—
a pear, perhaps, or a cluster of cherries.
Yes, I would have done whatever necessary
to stay far from that forbidden fruit.

Diane Auser Stefan

free verse,
so many forms
for penning poems—
blank verse, prose, narrative,
all ways for poets to share—
challenging us to be precise,
to be honest, true and very clear
so our readers can see into our hearts.

Dan West

Lights are low, clouds fill the scene
reds and blues thicken the air.
Calloused fingers bang notes
as a piano moans with every stab.
Clack Clack Clack
sticks on a drum rim.
A grunge guitar screams its heart out.
Silence all around
don’t miss a single note.
A voice tattered with tobacco
weeps into a microphone,
passions of love and loss
searching and still searching.
Lovers in the crowd hear music,
but we hear warmth and comfort.
A bow slides to and fro
sweet music bleeding the heart strings.

The music swings
like a chime from a window.
Taking off like a ship from its port
smooth like a flame on candle wick,
flutter the room on angel's wing.
A rolling stone gathers no moss
Free to all, none can own,
touching all, with no regrets.
Wrapping cold hearts in a gentle coat,
what truer love can be found?
A comfort none can doubt
not a single unsound whim.
Pat Pat Pat
Slight tears begin to dab
slide to the tip of nose.
Over now. It’s not fair.
Hearts sigh and exit the scene.

Sarah Molder

He plopped his toddler frame onto my lap,
gripped my wrist with one cherub
hand to steady himself, and jutted
his other towards the frenzied sky.
Small digits flexed and recoiled
as he stretched to reach embers
falling through the humid atmosphere.
My ears caught garbled child-speak –
a long lost language
of animation, tossed away
and forgotten with age.
Adventure blazed.
Imagination sparked
Curiosity crackled.
Small again.


Freeda Baker Nichols

A cool breeze
touched softly
upon my face.
Much earlier, the sun
had tumbled out-of-sight,
leaving pink-red clouds,
which promised
the silhouetted trees,
a warmer tomorrow–
a day without wind.
Quietness settled comfortably
about the mountains.

Newly awakened flowers
sprayed the evening
with their perfumed presence.
Their colors, tomorrow,
in the sunlight,
would become
the artist’s pastel paints.

I chose to be content
with this fair evening
in April, if only
the moment would
last long enough
for me to savor
its sublimity.

Tom Padgett

One time when I went to City Hall
to pay my water bill, I heard a voice
on short-wave radio report some trouble
with a dog awakened from its nap.

As savage as a lion, the dog that lay
in shade beneath a car refused to grant
the rightful owner, finished with her shopping,
admittance to the car to drive it home.

Then from the back room the city manager
advised the radio dispatcher:
"Call Becky at the bank. That's old Sparky.
Her dog. She'll go take care of him."

I paid my bill and walked out educated.
I'd learned a definition of small town.



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