Vol. 5, No. 7       An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society     July 2006



When I was 0 to 8, my family lived in a small town.  I was the fifth of five children and, consequently, there were not many daily tasks around the house assigned to me.  I did have a Saturday job in my father's general store.  I managed to chip the ice and load the soda pop cooler with the 6-ounce bottles of Coca Cola, orange, strawberry, and root beer that stood soldier-like in formation in the metal tank till the stacks of wooden cases from the distributor had been emptied and only a few bottles floated on top of the water in the tank..  But this job was not really a chore for me, for Dad paid me a subsistence allowance for tending the machine.  Then we moved to the farm just outside of town.  Ages 9-17 for me were full of one chore after another.  Our work was never done because every season had its own demands, even winter which I had assumed was a down time for farmers.  Dad had me and my sister just older than I in the fields building fences, cleaning fence rows, building new stalls in the barn, etc.  He learned to carpenter.  I learned to gold brick.  One task was mine alone almost from the beginning.  I milked the cows.  Dad tried milking and despised it, so I inherited it, but of course Mom frequently subbed.  My point is that I learned the difference between a job and a chore: you don't get paid for doing your chores.  Writing poetry is a job for certain professionals only--for most of us it is a chore.  It is, however, not a chore we dread--it is just that it is tacked onto everything else we do.  It takes extra effort to keep writing.  My family left the dairy business soon to raise beef cattle, but kept one milk cow to provide for our own dairy needs.  My poetry needs today include reading the poetry of other poets and writing a few myself.  Yes, writing a poem or two each month is a chore, but I prefer it to milking cows.             --  Tom Padgett



Past Issue Next
Poems by Members

Missouri State Poetry Society

Summer Contest

Spare Mule Online

National Federation of State Poetry Societies
Strophes Online


Was Narcissus a poet?  How self-obsessed are poets by their nature?  Read this essay on Paul Zweig, who defended self-obsession twenty-five years before it became the cultural thing to do.

Have you discounted much contemporary poetry as too obscure to occupy your time?  How do you distinguish subtle poetry from difficult poetry?  Read this review of Elizabeth Bishop's latest book for help.

How important is poetry in your life?  Would you like to know how several Americans responded to this question in a recent poll?  Click here to see.

Click Back on your toolbar to return here after finishing the column.


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 to you by clicking the underlined titles.


Our new state president, Dale Ernst, is encouraging us to enter the MSPS Summer 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 061

Everywhere I travel I meet people who want to write poetry but worry that what they write won't be "any good." No one can judge the worth of a poem before it's been written, and setting high standards for yourself can keep you from writing. And if you don't write you'll miss out on the pleasure of making something from words, of seeing your thoughts on a page. Here Leslie Monsour offers a concise snapshot of a self-censoring poet.

Leslie Monsour

Her pencil poised, she's ready to create,
Then listens to her mind's perverse debate
On whether what she does serves any use;
And that is all she needs for an excuse
To spend all afternoon and half the night
Enjoying poems other people write.

American Life in Poetry: Column 063

Remember those Degas paintings of the ballet dancers? Here is a similar figure study, in muted color, but in this instance made of words, not pigment. As this poem by David Tucker closes, I can feel myself holding my breath as if to help the dancer hold her position.

David Tucker

Class is over, the teacher
and the pianist gone,
but one dancer
in a pale blue
leotard stays
to practice alone without music,
turning grand jetes
through the haze of late afternoon.
Her eyes are focused
on the balancing point
no one else sees
as she spins in this quiet
made of mirrors and light--
a blue rose on a nail--
then stops and lifts
her arms in an oval pause
and leans out
a little more, a little more,
there, in slow motion
upon the air.


American Life in Poetry: Column 062

Gardeners who've fought Creeping Charlie and other unwanted plants may sympathize with James McKean from Iowa as he takes on Bindweed, a cousin to the two varieties of morning glory that appear in the poem. It's an endless struggle, and in the end, of course, the bindweed wins.

