Vol. 2, No. 2            An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society        1 February 2003



With winter hanging on in snow, bitter wind, and frigid temperature, we have come to the point where we seek to get away from it (if only in our imagination).  Lee Ann Russell's picture above reminds us that smart birds have gone south, but the rest of us remain here snowbound--and not as productively snowbound as John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), who made from his winter experience a long popular poem, Snowbound.  On the other hand, we have a temptation Whittier never confronted: we have television to distract us from writing our masterpieces.  Our attention is occupied with pop-psychiatrists on TV, men and women who help us rationalize doing nothing so that guilt-free we fill our days with another "footbowl" game, another mindless evening of sit-coms, another time-consuming news hour or talk show.  Occasionally we consult our calendars to mark off the days till spring.  Ah, spring! That glorious season when we will slough off winter's dull drift and emerge in bursts of poetic energy.  The resurrecting force of poetry was captured by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), who closed his powerful "Ode to the West Wind" with an image of the poet as a prophet of good news, news that will wake the earth to the message of  life.  Still, Shelley saw winter ambivalently.  Winter is a time of "dead thoughts," but winter is also the inevitable precursor of new life. "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" he asks rhetorically.   Shelley addressed the wind as the cleansing agent that tokens spring by both driving out dead thoughts and by scattering new words among mankind.  How about it?  Are we content to waste the winter without writing?  Well, if so, let's at least stir about a bit and read other poets, using them as proxies to keep our own hopes up for a resurrecting spring.

--Tom Padgett, Editor 


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Remember to read Spare Mule Online and Strophes Online at the addresses given on the Contents menu.  You can keep up with members who get newsletters by mail by remembering to read them on the Net.  You get a slightly better issue anyway, since we are always finding mistakes in the newsletters and correcting them, which we can do easily on the Net but not at all on the printed copies.   If you, however, feel empty-handed without a hard copy, print you one.


After eight books and fifty years of writing, publishing, and teaching, Ruth Stone was due, so although she said she was "profoundly dumbfounded" at being nominated, she will enjoy spending the $10,000 for winning.  Stone, a "brilliant metaphysical oddball" according to poet Jim Schley, won the prize for her collection In the Next Galaxy, the title poem of which begins with "Things will be different. / No one will lose their sight, / their hearing, their gallbladder."  If you would like to read the rest of this poem, several others by her, and a little on the life of this funny yet serious poet, visit these sites:

Welcome to our newest member: Gwen Eisenmann

(Gwen Eisenmann)

We get all tangled in
each other's misunderstandings
and forget
we love each other.
The miracle of speaking
too easily is squandered
we forget
what moved us to speak.
We ask "whatever were you thinking?"
not "whatever were you feeling?"
we forget
that hearts have ears.
                morning is
a promise always kept,
always new.
Are you?


(Barbara Magerl)

The small child's voice rose in shrill sing-song
As I walked down the nursing center corridor.
At first the words were unclear,
Then I recognized them
And silently joined the chorus.

It was a sultry summer day
Yet the song was of Christmas--
About goodness and rewards and waiting.

He knows when you are sleeping
He knows when you're awake...

I glanced through the open door,
Expecting to see the tot with charming song.
A single silhouette was there,
A shriveled little woman tied to her wheelchair,
Gazing into the sunset beyond her window,
Beyond her world.

Sobered, I continued down the hall
As her childlike voice followed me.

You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry

But I cried.

(Wesley Willis)

Timber falls where freedom stood,
The crashing sounds of trees are heard,
We have at hand an axe for wood,
The rows of freedom stacked in cords.
The sound of chopping brings us here
To paths of freedom we cut near,
And in those paths we hear with fear
Of freedom lost though cherished dear.
With crashing sounds the winds still rush,
And when the blowing trees have spoken
Of freedom lost, in the following hush
They tell again of freedom broken
In tales once whispered in their kingdom--
Now their freedom is our freedom.

And it has grown--along with
one girl, two boys, and a mortgage.

(Harding Stedler)

For those who would be tempted
I cast forbidden fruit
into winter's barren garden,
waiting for those who would taste.
But none came,
not even squirrels.

Perhaps they remembered Eden
and the penalties of sin.

The apples lie decaying
in December sun.

The world may have learned
its lesson, to let alone
things forbidden.
Today, I look more kindly
on furry critters
for resisting life's temptations.

(Todd Sukany)

Observing language of perfection
Thought to clarify distraction
Found in the Queen's tongue,

They applied the rules of the gods.
Today, we have reams of lauds
We might could like to never unstrung:

"Have dinner at eight?"
"You watching your weight?"
"Eating veggies you height?"

I sit by the channel of Fox's
And laugh at stampedes of Dach'ses
When really he wanted some oxes.

The Queen's tongue still causes anguish
To those concerned with each blemish,
I guess we will have to go ghoti.

(Tania Gray)

everyone is traveling but me
except years ago when we went to New York
San Francisco Boston Chicago
now we stay at home
sister moved to Florida another flew
to Hawaii and goes north every summer
brothers fly to D.C. and London
nephew went to Korea niece to Australia
how I hate to read their e-mails
I think I'll put a block on my family
don't send me any more travelogues
and don't come back either

(Bev Conklin)

Colorful, many-shaped sea shells
shined and confined in a glass lamp base
bring joyful smiles of wonder
and dreams to a small child's face.

Little fingers smudging shiny glass
as she tries to touch, and plans for the day
when she's grown up because by then
she'll know just how to find the  way

to where the seas are full of shells.
She'll walk the edge of our wondrous land
where for as far as she can see
touchable shells will lie on the land.

I watch her face and can't help wondering
if this lovely dream will ever come true.
Will there be sea creatures living then
in the water polluted by me and you?

(Jean Even)

Lift up your voice unto God, your King,
His peace in the morning is for us to sing,
Bring forth your praises for the day,
A song of the heart should be conveyed.

Lift up your voice and be enthused,
He is your Heavenly King of quietude,
Sing with elation for today's fortitude,
Rejoice in Him and sing in solitude.

Sing with joy for heavenly praises,
Blessings in the day is His aptness,
Rejoice in God, for your happiness
Is the morning's effervescence.

Sing with joy for God, your King,
Infatuate your heart with His passion,
Praise to adorn with admiration,
For the dawn of morn is a song to sing.

(Darwyne Tessier)

I have been given a gift
that was not purchased.

It cannot be taken back,
but it can be returned.

It changed the way
I looked at the world.

Like a child opening
his eyes the very first time,

I can't understand why such
a valuable gift was given to me.


(Tom Padgett)

The snow that settles on their lawn
stirs controversy in their house:
the birds it brings rouse spite in him
and animus within his spouse.

He grouses at her if she fails
to give them grain when she is out;
she snipes if he, on coming in
from feeding them, tracks snow about.

But most quarrels intramurally
concern identities of species:
although they share binoculars,
he swears he does not see what she sees.

Each claims a wide taxonomy
the other viewer fliply narrows:
his golden kinglets she dethrones
and snubs as vulgar chipping sparrows.

The pine grosbeak she finds one time,
imagining its cone-shaped mouth,
he tags "a grackle, not full-grown,"
and cackles, "Grosbeaks have flown south."

Their hopes for tufted titmice fade;
their wishes for a woodhen cease;
instead they pray for melting snow,
departing birds, returning peace.

(Tammie Bush)

Harold and Maude
except there will be
no 80th birthday party
for you
no ultimate act
of leaving

the same way
I've surrendered
my props
and agreed to
stop staging
these small deaths

both of us
have made a pact
to learn
to live

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