Vol. 6, No. 7    An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society     July  2007



In "Mending Wall" Robert Frost takes the position that few people love a wall, but he was a New England man.  They have rock walls in New England similar to the rock walls in England, but most of us in Thirty-Seven Cents are Midwesterners, so we are fascinated by the beauty of walls in fields, like those in the picture above.  I remember once when my third daughter and I were traveling in England.  She was amazed by sights we saw from the train window--the hills called downs, rivers linked by canals, and of course all the farm animals.  She had never lived on a farm, so she was not quite acquainted with sheep.  She said, "Oh, look Dad!  Look at all the baby lambs and their mothers, the ooze!"  Her malapropism has become part of our family legend that is evoked any time we see a flock of sheep.  But I really meant to talk about walls.  Frost's poem takes two positions really--one that says walls help us organize our lives (good walls make good neighbors, for example). But the other position--the one that says walls keep us at a distance, apart--calls walls foolish (what if your cows eat my pine cones?) if not divisive and/or dangerous (think of the Berlin wall).  It must say something about our planet that the only man-made object that can be seen from outer space is the great wall in China.  This wall is kept up today to attract tourists and their money.  On the other hand, Hadrian's wall in England built by the Romans to keep out those wild Picts (ancestors of the Scots) has fallen into decay.  However, even in decay the wall is subject matter to some poet somewhere who sees something to write about.  Think of Wordsworth's great ode that stirred in him when he saw the ruins of Tintern Abbey in Wales.  Tania Gray's poem below begins with a sinkhole, not exactly a typical poetic subject.  I must confess, however, that I have a sinkhole poem, too.  So we can agree, I think, that almost any sight (or sound or smell or taste or touch) can become a poem.  Remember that something there is that even loves a sinkhole.                                                                                                                     --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


Peter Stanford, former editor of Catholic Herald, comments on the "churchy agnosticism" of  C. Day-Lewis, a recent poet laureate of the United Kingdom.  Find part of this article here.

David Kirby's new book, The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems, is reviewed by Carol Muske-DukesRead the review here.

James Fenton's Selected Poems is here reviewed by Stephen Metcalf.  Does this collection prove Metcalf's position that Fenton is Britain's best poet today?  Read the condensed review here.

Thomas Hardy is the subject of a very well-received biography just published by Claire Tomalin (formerly praised for her excellent book on Samuel Pepys).  Read highlights of this new work here.

John Barr, president of the foundation administering the largest gift of money ever given to support poetry, gives a progress report in this letter to subscribers of Poetry.  See how the money is being spent by clicking here.

David Kirby reviews Galway Kinnell's new collection with words of high praise and teaches us a bit about long-lined poets and short-lined poets here.

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, 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 on-line publications (such as Thirty-Seven Cents) as well as hard-copy newspapers.  Poets are asked to contact their local newspaper editors to inform them that such a column is available free to them and to relieve the editors by explaining that all of the poems that will appear week by week are accessible, not obscure poems. 

American Life in Poetry: Column 113

Though the dog chose domestication, cheerfully enjoying human food and protection, most of the world's species look upon us with justifiable wariness, for we're among the most dangerous critters on the planet. Here Minnesota poet Freya Manfred, while out for a leisurely swim, comes face to face with a species that will not be trained to sit or roll over.

Freya Manfred

I spy his head above the waves,
big as a man's fist, black eyes peering at me,
until he dives into darker, deeper water.
Yesterday I saw him a foot from my outstretched hand,
already tilting his great domed shell away.
Ribbons of green moss rippled behind him,
growing along the ridge of his back
and down his long reptilian tail.
He swims in everything he knows,
and what he knows is never forgotten.
Wisely, he fears me as if I were the Plague,
which I am, sick unto death, swimming
to heal myself in his primeval sea.

American Life in Poetry: Column 115

Each of the senses has a way of evoking time and place. In this bittersweet poem by Jeffrey Harrison of Massachusetts, birdsong offers reassurance as the speaker copes with loss.

Jeffrey Harrison

Walking past the open window, she is surprised
by the song of the white-throated sparrow
and stops to listen. She has been thinking of
the dead ones she loves--her father who lived
over a century, and her oldest son, suddenly gone
at forty-seven--and she can't help thinking
she has called them back, that they are calling her
in the voices of these birds passing through Ohio
on their spring migration. . . because, after years
of summers in upstate New York, the white-throat
has become something like the family bird.
Her father used to stop whatever he was doing
and point out its clear, whistling song. She hears it
again: "Poor Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody."
She tries not to think, "Poor Andy," but she
has already thought it, and now she is weeping.
But then she hears another, so clear, it's as if
the bird were in the room with her, or in her head,
telling her that everything will be all right.
She cannot see them from her second-story window--
they are hidden in the new leaves of the old maple,
or behind the white blossoms of the dogwood--
but she stands and listens, knowing they will stay
for only a few days before moving on.