James McKean

There is little I can do
besides stoop to pluck them
one by one from the ground,
their roots all weak links,
this hoard of Lazaruses popping up
at night, not the Heavenly Blue
so like silk handkerchiefs,
nor the Giant White so timid
in the face of the moon,
but poor relations who visit
then stay. They sleep in my garden.
Each morning I evict them.
Each night more arrive, their leaves
small, green shrouds,
reminding me the mother root
waits deep underground
and I dig but will never find her
and her children will inherit
all that I've cleared
when she holds me tighter
and tighter in her arms.

American Life in Poetry: Column 064

Storytelling binds the past and present together, and is as essential to community life as are food and shelter. Many of our poets are masters at reshaping family stories as poetry. Here Lola Haskins retells a haunting tale, cast in the voice of an elder. Like the best stories, there are no inessential details. Every word counts toward the effect.

Lola Haskins

That year there were many deaths in the village.
Germs flew like angels from one house to the next
and every family gave up its own. Mothers
died at their mending. Children fell at school.
Of three hundred twenty, there were eleven left.
Then, quietly, the sun set on a day when no one
died. And the angels whispered among themselves.
And that evening, as he sat on the stone steps,
your grandfather felt a small wind on his neck
when all the trees were still. And he would tell us
always, how he had felt that night, on the skin
of his own neck, the angels, passing.


Visit Bly's official homepage, which includes three poems at

Visit a page of criticism and poetry at
where another three poems may be found.

For interviews with Bly and some translations and poems by Bly, visit

For four more poems by Bly, visit

For a poetry reading by Bly, visit

Buy a book of Bly's poetry at, or,

or at


Gwen Eisenmann

He hums as he milks
and the cows stand quiet

at dawn, in the barn
sunlight through the open door

their auburn coats.

Are they aware,
do they hear those geese calling?

Steve Penticuff

Our child turns six
months old and my wife
says, we're bad parents:
we haven't been
playing Mozart.
There's all the research,
you know . . . and
of course she's right,
so I panic and scramble
to salvage something
--anything please
in life--for the poor
plebeian at our feet.
I wiggle out (desperate
times, desperate logic)
and offer a long-shot:
But Mozart didn't
listen to Mozart
as a child, right?

Hope rolls in slowly,
settles around us like
a welcome fog,
chills us out awhile.
But the fog horn intrudes
somewhere in the distance
(and the sun always wins
in the end anyway),
reminding us deep down
that some lies
you just can't buy.
Mozart, after all,
was Mozart, not Joseph
Amadeus Schmoe.
And besides, he actually
did listen to Mozart
as a child. He just wrote
down the notes from
symphonies already
playing in his head.
The cheater.

Ben Nielsen

Step ONE and Step TWO
Do not think, do not stew.
Step THREE and Step FOUR
Less is never more.
Step Five and Step SIX
All words really do mix.
Step SEVEN and Step EIGHT
Gotta love the hate . . .
Step NINE and Step TEN

What did that last line mean? Because I am pretty sure
it did not make sense. I mean really. Come on. What
kind of poem is this? Oh poems!

Ian Scott Paterson

If beauty were in season,
how might one hunt it?
Be it me, Iíd start with rod an reel.
I'd tie to heavy-test line the ugliest,
most appalling lure I could find.
Beauties do eat uglies don't they?

But what if beauty
doesnít take to bait?
I suppose Iíd try to trap it.
Iíd use a ray of light or two
and a shutter to catch and contain.
But where would I find a shutter fast enough?

But do you think that
beauty can be caught?
Maybe the best that I can do is
just to let the pictures speak
their thousand words.
And just sit back and listen.

Jean Even

Bring unto me a day of peace
Where love abounds with your grace.
Home is far away from this rat race,
And Iím so alone in this place.

My heart cries out for Your love
And the sight of light from above.
Though I walk near a cave in daylight,
The cold darkness surrounds me like a plight.

Come unto me with heavenís joy for this day.
As I pray in earnest that you wonít delay,
Tonight Iíll watch Your universe on display
And remember life is like a child at play.

Valerie Esker

I know that I shall never see
a poet quite as glib as me.
Now I've said that, mon ami,
I'll bet I've made an enemy.


Henrietta W. Romman

We wonder at our Great Good God
Who takes big steps to rest our mind.

