Vol. 7, No. 11     An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society    November 2008



My father used to tell a joke about the farmer who had two windmills on his farm but had to take one down because there was only wind enough for one.  I wonder what Dad would have said about the California wind farm above if he had seen it.  We usually respond to something new by comparing it to something we are already acquainted with, something "old."   For example, I have never seen a wind farm except in pictures, but such a picture reminds me of a flock of long-legged birds, say herons or flamingos.  If I were writing a poem about this sight, I would choose the image of birds to show readers or listeners what I saw when I first saw these windmills.  Christina Rossetti [see] in the best-known poem about wind, captured it by showing us that wind cannot be captured by sight; rather it is known by its effects.  Several of you wrote the wind into your November poems, which leads me to answer Rossetti's question "Who has seen the wind?" by saying, "Certain poets, evidently." 

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.  Others who have already paid include Adams [Faye], Craig, Kirchner, Laster, Padgett, Sukany, Tappmeyer.  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


Issue Next
Poems by Members

Missouri State Poetry Society

Winter Contest

Spare Mule Online

National Federation of State Poetry Societies
Strophes Online

POETRY IN THE NEWS: Click here for a list of National Book Award nominees, winners to be named November 19.

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.


For an encyclopedia article on Justice, visit

For an introduction to Justice, here him read his poem "Ode to a Dressmaker's Dummy" at

For a dozen other 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 183

Perhaps you made paper leaves when you were in grade school.  I did.  But are our memories as richly detailed as these by Washington, D.C. poet, Judith Harris?

Gathering Leaves in Grade School

They were smooth ovals,
and some the shade of potatoes--
some had been moth-eaten
or spotted, the maples
were starched, and crackled
like campfire.

We put them under tracing paper
and rubbed our crayons
over them, X-raying
the spread of their bones
and black, veined catacombs.

We colored them green and brown
and orange, and
cut them out along the edges,
labeling them deciduous
or evergreen.

All day, in the stuffy air of the classroom,
with its cockeyed globe,
and nautical maps of ocean floors,
I watched those leaves

lost in their own worlds
flap on the pins of the bulletin boards:
without branches or roots,
or even a sky to hold on to.

American Life in Poetry: Column 185

When I was a boy, there were still a few veterans of the Spanish American War, and more of The Great War, or World War I, and now all those have died and those who served in World War II are passing from us, too. Robert Hedin, a Minnesota poet, has written a fine poem about these people.

The Old Liberators

Of all the people in the mornings at the mall,
it's the old liberators I like best,
those veterans of the Bulge, Anzio, or Monte Cassino
I see lost in Automotive or back in Home Repair,
bored among the paints and power tools.
Or the really old ones, the ones who are going fast,
who keep dozing off in the little orchards
of shade under the distant skylights.
All around, from one bright rack to another,
their wives stride big as generals,
their handbags bulging like ripe fruit.
They are almost all gone now,
and with them they are taking the flak
and fire storms, the names of the old bombing runs.
Each day a little more of their memory goes out,
darkens the way a house darkens,
its rooms quietly filling with evening,
until nothing but the wind lifts the lace curtains,
the wind bearing through the empty rooms
the rich far off scent of gardens
where just now, this morning,
light is falling on the wild philodendrons.

American Life in Poetry: Column 184

I hope it's not just a guy thing, a delight in the trappings of work. I love this poem by John Maloney, of Massachusetts, which gives us a close look behind the windshields of all those pickup trucks we see heading home from work.

After Work

They're heading home with their lights on, dust and wood glue,
yellow dome lights on their metallic long beds: 250s, 2500s--
as much overtime as you want, deadline, dotted line, dazed
through the last few hours, dried primer on their knuckles,
sawdust calf-high on their jeans, scraped boots, the rough
plumbing and electric in, way ahead of the game except for
the check, such a clutter of cans and iced-tea bottles, napkins,
coffee cups, paper plates on the front seat floor with cords
and saws, tired above the eyes, back of the beyond, thirsty.
There's a parade of them through the two-lane highways,
proudest on their way home, the first turn out of the jobsite,
the first song with the belt off, pure breath of being alone
for now, for now the insight of a full and answerable man.
No one can take away the contentment of the first few miles
and they know they can't describe it, the black and purple sky.

American Life in Poetry: Column 186

Every child can be seen as a miracle, and here Minnesota poet James Lenfestey captures the beautiful mystery of a daughter.


A daughter is not a passing cloud, but permanent,
holding earth and sky together with her shadow.
She sleeps upstairs like mystery in a story,
blowing leaves down the stairs, then cold air, then warm.
We who at sixty should know everything, know nothing.
We become dull and disoriented by uncertain weather.
We kneel, palms together, before this blossoming altar.

American Life in Poetry: Column 187

I thought that we'd celebrate Halloween with an appropriate poem, and Iowa poet Dan Lechay's seems just right. The drifting veils of rhyme and meter disclose a ghost, or is it a ghost?

Ghost Villanelle

We never saw the ghost, though he was there--
we knew from the raindrops tapping on the eaves.
We never saw him, and we didn't care.