American Life in Poetry: Column 114

Poetry can be thought of as an act of persuasion: a poem attempts to bring about some kind of change in its reader, perhaps no more than a moment of clarity amidst the disorder of everyday life. And successful poems not only make use of the meanings and sounds of words, as well as the images those words conjure up, but may also take advantage of the arrangement of type on a page. Notice how this little poem by Mississippi poet Robert West makes the very best use of the empty space around it to help convey the nature of its subject.

Robert West

A lone

in the

empty space

its own


American Life in Poetry: Column 116

It's the oldest kind of story: somebody ventures deep into the woods and comes back with a tale. Here Roy Jacobstein returns to America to relate his experience on a safari to the place believed by archaeologists to be the original site of human life. And against this ancient backdrop he closes with a suggestion of the brevity of our lives.

Roy Jacobstein

Minutes ago those quick cleft hoofs
lifted the dik-dik's speckled frame.
Now the cheetah dips her delicate head
to the still-pulsating guts. Our Rover's
so close we need no zoom to fix the green
shot of her eyes, the matted red mess
of her face. You come here, recall a father
hale in his ordinary life, not his last bed,
not the long tasteless slide of tapioca.
This is the Great Rift, where it all began,
here where the warthogs and hartebeest
feed in the scrub, giraffes splay to drink,
and our rank diesel exhaust darkens the air
for only a few moments before vanishing.


For a general introduction to Paulin, visit

Another general discussion of Paulin, see this BBC article:

For more on Paulin, a very controversial poet, see

For another lambasting of Paulin for his political views, read

To forget Paulin's political views (if you can), hear him read some of his poetry.
To hear this English-Irish poet read four of his poems, go to


Velvet Fackeldey

He bops up and down the stairs
and in and out of his office.
He gives the appearance
of busy, importance, influence.
The hours on his door say
he starts his momentous day
at nine.
But I know
he never gets here
until ten.

Tania Gray

I’m watching with suspicion and concern—
it started with one hole in their front yard,
(a bushel basket would have fit in it),
and when it filled with leaves from a big tree
nearby, you couldn’t tell. It stayed that way
a couple years, the house was sold, some kids
lived there and went to school (not much success)
and meanwhile, turf slumped in another spot—
still shallow, but I thought the sycamore
had siphoned all the moisture from the ground
during our years of drought. A college prof
purchased this house at bottom of our block,
but he was ill-advised, I thought, to buy
a house whose yard was anything but flat!
This year, more holes appeared, while One and Two
enlarged. A Labrador could hide in them.
Has Prof at all observed the rapid way
something below is eating up his yard?
How soon will gravity connect the dots?
Will creeping chasms climb uphill to us,
and sucking soil, implode our rabbit hole?
How awful, sixteen houses on our street
collapsing in a bottomless abyss!
A word with city experts might be wise.
Or better yet, keep mum. I’d rather not
see swarms of TV trucks, reporters, streams
of gawkers looking for the latest pit
of Ozark doom. Let sleeping Labs lie still.

Bev Conklin

Questioning chirps from treetop high,
cocked head turning, bright beady eye
seeking to know this "something new."
Is it a trap?  Will it catch me, too?

I won't go near! That's the safest way!
Slowly a week passes--and maybe a day.
It hasn't moved, and that's food in there.
The skies are gray.  A chill's in the air.

I move to the window, glance through the pane,
and spy the small visitor--at long, long last.
Now I'll see if he'll finally deign
to try the seeds and break his fast.

With flash of wings, white on blue,
and a startled cry Who are you?
he quickly retreats to the bushes below;
But I have to try it, it's going to snow.

With magnificent courage for one so small,
he finally eats--and risks his all
on fragile faith that I'm a friend,
one he can trust until winter's end.

Diane Auser Stefan

come easily, yet the pain lessens not at all.
No sighs or cries, just silent suffering
from her soul reaching every pore and nerve
till her whole being aches.

How can she be made to understand
the glorious cause for which she suffers now?
Her only love's life ended in his own field,
cut down by passing blurring coats of red,
with no chance to change from plow to gun
to protect what was his.