In His sure Word he hides a rod,
We wonder at our Great Good God!

He hears our cries, and he would nod,
He made the heavens and mankind

We wonder at our Great Good God
Who takes big steps to rest our mind.

Pat Durmon

She leaves the bank accounts, blooming daylilies
and a small gray house to her ten nieces and nephews
in faraway places who did not visit. In the living room,
a Zenith television glows on two snowy channels.
In the yard, the heart-shaped leaves of mournful treetops
click and clack restlessly as if they might tell lively
secrets before the sky brews up a storm. 

Then I find the light of a summer day in what seems
a dim picture of a withering world.  It reflects off
the uncut grass and gilded weeds around her house.
I, who had come on a whim,
sit low and watch from the fiftiesí dinette set.
From there, I decide to buy the bedding,
only a trace of her; that way I can lay my winter head
on Irmaís flat pillow she leaves behind.

Tom Padgett

Indecision is the valley land wherein
we live below the mountain Certainty,
which shows a sunlit face some days each year
but usually remains obscured by fog,
unknown to all except the brave who climb
to set a flag to prove they fear no more.

Most of us will never climb beyond
its first levels, unsure of who we are
or where we want to be, forgetting names
of places we have been, remembering
an odd melange of things--barnyard smells,
school medals won, descants of nightingales.

We lie in meadows white with edelweiss
and coax a marmot near to photograph,
but stop to raise binoculars from time
to time to see the scalers on the peaks.
We shun those crags, deny the glories of
their heights--and live with others like ourselves.

Julie Garrett

When it comes to creativity,
you must think like a child.
Simply stare off in Space--
let your imagination run wild.

Some may be an artist,
a musician, or a dreamer.
Some may be an athlete
who strive not to break their femur.

But all in all I really am
quite the creative gal.
Be sure to keep your "wild" thoughts
a little bit moral.

I'm creative because I wrote this poem for you!

Tania Gray

I know who prefers malt Bud Light or Coors
and those who tipple and then topple cans
from off the railing of their porch or pitch
their semi-empties from the car to street
I know who drops their silver cylinders
amid detritus of a late night bash
especially in college parking lots
at Rush I'll find the metal mother lode
for twice or thrice a day my terrier
and I conduct a seek and seizure search
we are relentless we police our beat
and pick up what can easily be had
so far we haven't tried to dumpster dive
we pick up flattened roadkill and the fresh
catch of the day still dripping amber ooze
you see aluminum is ready cash
the price they pay per pound has gone way up
and trashy drinkers keep our pets in treats

"Jesus did many other things as well." John 21:25
Mark Tappmeyer

Below the heap
where limbs strayed
in spaghetti disarray
and hands groped
for knotted-leather seams
and strong arms plied
their pile-on schemes--
the Nazarene, under all,
would not give up his grip
upon the sheep-skin ball.











After E. A. Robinson
Laurence Thomas

Whatever Mr. Andrews chose to own
he took, no matter who picked up the tab:
His scoundrel ways, deceits, were widely known
to us, succumbing to his gift of gab.

He out-talked anyone he chose to cheat.
And we fell victim once within his pale.
Try as we would, we never could compete
against him; somehow we would always fail.

Oh, he had power, the might that money brings
to ruthless ones who use it to promote their goals
at the expense of others who, as underlings,
fall prey to tyrants to become such hopeless souls.

We suffered cruel treatment with no hope
of besting Mr. Andrews. It wasnít funny
the way we lived, until one day, this dope
appeared to us and gave us all his money.

Judy Young

If I went out hunting
For the indigo bunting,
One I would never see.

But today Iím just walking,
Not at all stalking,
And I happened on three.

David Van Bebber, Jr.

Her brown eyes sparkle and fade
as her hopes that rose up subside.
Another disappointing day
has quickly come and gone away.
She will die again there in her bed,
rest her broken heart and head.
Then rise again renewed and refreshed,
and with her new life she will dress
with a new dream, on a new day.
A completely different game to play.
The sparkle returns, her new eyes shine,
leaving the old life dead behind.

