Vol. 7, No. 12    An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society    December 2008



Now for a bit of schooling: a synecdoche is a figure of speech in which part of something is substituted for the whole of it [or conversely, in which the whole of something is substituted for a part of it].  For example, I grew up in the Depression of the 1930s, but my parents saw to it that the five children in our family never thought of ourselves as poor or "hard up" as our economic situation was commonly called.  We were never officially on "relief," but since my aunt and uncle and their children were, we thought of them as poor.  We knew we were going to be all right because we had oranges for Christmas.  Santa's helpers at our house always saw to it that each of us found a stocking with an orange in it.  Some years we also had ribbon candy and chocolate drops, but every year we had an orange.  Christmas meant oranges and oranges meant Christmas. Now, I know we experienced synecdoche, for a part of Christmas [the oranges] evoked all of Christmas [love, joy, peace, as well as food].  Poets are acquainted with such devices that use a little to say a lot.  So I am using the oranges pictured above to remind you of real oranges and to wish you a very merry Christmas this year. 

If you have not yet paid your dues for 2009, send your check made out to MSPS to Bill Lower, 21010 S. Hwy 245, Fair Play, MO 65649.  Members of Author Unknown [the SBU chapter] have already paid.  The amount is $7 if you have not paid an additional amount for dues of another Missouri local chapter.  The amount is $3 if you have paid another Missouri local chapter's annual fee to them.  -- Tom Padgett

Past Issue Next

Poems by Members

Missouri State Poetry Society

Winter Contest

Spare Mule Online

National Federation of State Poetry Societies
Strophes Online


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.


Four poems and introduction to Shaughnessy are available at

For David Kirby's review of Shaughnessy's new collection, visit

For the American Academy of Poets page and 3 poems, go to




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 189

In celebration of Veteran's Day, here is a telling poem by Gary Dop, a Minnesota poet. The veterans of World War II, now old, are dying by the thousands. Here's one still with us, standing at Normandy, remembering.

On Swearing

In Normandy, at Point Du Hoc,
where some Rangers died,
Dad pointed to an old man
20 feet closer to the edge than us,
asking if I could see
the medal the man held
like a rosary.
As we approached the cliff
the man's swearing, each bulleted
syllable, sifted back
toward us in the ocean wind.
I turned away,
but my shoulder was held still
by my father's hand,
and I looked up at him
as he looked at the man.


American Life in Poetry: Column 190

Most of us love to find things, and to discover a quarter on the sidewalk can make a whole day seem brighter. In this poem, Robert Wrigley, who lives in Idaho, finds what's left of a Bible, and describes it so well that we can almost feel it in our hands.

Finding a Bible in an Abandoned Cabin

Under dust plush as a moth's wing,
the book's leather cover still darkly shown,
and everywhere else but this spot was sodden
beneath the roof's unraveling shingles.
There was that back-of-the-neck lick of chill
and then, from my index finger, the book

opened like a blasted bird. In its box
of familiar and miraculous inks,
a construction of filaments and dust,
thoroughfares of worms, and a silage
of silverfish husks: in the autumn light,
eight hundred pages of perfect wordless lace.


American Life in Poetry: Column 188

Occupational hazards, well, you have to find yourself in the occupation to know about those. Here Minnie Bruce Pratt of Alabama gives us an inside look at a kind of work we all have benefited from but may never have thought much about.

Cutting Hair

She pays attention to the hair, not her fingers, and cuts herself
once or twice a day. Doesn't notice anymore, just if the blood
starts flowing. Says, Excuse me, to the customer and walks away for a band-aid. Same spot on the middle finger over and over, raised like a callus. Also the nicks where she snips between her fingers, the torn webbing. Also spider veins on her legs now, so ugly, though she sits in a chair for half of each cut, rolls around from side to side. At night in the winter she sleeps in white cotton gloves, Neosporin on the cuts, vitamin E, then heavy
lotion. All night, for weeks, her white hands lie clothed like
those of a young girl going to her first party. Sleeping alone,
she opens and closes her long scissors and the hair falls under
her hands. It's a good living, kind of like an undertaker,
the people keep coming, and the hair, shoulder length, French
twist, braids. Someone has to cut it. At the end she whisks
and talcums my neck. Only then can I bend and see my hair,
how it covers the floor, curls and clippings of brown and silver,
how it shines like a field of scythed hay beneath my feet.