No questions asked,
killed because he loved his land
and because he merely looked like one
who fought against the king.

she sits and cries and listens not to those
who would regale him as a patriotic hero.
She knew he had no politics,
loved only life and wife
and working his own land.

Gwendolyn Eisenmann

There was a young girl who wore jeans
While picking the garden greens,
     And though she could squat,
     The jeans would not,
So she stood, 'cause she could, picking beans.

Phyllis Moutray

Who walks these long halls?
The sick, in pain, sometimes again;
  the caring, bold, health restorers -
    doctors, security, nurses, social workers.
Who walks these long halls
  kept so clean by housekeepers,
    who sweep and mop again and again?
What did they do that brought them here?
   Are they like you and me
     and common man?
"Of course," he finally said, speaking of the single man,
  "he's like you and me and common man,
     but failed to do what he must do to maintain reason.
 He lost his home, his livelihood, his wife and kids,
  and walked a forbidden path to kingdom come,
    where the owner's righteous will be done.
Justice, judgment calls,
   will be approached
    when he has mental health and hope."
God bless us all
    that we judge not
      what reason lost has harm wrought.
 God bless us all
   that we may do
     what we should do.
 God bless us all
  that we respond
    with healing words, actions, and prescriptions.
May sanity reign
  from these long halls
    to live outside these concrete walls.

An etheree
Pat Laster

bermuda’s bloom
until my younger
son enlightened me. I
had no notion that a size
of rock, which lay below the soil
on this old hill, was known as “cathead.”
Are other wonders waiting here for me?

Pat Durmon

Two obvious facts: he had hit his target squarely

and he wore the trace of a frown on his face.

I turned to make certain

of the rarely changing constellation

for which his targets had some fame.

It had been a direct hit, slightly off-center.


Afterwards, I drew back to the laundry room,

knowing my husband would plod back to his shop

to break the rifle down to its smallest component.

He would probe and stroke every tiny part,

looking for some piece of grit or tiny burr

throwing it off.  Probably he would finger the stock

up and down, up and down.  Then there’d be a deep

breath— a rifle needs to be tight and shoot true

or it’s sure death, he’d said.


He does no less if all goes sour

between him and me.  That he cannot abide:

he’ll calculate close and push me to talk and talk

to clean out all my grime and grit.

This, no different.  The man is set on catching it

before it goes too far askew.  Dark will be walking

our way soon. On this moonless night

we will sit silent side-by-side, bundled in a blanket

for an hour under the power of a clear wintry sky.


We will look at perfect constellations
being birthed— a common miracle around here.

Julia Bartgis

Chapter One, Miss Drama met and married Mr. Speedway.
Our spine-tingling, nail biting, make-me-want-to-scream
adventure began.

Chapters Three, Four, Five, and Six
came along, birthing texture
with additional characters.

The plot mounts and then thickens--you and me--right in the
New settings unfold in quilt-like array, friends skip in and   
as one adventure tumbles into another.
We embrace the new discoveries
lying within soul’s depths.

Suspense holds me love-bound as each crisp page
     continues to turn.
Mr. Speedway, can you imagine the drama ever fading?
I find it hard to imagine life’s sun beams
will cease as death’s nighttime settles
upon an aging beach.

Yet, every reader knows, without being told,
With the last page, the story concludes.
The end of us. Pages sprinkled with
humor, love, and endurance
and wow . . .
                            The End.

Jeanetta Chrystie

I will pray for you every morning. 
    I will listen and watch each day;
To understand the issues you're facing,
    so I'll know how to pray.
I'll pray for wisdom and integrity
    as you carry out the functions of your office;
For God's guidance as you schedule each day,
    and select each hour's emphasis.
There will be times when you're ask to compromise,
    and times when you don't know what's right;
Times when a hard choice is obvious,
    and times when no answer's in sight.
There'll be times you must doggedly fight--
    for justice and truth without rest;
And times when you'll have to choose--
    between good and better and best.
There'll be times when you are discouraged,
    and times when you are proud,
Times when you're frustrated,
    or just trying to please the crowd.
There'll be times when it all comes together,
    and times when it all falls apart,
But in and through it all--
    God will speak to your heart of hearts.
God is ultimately sovereign,
    and put you there for a season.
Find His will in all that you do,
    you're in office for a reason.





Cindy Tebo
The head is missing
from the Lego pirate,
A tower has fallen
on top of a truck.
I sit down
on a wobbly chair
And flip thru the faces
of magazines.
A cord dangles from
the coffee maker,
The scent of old grounds
left in the basket.
Someone says,
"Your car is ready."
I leave the gray walls
for sunshine
And hope I never
breakdown again.