Harding Stedler

Suddenly, top shelves
of cupboards
are beyond his reach;
tree limbs he used to hang from,
beyond his grasp.

Aging may have absconded
with his height
and given it to baby giraffes
that they might stand taller.

A frantic search is on,
in roadside ditches,
under beds,
in landfills
for missing inches.
Shrinkage in recent years
has reduced him
from 5'10" to 5'6"
without his knowing it.

As he inches toward a pygmy
in the sunset years of life,
he ponders the mischief
of thieving ghouls.

Nathan Ross

An unusual suspect nudged me
late this morning: too much sleep.
The usual culprit: an alarm,
which leaves me to be comforted by just
five more minutes and,
soon enough, five more.
Home again for a season of sweat,
a season to catch up on boredom, sleep, and more.
Trees are through blooming.
Birds are raising juveniles.
The essence of my own juvenile days
linger like dark chocolate on the palate,
sweet moments contrasted by bitter tears.
Friends are gone. But thankfully,
my familyís still here to catch up with.

Pat Laster

where sandprints dissolve
under incessant undulations
gobbled up
then sandspit
in opals and diamonds
violets and teals

saltspray daydreams
girdled by laughing gulls
bandied by sea breezes
augured into sandwarmth

I pick through shells
of autumn orange
translucent as parchment
then jump
startled by timpanied waves

Diane Auser Stefan

Iíd see you on my morning walks
sometimes barking a greeting,
always wagging not just
your tail, but your entire south end.

One thick misty morning not long ago
I saw you silhouetted

racing across the field, hair in flight,
and you as graceful and fast
as the deer you might have been chasing.
Magical !

Then yesterday morning while walking
I was stunned and stopped
by the sight of golden hair
at rest by the side of the road.

A close look told me
youíd run no more
and though I hated the task
I knew your family needed to know
why you hadnít come home.

I donít know your name, golden dog,
but I knew your spirit,
your joy, your curiosity,
your dutiful guarding and
your friendly barking,

and I will miss you.

Velvet Fackeldey

In my garden, between the rows
of cucumbers and tomato plants
and green beans and carrots,
are many rocks.
The Ozarks ground produces them
in great supply.
The rocks grow wild and need no care.
Too bad we can't eat them.
When the summer days grow long
and my children whine,
"There's nothing to do!"
I send them to the garden
to pick rocks.
Just once each summer
curs the whine.
Next summer, when they forget,
there will again be many rocks
for kids to pick.

Sharina Smith

The mysteries of the mind are ours to unravel.
Is it possible to reveal the truth?
What lies in the deep?
Is it too sacred to fool with?
Will we ever know; should we want to know
The great secrets inside--
Memories of good times
Dreams of the future
--What lies behind these thoughts?
Ah, the great treasures there to be unfolded,
Shall we ever know their value?
Can they be appraised?
(The careless days of youth are treasured there;
The feelings of growing up are held in pain there.)
Is it right that we should try to solve the mystery?
Something says not to ask, but just to accept.

I shall try.

Nancy Powell

Stores and ads display the flag;
fireworks stands dot the highway.
We have cause to show and brag;
souls paid dearly for this day.

Daring men march into Hell
forfeiting all, chancing fate,
so we can hear freedomís bell,
always pealing on this date.

Honored emblemĖstars and stripesĖ
for servicemen who gave life,
families with tears unwiped,
hearts pounding with drum and fife.

"Just a piece of cloth!", you say.
It stands for flesh, blood and bone,
parent, child, and graves in clay.
Waving peace, itís proudly flown.

Bev Conklin

Today I realized
the colors
Orange and Black
indicate the beginning
and the end
of spring and summer

When I heard
the cheerful song
and finally spied
the bright plumage
of an Oriole,
I knew the frost
had truly gone.

When I see
carved pumpkin faces
and black-clad children
dressed as witches,
I'll know it's back
and will stay.

Yellow and Red make Orange.
Warmth and learning,
passion and action.
There are no colors
in Black . . . nothing.

And so, Orange and Black
remind me,
there's nothing I can do
to hurry spring
or delay winter.
Just enjoy both . . .
when it's time.