Each day, new sunshine tumbled through the air;
evenings, the moonlight rustled in dark leaves.
We never saw the ghost, though: he was there,

if ever, when the wind tousled our hair
and prickled goosebumps up and down thin sleeves;
we never saw him. And we didn't care

to step outside our room at night, or dare
click off the nightlight: call it fear of thieves.
We never saw the ghost, though he was there

in sunlit dustmotes drifting anywhere,
in light-and-shadow, such as the moon weaves.
We never saw him, though, and didn't care,

until at last we saw him everywhere.
We told nobody. Everyone believes
we never saw the ghost (if he was there),
we never saw him and we didn't care.



Dewell H. Byrd

Hi, Neighbah.
Up here
in the tree house.
Whatcha doin’?
Plantin’ flowahs?
What kind?
They bloom?
What colah?
Snails eat ‘em?
I like flowahs.
Red ones.
Can I come ovah?
Plant one?

I lost a toof.
Wanna see?
Got a dollah fah it.
From the Toof fairy.
I can buy flowahs,
ice cream,
with my dollah.

I’m goin’ to school
nex’ yeah.
Wanta see my dollah?

Wanta see my muskle?
Do flowahs have muskles
like me?

Bye, Neighbah.

Harding Stedler

The fog is layering
off the water,
making clouds
above the lake.
A brisk fall wind
nudges them into motion,
sending them high
on an easterly course.
They join other tufts of fluff
below where planes fly
in search of ocean.
Migrating swans
blend feathers with clouds
and cushion themselves
in flight.

I long for trumpeter mornings
when I can tell
where feathers end
and clouds begin
on the exit ramps
to flyways.

Diane Auser Stefan

blows soft
stirring leaves
of gold and red
then whistles around
houses and dances through
trees tossing off illusions.
Breeze chases leaves down to dry ground,
pins them there to shelter Spring’s promise—
death of tree wings insure green birth next year.

Pat Laster

God's handiwork is all around,
magenta, scarlet, yellow leaves;
sun-burnished pasturelands abound,
cut, ripened wheat stands bronzed in sheaves.

Magenta, scarlet, yellow leaves,
umbrella groves of sassafras,
cut, ripened wheat stands bronzed in sheaves --
a visual banquet unsurpassed.

Umbrella groves of sassafras,
a camouflage for brindle cows,
(a visual banquet unsurpassed)
which nonchalantly chew and drowse.

Like Garland's fresh-shaved stubble, gold,
sun-burnished pasturelands abound,
and I sing with the oriole,
"God's handiwork is all around."

Pat Durmon

My, my, my. Politicians lift voices high
and want to be our one-and-only pumpkin pie.
I see that not one stays in the background—
all insist on the lucky ducky foreground.

All candidates raise hands as winners,
but I’ve had it with all campaign grinners.
Their installed voices— through my T.V. set—
sound dull, diluted, but spell-binding yet.

Triple-tongued, they lightly give one-eyed
promises and zippy zingers that prophesy.
Most talk a blue streak under a camera-sun . . .
and voters grow fond of them, one by one.

Can we, as a people, not tell dark from light?
Poets rock backwards on heels each night
and reduce webs to bones to show the complex:
hard hours for voters, poets and the vexed—

you know, the birds who got no seed.

Gwendolyn Eisenmann

Sun came out from behind yesterday's dark wind,
cold gone to tomorrow
or wherever November waits.

What a morning! Red maple trees
highlight sweeps of sunlight
under blue and gold,

and roosters call hens to hide
from a high hawk circling.
Indian summer, Indians and you gone

from here and now
except that time is timeless
and we are. So is love.

Steve Penticuff

I choose a blue t-shirt with orange
letters and a glorious orange bass:
Big Tim's Bait & Tackle, it reads.
I wear it for no particular reason
except it's clean and on top of the pile,
and I suppose I like how it fits.

An hour later I'm at Lowes
wheeling around gravel and top soil,
and I see a big, friendly man grinning
fiendishly, pointing and tapping at
the orange bass on his shirt. His is faded
and extra large; otherwise, same shirt.

Tim asks hopefully, bashfully,
almost in a whisper, "Your name Tim,
too?" "No, Steve," I say apologetically,
and we bask in the consciousness
of coincidence for a few seconds
before parting awkwardly.

We pass each other again ten minutes later.
I have light bulbs and a furnace filter now,
which I'm thinking I should have picked up
before the gravel and top soil.
"Take care, Steve," he says. "See you
later, Tim," I say.

If Tim is like half of middle America,
he's telling his wife the story right now,
and she's telling him something like,
"everything happens for a reason." And
maybe he's still awed by the coincidence
(in spite of my wrong name).

Or maybe big Tim is a thinker.
Maybe he has a philosophy degree like
mine, and he's analyzing the hell out of this,
wondering whether it wouldn't be stranger
still if two men with the same t-shirt
did not run into each other more often.