Come, O fount of every blessing,
Lead me to the eternal King.
Now the day is over; I’m going home
To Beulah’s beautiful golden shores.
I'm looking up to You, O Word of God incarnate.
I’m trusting You, Jesus, with blessed assurance.
Help me to lean on You, in Your perfect peace,
As I surrender all I have unto Your good grace.

Harding Stedler

At dusk tonight,
we will slip into shadowy woods
with a tray of tomatoes
to plant on cushioned slopes.
Since we no longer own garden space,
we will plant where groundhogs frolic.
God will not mind.
And Lucinda Browning will not object.
She knows that I will bring
her ripened fruit once the flesh turns red.
We will all be healthier
for the luscious fruit of summer
even if it grows on borrowed land.
How curious the discovery of boys
who wander aimlessly downhill to creeks
to find vines with crimson orbs
draping from their woody stems.
The taste of freshly picked fruit
is enhanced by daybreak dew
and rays of summer sun.
I feast on morning there.
The only ones to eat
my refrigerated produce
are callers who come unannounced.

Henrietta Romman

The Lord does reign.
It's not in vain
When He is King:
There's latter rain.
We hear His call
Within our soul.
His love is there--
We'll never fall.

Lift up your eyes
Unto the skies.
Adore Him more
Till He says, "Rise."
The trumpets sound!
To leave the ground
Christ calls His own--
We're heaven bound.

Mark Tappmeyer

Each sunrise these narrow backs
I straddle shutter when this blade

on which I wear my hand attracts
a sputtering at the throat.  I step away to watch

each stumbling gait to hope the hope of  Levis old
and late that glory will settle down

like manna meats upon the desert floor,
like peace upon a troubled heart,

Yet all that lies before me is butcher's art
where kidney fats go

crackling and white-headed lambs
face blackening.

Jennifer Smith

The months of summer slip away like sands
     in the hourglass of life.
It seemed not so long ago their speed seemed so
Much more slow, but now they hasten
Ever swiftly . . .

Friends say, “Time flies when you’re having fun.
I say time flies as you grow older,
Ever moving through the hourglass

Laurence W. Thomas

Patio plants look dry already
after rain in June and storms last week
left a broken branch dangling
out of reach. I scan the sky
to see if I should fill the bird bath
noting the same lowering clouds
that threatened yesterday.

Thunder growled for an hour
beyond the horizon last night
like a neighbor’s boom box
dampened by distance,
insinuating itself into my drowse
enough for a mental check
of windows facing west.

I fall asleep to undercurrents
rumbling to rise in undulating waves
that break away from where I wake
to reports of distant power outages
from storms, high winds and hail
angrily attacking in the viewing area,
but any rain pelting the night
of my dreams fails to disturb them.

Days drone on into weeks
of watching my garden cry for water
while the first floors of houses
in towns I never heard of
become flooded. Towns in Texas
are reduced to kindling and homes aflame
in western forests leave me teetering
between sympathy and gratitude.

Steve Penticuff
I'll miss you, daughter, being four,
when verbs run more
or less amuck:
you "seed" a duck
and "make-ed" cookies; "go-ded" to
the beach. And who
will freeze this time
for me? For I'm
afraid your un-selfconscious play
of language may
soon disappear . . .
I'll hold this near.

Valerie Esker

There they were,
in the forbidden room;
Grandma’s bedroom,
the “no-no” place.

Stormy, only three,
made a mess there
once before. 
(Scattered Grandma’s face-powder,
every where.)

This time, she knew she shouldn’t enter.
The spanking from the last time
stung her memory now, just as sharply
as it stung her bottom then.

But, there they were.
Those button people,
next to Grandma’s pincushion.
Blue, white and yellow ones,
awake, inside the shiny sewing tin. 

Big ones, little ones,
calling Stormy.  Begged her,
“Come play!”
Stormy took a breath,
nodded “yes”

and tip-toed in . . .

Tom Padgett

The 7:30 flocks are saints
who work religiously to pass
and probably would--if they thought they should--
crawl on their knees to class.

These zealous students discipline
themselves in prudent sacrifice:
obsessed, they give up food and rest
as well as blacker vice.

They quit their almost unused beds
each day in pious flagellation
and go recklessly, no-breakfastly
to get their education.

Somewhere there surely are rewards
laid up for them which they can keep,
not jading pleasures nor fading treasures
of teachers half-asleep.