Vol. 6, No. 12    An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society    December  2007



On my computer Alison Krauss is singing "Get Me Through December" as I write this short message introducing your poems.  The feelings evoked by the title of this song suggests to me an adult's--not a child's viewpoint--of December with its vacation from school,  its shopping, giving, getting, and eating--all of which are anticipated quite differently by the two opposite age groups.   In addition there is the weather.  In your geographical area some of you will also deplore snow and ice, and not look forward graciously to snowmen and ice sculpture.  However, most of our members who live in the South and Midwest will not have winter snow and ice until January and February.  We still have three weeks of fall.  Hence the picture above, which suggests there are some very nice days left this year, and of course there are still many other great and good reasons to celebrate this month.  Faith and family are the two we appropriately place most emphasis upon, but I suggest that there are others blessings to rejoice in, like your poetic talent.  In the poems you submitted this month, several recalled traditional Christmas themes, some accepted the challenge to come through with Novemberish gloom, but still others did your own thing in your own way.  We are an independent group with varied talents.  I thank you for your contributions to our  e-zine's success. I look forward to next year with you.  And remember if you have not yet paid your $4 fee, send it along to me at Tom Padgett. 523 N. Park Place, Bolivar, MO 65613.  This fee will "get you through December" of 2008.  There, you see, I was able to return to my opening thought.  Aristotle would be proud of me for "rounding out" this paragraph.


Issue Next
Poems by Members

Missouri State Poetry Society

Winter Contest

Spare Mule Online

National Federation of State Poetry Societies
Strophes Online


The five books of poetry contending for the National Book Award in Poetry for 2007 were The House on Boulevard Street by David Kirby, Magnetic Fields by Linda Gregerson, Old Heart: Poems by Stanley Plumly, Messenger: Selected and New Poems 1976-2005 by Ellen Bryant Voight, and Time and Materials by Robert Hass.  The winner named November 14 was Robert Hass.  The prize was $10,000 and a crystal sculpture.  See below for more on Hass, our Poet of the Month.

Lucille Clifton of Columbia, Maryland, recently received the Poetry Foundation's Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize of $100,000.  The annual prize established in 1986 is given to a U.S. poet in recognition of lifetime achievement.  The judges were Linda Bierds, W. S. Di Piero, and Christian Wiman.  For more information about Clifton, see Poet of the Month in November issue (click here).

Charles Simic is our nation's new poet laureate to succeed Donald Hall.   Simic's work is problematical since much of it is surrealism.  However, he has some poems everyone can appreciate.  The Week magazine for August 17, 2007, reprinted his short poem "Watermelons."  Here is the complete poem: "Green Buddhas / On the Fruitstand / We eat the smile / And spit out the teeth." 

John Ashbery has been named MtvU's poet laureate.  This is an exclusive network designed for college students.  Ashbery, who is 80 years old,  was a surprising winner.  His early poetry was very difficult to understand; now it is more accessible.  Read the New York Times story at

Lev Grossman in the June 18, 2007, issue of TIME discusses the $200 million gift of Ruth Lilly to Poetry magazine.  Grossman asks if this huge gift can revive a "dying art."  Read Grossman's article at,9171,1630571,00.html

Click Back on your toolbar to return here after finishing a news item.

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

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

Our state president is encouraging us to enter the MSPS
Winter Contest.

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



Ted Kooser, current 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 on-line 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 135

What motivates us to keep moving forward through our lives, despite all the effort required to do so? Here, North Carolina poet Ruth Moose attributes human characteristics to an animal to speculate upon what that force might be.

Ruth Moose

The snail at the edge of the road
inches forward, a trim gray finger
of a fellow in pinstripe suit.
He's burdened by his house
that has to follow
where he goes. Every inch,
he pulls together
all he is,
all he owns,
all he was given.

The road is wide
but he is called
by something
that knows him
on the other side.

American Life in Poetry: Column 137

Dill pickles with strawberry jam? Pregnant women are known to go for late night meals like that. And the senses can go haywire. Here Jessy Randall, of Colorado Springs, gives us a look at one such woman.

Jessy Randall

Her sense of smell is ten times stronger.
And so her husband smells funny;
she rolls away from him in the bed.
She even smells funny to herself,
but cannot roll away from that.

Why couldn't she get a more useful superpower?
Like the ability to turn invisible, or fly?

The refrigerator laughs at her from its dark corner,
knowing she will have to open it some time
and surrender to its villainous odors.

American Life in Poetry: Column 136

Here's a fine seasonal poem by Todd Davis, who lives and teaches in Pennsylvania. It's about the drowsiness that arrives with the early days of autumn. Can a bear imagine the future? Surely not as a human would, but perhaps it can sense that the world seems to be slowing toward slumber. Who knows?