My favorite scenario, of course,
has Tim writing a poem right now:
It's in six-line stanzas and begins,
"I choose a blue t-shirt with orange
letters and a glorious orange bass:
Big Tim's Bait & Tackle, it reads."





Carla Kirchner 

"We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting point, and in accordance with our limited human ways of knowing and thinking."—Catechism of the Catholic Church

With man’s first heard breath,
language brought the death
of God.
The sweet taste and deft
bite of words were meant
to prod
truth from air, yet theft
began when sound left
Adam’s lips. Bereft
of sense, language left
a cod
little length or depth
to contain a breadth
of soul, God’s pure heft.
To begin His death,
we gave Truth to breath.

Tania Gray

The hardware sign said “Miss Mixed Paint,”
so I cast off my self-restraint
indulging curiosity
to see this beauty queen so quaint.

“I like to mix the paint myself,
perhaps she paints a bit herself
and that is how she won her crown,”
I muttered as I passed each shelf.

But nowhere by the fireplace logs
was there a girl in rainbow togs
nor was among the ropes and chains
a gorgeous gal, nor with the clogs

and tulip trowels did this girl hide.
I quite expected to collide
with Meek’s Miss Paint in any aisle,
so I kept looking eagle-eyed.

At last I knew my quest was spurned,
my hopes were dashed, my plans adjourned
when I saw this hand-lettered sign:
“Miss Mixed Paint can’t be returned.”

Faye Adams

Four feet to the sky, he lay
in an attitude of surrender
confessing his sins
of hunger, of greed
of slavery to his quest
for surprise, for enchantment
around the next bend.

The Armadillo found
that life sometimes slings
death and destruction
and the road not taken
would have been the right one
had he known.

Todd Sukany

This morning,
I drank your lemon hair
down to your blossom.
I took my fill of life.
Your love bolts me
and I am captive.

your love-cries
sit published.
Many snicker
that death has stopped for you.
They misunderstand.
They misrepresent.

For me,
our heaviest gasp
precedes release.

Heather Lewis

My imagination is as productive as a cheap lint roller,
feebly trying to pick up some discarded scraps.
Making an effort to sweep up
some of the lint and have a clean start.
But nothing happens;
there is no spark of creativity left.
I’ve got song lyrics, fragments of poems read in classes,
funny things my friends have said, random lines
from movies, pictures of places I’ve been
and want to go, memories.
I see potential in all these things, but trying
to write a poem from them is like hopelessly
persuading a child to eat lima beans.

Jean Even

Come, O my soul, and celebrate in the beauty of the Lord.
The heavens are rejoicing and the earth is full of gladness,
The seas are roaring in laughter and the fields are delighted.
The isles are elated while the stars twinkle cheerfully, and
The trees sway in jubilation rustling their leaves with mirth.
The Lord reigns forever in Zion, His bride waits while,
The daughters of Judah are rejoicing in our God's judgments.
Soon we'll all exult Him when He calls us home in one accord.

Laurence W. Thomas

In a trunk in the attic I find a packet of letters
tied in a ribbon. Half a dozen, neatly typed
and dated from the turn of the century.
Signed by a man whose name I don’t know,
they recount meetings, are filled with endearments,
and something about the beauty of holiness.
I think about letters in some stranger’s attic
bewildering his offspring, as I burn his letters.
Mother, a widow of some fifteen years, died
quietly in her sleep leaving four grown children
and a trunk with love letters stashed in the attic.

Henrietta Romman

At 3 am that knock…tic-tac-toc came,
I rose. Startled, shaken and awaken-
wondering “would that mean a guest?”
Bemused I stood with light in hand,
at the command of alarmed senses,
speeding in the night headed toward
the sound. I frowned. Nothing save
same repeated knocks of equal beat
with my own heart! I stopped startled
glared then smiled—yet in the dark
my mind had peace at what I saw.

Valiant in that greatly festive zone,
while silence was lit by that full moon,
peacefully paused my visitant. Bushy tailed,
unafraid, majestic as a king just crowned,
wee head, bold amid the dozen broken acorns,
plus some shells, victims of those steady
tic-tac-tocs, it stood. With amazed looks of pride,
turning piercing eyes upon me—just as though
to know, the reason for my incorrect invasion--

I had none. I spun around…retrieved my steps
and joyfully fled back to the quiet land of sleep
and my exotic dreams. For then I did reflect,
“Am I an equal to the night-life of my hopeful
hungry company, camping upon my property?”
Sure enough, looking so frail with that thick tail
he knew that all that on which he dined and wined
in life, plus all the land around…just belong to our God….
And our God alone…

Tom Padgett

“Before going to sleep he read two pages of a book
by Stein Riverton” in Murder at the Savoy
by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo 

Two mystery writers, man and wife--
Swedish authors of wide acclaim—
in one of ten novels they wrote together,
put their weary detective to sleep
after two pages of bedtime reading.
Furthermore, they tell us who
wrote the book the detective read--
a mystery writer (without a wife)—
Norwegian author of wide acclaim--
in one of ninety-eight novels he wrote
failed to keep the detective awake
after two pages of bedtime reading.


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