American Life in Poetry: Column 191

Class, status, privilege; despite all our talk about equality, they're with us wherever we go. In this poem, Pat Mora, who grew up in a Spanish speaking home in El Paso, Texas, contrasts the lives of rich tourists with the less fortunate people who serve them. The titles of poems are often among the most important elements, and this one is loaded with implication.


Mouths full of laughter,
the turistas come to the tall hotel
with suitcases full of dollars.

Every morning my brother makes
the cool beach new for them.
With a wooden board he smooths
away all footprints.

I peek through the cactus fence
and watch the women rub oil
sweeter than honey into their arms and legs
while their children jump waves
or sip drinks from long straws,
coconut white, mango yellow.

Once my little sister
ran barefoot across the hot sand
for a taste.

My mother roared like the ocean,
"No. No. It's their beach.
It's their beach.



Bev Conklin
Deceptive December
is here once more.
Bearing gifts,
he takes the floor,
touting the joys of Christmas,
the coming New Year,
and then, of course--
he'll disappear! 


Dewell H. Byrd

A young chickadee
pays popcorn visits
to our butterfly bush,
samples seeds,
tidbits we canít see.

At the window sill birdfeeder
she examines a variety of morsels,
chooses a sunflower seed,
flits back to the bush.

A flock of chickadees arrives---
quick, sharp movements.
Each takes a turn at the feeder
chooses a prize.

A Cooperís hawk
flies between window and bush---
fast as summer lightning---
dives into brambles across the street.
Chickadees freeze, disappear into the
rhododendron bush.

We watch Sunday afternoon football
and during commercials
watch a vacant birdfeeder.

Steven Penticuff

Eats nachos and BBQ ribs
on our china, stacks gold-rimmed
cups and plates in the dishwasher
when we're gone, always uses
our best silver to scrape
burned rice from old pots.

We, who took those treasures
from the hutch five times
in fifty years, are upset at first,
but time like this floods life
with light: Anything but thankless,
he honors us with every chip
and scrape and bite.

Harding Stedler

Lying ripe in open fields,
waiting for a face
followed by a name,
then a persona,
pumpkins allow the moon
to paint them orange.

For all those that go unclaimed,
and have nothing to look forward to
but the freeze and thaw of winter,
they squeeze their seeds
like a protective mother would
her child. 

There is depression in December
when I drive by
and see rows of orange collapsed,
knowing some deserving pumpkin
was left unpicked.

Diane Auser Stefan

Do you hear the church bells singing on the breeze
Each note whispers clearly though the bare dark trees
Choirs join the music with hymns of glory and of praise
vening chills vanish with these sounds at end of day.
Maybe this year will come a perfect gift of love
Brought gently on the wings of Hope by a Peace dove
Every heart can strive to make a world thatís right
Remembering Godís gift to us on that first Christmas night.

Laurence W. Thomas

I like surprises
like cookies with something hidden in them:
nuts, cherries, peppermint patties
baked into chocolate cookies.
They come when least expectedó
thatís why theyíre called surprisesó
and, come to think of it,
I donít always like them.
The phone rings and somebodyís dead,
coming home to find a tree on the house,
biting down hard on a pecan shell
in a Christmas cookie.

Pat Durmon

Itís your thirty-fourth birthday, John.
Unforgettable! We sent a card of love,
birthday wishes and a little money
for a nice dinner for two.

But I wanted to send you much more:
I simply could not figure out how
to mail the wordless gift from here to there.

If I knew how,
Iíd find a box big enough to hold the primal
smell of the river, smooth skipping rocks,
and white foam rippling; Iíd definitely
send a lively fire-pit smoking and cracklingó
surrounded by cedar stumps, a sweet gum
dressed in her autumn skirt, and a fine-spun
mist that gently touches a face as it rolls by
before it tries to climb the mountain. Iíd
pack it all carefully, then add some leftover
cowboy coffee and zucchini bread to help you
remember the exact tastes and smells found
here at home in the Ozarks. Well, maybe
I would add one more thing: sweató
all for the joy of manual labor.

A birthday present, Johnó one to unpack
when rain comes pouring down
on your big city.

My love to you,

Pat Laster

Awaking from a vivid dream,
I hatched a scheme:
how to display
--revolving tray--
to show what carries sound the best.
My child had guessed
that liquid would.
Should parenthood
now take the ball and organize
in 5th grade guise
this project made
for science grade?

Jean Even

I lift up my eyes towards heaven
And see the wonders thereof,
Every road I travel, every step I take,
Are blessings from above.
I call upon You, Father,
For everything I need.
Through a troubled world I journey; 
I'm glad I have you for attorney.
You are my guide, indeed,
I lean on You for everything I need.