Todd Davis

On the ridge above Skelp Road
bears binge on blackberries and apples,
even grapes, knocking down
the Petersens' arbor to satisfy the sweet
hunger that consumes them. Just like us
they know the day must come when
the heart slows, when to take one
more step would mean the end of things
as they should be. Sleep is a drug;
dreams its succor. How better to drift
toward another world but with leaves
falling, their warmth draping us,
our stomachs full and fat with summer?

American Life in Poetry: Column 138

You've surely heard it said that the old ought to move over to make room for the young. But in the best of all possible worlds, people who love their work should be able to do it as long as they wish. Those forced to retire, well, they're a sorry lot. Here the Chicago poet, Deborah Cummins, shows a man trying to adjust to life after work.

Deborah Cummins

He sits beside his wife who takes the wheel.
Clutching coupons, he wanders the aisles
of Stop & Save. There's no place he must be,
no clock to punch. Sure,
there are bass in the lake, a balsa model
in the garage, the par-three back nine.
But it's not the same.
Time the enemy then, the enemy now.

As he points the remote at the screen
or pauses at the window, staring
into the neighbor's fence but not really seeing it,
he listens to his wife in the kitchen, more amazed
than ever--how women seem to know
what to do. How, with their cycles and timers,
their rolling boils and three-minute eggs,
they wait for something to start. Or stop.


For a brief introduction to Hass and seventeen poems by him go to 
Also on this page are links to eight critical comments.

For an encyclopedia article on Hass, visit

For the Academy of American Poets page on Hass, visit


Laurence W. Thomas


It comes

            slowly like the drawing down of summer

            a little at a time


dying the way summer ends

            with cooler days vying with the heat

            as asters and chrysanthemums fade


dying as the leaves excite the eye

            yellow red orange gold

            before they fall from bare branches


dying like the summer

            with the hope

            that there will be an easy winter.


Phyllis Moutray
Time was when water flowed up Piney Mountain;
when green-leaved oak and beechnut
branches shadowed children playing
like mountain goats up and down the mountain;
when laughter rang and bells chimed at dinner time.
In this 2007, year  of drought,
you, my child, went out to play with friends,
never to be seen alive again.
Where did all the future go,
fast as a flash passing? 


Harding Stedler
I caught Tomorrow napping
in an abandoned corn field
where autumn had turned crisp
before late September's frost.
I wondered why she looked
so desolate
this far in advance of
October's Ukrainian dances.
I read her messages
on the underside of leaves,
prophecies not unlike those
inscribed in sand
by April's receding tides.
I wanted to slip her socks off
and lay her down in stubble
for the long sleep between the rows.

Pat Laster

December third—it’s raining. I should sit
cozy comfort, write another scene
move my novel forward. But I flit
the dreaded tasks, pretend to clean.

I dust and straighten; send a get-well card
love to one with cancered lung. 
I wave to neighbors studying their yard,
then fiddle with a picture, get it hung.

Alas, my heroine must sew the dress
marry in, locate a preacher, scrawl
note to her betrothed, who’s peddling. Stress
intrudes, but possibilities enthrall. I crawl

into a winter robe of rose,
rocker to the fire, relax and doze.

Valerie Esker

The Lord tells us the truth
if we would just listen,
open up our fact-sealed ears,
hear with our resistant hearts. 

The sound of his voice
is always near,
does not need translated
but needs our attention.

It rides on the stirring of the wind,
in the night’s dark hush;
is the balm for our sorrow,
the vehicle for our waiting joy. 

His Spirit of truth
resides in the large and small of things;
speaks tenderly always,
murmurs comfort to our agony of “Whys.”

When we sleep,
He covers us
with his loving Word.

Jeanetta Chrystie

“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” – Matthew 2:10

Beyond the realms of human-known space--
Lighting the way to a humble place,
Came God’s guiding star.

Blazing from an indigo sky,
A light that seekers are guided by,
Shone God’s guiding star.

Over a Bethlehem manger scene--
Spanning the gap that lay between,
Came our guiding star.

Incarnate God in baby’s flesh,
Recalled in precious wooden crèche,
Christ, our guiding star.

Destined for a cruel cross--
Purchased in blood, our gain from loss,
Risen--our-- guiding star.

Returns again on ivory horse,
Triumphant Son and our life’s source,
Comes our guiding star.

Listen now to your heart’s yearning;
Are you ready for Christ’s returning
As our guiding star?

Henrietta Romman
A day has come when mind and heart
Begin to take a distinct part,
Concerning lessons hard and deep
Derived from life to make us weep.
Engraved with prints of God's own love,
Forgiving sins from heaven above.
God only in His loving name
Has hands that cover up all shame,
In such a mess man's life has been.
Jesus with His true love was seen,
Knew all, saw all, cleared all along,
Lost nights He turned into a song.
Mortality was once man's lot,
Not knowing to give in or not
O'er thorny paths man slipped to find
Provided shed Blood for mankind;
Quenched He man's hunger and,
Reserved fresh homes in Jesus-Land:
Strong nails-pierced hands shouted the call
To draw man further from the fall.
Untied man's hands to join HIS BRIDE!
VICTORY! "It is finished," He cried!
With newer hearts God showed His care,
X-ited man from Adam's snare,
Yearning for all the world to know,
Zeal of God washes white as snow....



Dewell H. Byrd

Lie beside my morning mist
     and wake to silver tears;
wait with me while winter's world
     gray-clouds away our fears.

When whitened chills reach my heart
     to claim their icy toll,
come beyond the warmth of me
     and lie beside my soul.

Gwen Eisenmann

What's in an apple?
     Seeds and a worm.
Is the worm alive? 
     If you see it squirm.
Which is more important?
     They are equally good.
The apple? The worm?
     Doing what they should.

Jean Even

O blessed Hope, come unto me in sweet desire.
All it takes is one ray of light for me to acquire
An eloquent declaration of worship and praise.
May my assertion be humble yet bold to amaze,
Even Your horses who are swifter than eagles.
O hope, your assurance is more than viceregal.

Hope, for all hope, is a worthy cause to engage
My faculties as though it can be a sweet greengage.
Hope sustains me in this life for a more blessed life,
It’s for me to be attentive to the abundant, the rife.
My greatest hope might come in the night as a thief;
Hope does live; I’m a watchman and that’s my belief.

Tania Gray

This peg hangs up my broken heart
and this one my incessant tears
The heavy bed sheets washer wet
drip as my limp dream disappears

The clothespins hang the household brights
and cheat the dryer on this day
suspending old-fashioned bleached whites
and nothing does this scene betray

Familiar routines heal the hurts
They say that time will sear the scars
that wind has famous healing arts
that sun evaporates all fears

Pat Durmon


Half-lost on a back road after dark, I stopped

at a farmhouse near a crossroads, looking

for help with directions.


A handsome woman came off the porch.

She seemed to dodge the curved moon.

Her kind words merged with a hand

that pointed.  But it was toward soft talk

on the sloping yard that I turned my head: 


there, sprawled on their backs,

amongst purple crocuses poking up, lay a man

and a boy staring skyward, intent as astronomers

on pricks of light puncturing the sky.  Open

laughter drifted up.  The boy pulled out

a pocketful of questions, and the man responded

with a wide supply of worthwhile words. 


Was I totally lost?  Had I stepped through a door

into another world?  Perhaps the woman

read my mind:  she had a twinkle in her eye

as she explained,  “My husband and grandson
are grazing in the midst of stars . . . .”

Diane Auser Stefan

Christmas songs and midnight mass,

cold December days,

sharing joy and yuletide smiles,

kids in a Christmas play.


Baking cookies, memories swelling

so much to do this season—

yet I pause and contemplate awhile,

why celebrate, what’s the reason?


It’s not just time to give and get,

though sadly that’s all some people do.

No, it’s a time of joy and love and hope

that each day we might feel anew.


It is Jesus’ birth centuries ago

we celebrate on Christmas Day.

The love of the Father who gave us His Son—

we thank Him each time we pray.


Long ago the crowded inns of Bethlehem

sent the Holy Family out in the night—

On Christmas we go to St. Peter’s

to worship together, it’s so right!


Not everyone has had a perfect year,

many have deeply felt great sorrow,

but Hope and Love are what Christmas is . . .

Christ with us yesterday, today, and tomorrow.


This coming year let’s make a difference

and remember Jesus’ coming from above—

just as Christ has promised he’ll come again,

we now come to his manger with love.

Steven Penticuff

Waves lap at the edge
of concentration while
white sand through a sieve
rains on a dump truck,
and the afternoon vanishes.

Tom Padgett
With an apology to John Crowe Ransom

Late one dark November day
I first learned that I will die.
When I went out to join in play,
Billy Burge was away
in the county hospital.
I asked my friends if they knew why.
Ruptured appendix, they said,
and the next day he was dead.

Six boys from the fifth grade,
“honorary” pall bearers,
heard the preacher say that all
attending Billy’s funeral--
the boys like the grown men who made
up his body’s “actual” carriers--
were like Billy Burge bound
for plots of cemetery ground.

Later that same afternoon
no counselor helped me find relief,
but father re-opened the ice cream store,
and things went on as they had before.
I wrapped myself in a thick cocoon,
denying unresolved grief,
yet church bells measured out my breath--
they have since Billy Burge’s death.


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