Heather Lewis

Softly shimmering
The sounds and scents seem to say
Share your treasures
Test my strength
Sinking beneath the sultry sands
Seems more of a life than staying
Above on the shore




Dave Gregg
Like impatient children the leaves
Scamper across the frosted fields
Wearing badges of red and yellow
Dancing on points of elm and oak
The edict comes from the heavens
Go as far as the wind will take you
Go beyond this river and that hill
Follow the curve of the mountains
And the bends of the air reach out
To live the life of leaves now free
Go as far as the wind will take you
Learn the lessons nature provides
Whirling fancy of the breezes seek
The trees you have not known and
Go as far as the wind will take you
Seasons change and the sun removes
The color from your stem and leaves
Go as far as the wind will take you
No longer crisp or crunch but memory
Go as far as the wind will take you
Go as far as the wind will take you

Jeanetta Chrystie

In a world of abject darkness where menís souls were
     weighted by despair,
And hearts reeked of evilís dark decay trapped in sinís deadly
There remained a flicker of light that shown as a candle     
      lighting the night,
In the prophecy of our Saviorís birth as an infant Israelite.

Now see the babeís feet cradled in his Fatherís hands,
Now see the youth standing tall,
Now see the man stretch his love across Calvary,
Now see Godís love for us all.

Until one clear night a babe was born in a Bethlehem manger
To complete this first step in Godís divine plan to redeem
     those who heed His call.
Our Heavenly Father cast His pearl, His Son into the world
With angelís songs and a virgin birth, the Christ Child brought
     hope to our world.

Now see the babeís feet cradled in his Fatherís hands,
Now see the youth standing tall,
Now see the man stretch his love across Calvary,
Now see Godís love for us all.

What a wondrous birth! What a glorious gift the Father   
     offers to all
Who through faith accept Jesus as Lord of their life, to ransom
     them from the fall.
As promise and prophecy now see fulfillment begin in a babyís
Now hope can sing in the hearts of all whom the Christ Child

Now see the babeís feet cradled in his Fatherís hands,
Now see the youth standing tall,
Now see the man stretch his love across Calvary,
Now see Godís love for us all.

Henrietta Romman

Dear Dr. A.,
I find myself
and eased.
No more
shooting agony,
now I can flip
from left to rightó

That ghastly grip
of sciatic pinch

that led my life,
like a faulty soul
melted, vanished..
Now I am free .

So, bent and rent
with pain, chained
to ails, subject
to all the Ďdosí
and Ďdo notís . . .
all that is gone.

Dr. A., your work
was not in vain:
It set all right
the wrongs, when
bones and age
both schemed
to steal my peace!

I wish to thank you
more and more for . . .
Well, do I pray that
youíd truly know the rest:
ďForever this indebted
frame will remain addicted
to your care and name.

And now, Dr. A.,
Where do I go from here?


Tania Gray

On Monday nights I drive on darkened streets
to learn some secrets, sit with people I
donít know.   The runes and scribbles mystify;
obedient, we chant like parakeets.

Demands are made, always solo repeats;
attempts to answer fluently are bleats.
Of course the goalís not just to satisfy
our guru; more than that, perhaps July
Iíll visit Rome, glad for the language feats
            on Monday nights.

Tom Padgett

An angel came to make the way
at Christmas time, at Christmas time
and to a maiden fair did say,
"God has prepared a special day
at Christmas time."

Then Joseph took the maiden fair
at Christmas time, at Christmas time
to Bethlehem, where there they stayed
till Mary in the manger laid
at Christmas time

the baby Jesus, Holy Child,
at Christmas time, at Christmas time--
the One on Whom the heavens smiled,
so pure was He, so undefiled
at Christmas time.

Some shepherds in their fields that night
at Christmas time, at Christmas time
were startled by a brilliant light
of angels hovering in flight
at Christmas time. 

The angels sang, "Now have no fear
at Christmas time, at Christmas time.
The God of Love tonight draws near:
in Bethlehem His Son is here
at Christmas time.

And Caspar,  Melchior, Balthasar
at Christmas time, at Christmas time,
three wise men from their homelands far,

ame following the guiding star
at Christmas time.

Then parents, shepherds, wise men, all
at Christmas time, at Christmas time
to worship did before Him fall
and on His Blessed Name did call
at Christmas time.

Today in faith that never dims
at Christmas time, at Christmas time
with candles, bells, and trees to trim,
we praise His name and honor Him
at Christmas time.



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