Vol. 7, No. 10     An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society    October 2008



Most things around us change in the course of a lifetime--hayfields are one of those things for me. Hay bales used to have six rectangular sides, but as in the pictured bales above, we now have round bales in many of our hayfields.  To me, the old hayfields seem like hayfields, and the new bales make hayfields seem like a giant has spilled his Shredded Wheat.  The image is such a strong one that when I see these bales, I always think cereal first, hay later.  Another image carried over from childhood in a small town is those fruit jars collecting pennies for votes for the harvest queen at our school each Halloween,  Senior-class girls were nominated by their classmates, and the top nominees were allowed to approach local store owners for permission to put jars in their various businesses where a penny got the girl a vote.  At the school Halloween carnival, the winning girl was crowned.  When I see fund-raising posters and accompanying collection jars--even Salvation Army buckets--I play the old scenario through first with its schoolgirls' fruit jars, all modifications of them coming later.  Speaking of collections (you wondered what I was getting at, didn't you?), it is dues paying time.  Missouri State Poetry Society uses October-December each year as the time to renew our membership in next year's MSPS and also in NSFPS (National Federation of State Poetry Societies).  Both groups have raised their fees this year.    NFSPS will charge each member $3, which is added to and paid through the MSPS, with its new fee of $4 for membership in one local Missouri chapter.  If you belong to a second local Missouri chapter, the fee remains $2 for the second chapter.  For example, all of you belong to MSPS's Thirty-Seven Cents and NFSPS.  Therefore you pay $7 for 2009.  Many of you also belong to Author Unknown (the SBU chapter), a second local chapter.  Therefore, you add $2 and pay $9 for 2009.  Two of you also belong to Second Tuesday, a second second chapter, which means you pay $11 for 2009.  Unless you belong to Author Unknown, make your check to MSPS and send it to Bill Lower, 21010 S. Hwy 245, Fair Play, MO 65649.  Author Unknown members pay Mark Tappmeyer.  Perhaps your daily cereal will remind you that we need your dues as soon as possible.  --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 condensed New York Times review of two books by Adam Kirsch.

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 biography and bibliography of Kirsch, see this website:

For two poems by Kirsch--"Larkin" and "Wordsworth"-- see 

For an evaluation of Kirsch and his place in the New Formalists, see

For an essay by Kirsch that appeared in Poetry (January 2008) see 



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 179

I've always loved shop talk, with its wonderful language of tools and techniques. This poem by D. Nurkse of Brooklyn, New York, is a perfect example. I especially like the use of the verb, lap, in line seven, because that's exactly the sound a four-inch wall brush makes.

Bushwick: Latex Flat

Sadness of just-painted rooms.
We clean our tools
meticulously, as if currying horses:
the little nervous sash brush
to be combed and primped,
the fat old four-inchers
that lap up space
to be wrapped and groomed,
the ceiling rollers,
the little pencils
that cover nailheads
with oak gloss,
to be counted and packed:
camped on our dropsheets
we stare across gleaming floors
at the door and beyond it
the old city full of old rumors
of conspiracies, gunshots, market crashes:
with a little mallet
we tap our lids closed,
holding our breath, holding our lives
in suspension for a moment:
an extra drop will ruin everything.

American Life in Poetry: Column 181

Stuart Kestenbaum, the author of this week's poem, lost his brother Howard in the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. We thought it appropriate to commemorate the events of September 11, 2001, by sharing this poem. The poet is the director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Isle, Maine.

Prayer for the Dead

The light snow started late last night and continued
all night long while I slept and could hear it occasionally
enter my sleep, where I dreamed my brother
was alive again and possessing the beauty of youth, aware
that he would be leaving again shortly and that is the lesson
of the snow falling and of the seeds of death that are in
that is born: we are here for a moment
of a story that is longer than all of us and few of us
remember, the wind is blowing out of someplace
we don't know, and each moment contains rhythms
within rhythms, and if you discover some old piece
of your own writing, or an old photograph,
you may not remember that it was you and even if it was once
it's not you now, not this moment that the synapses fire
and your hands move to cover your face in a gesture
of grief and remembrance.


American Life in Poetry: Column 180

What's in a name? All of us have thought at one time or another about our names, perhaps asking why they were given to us, or finding meanings within them. Here Emmett Tenorio Melendez, an eleven-year-old poet from San Antonio, Texas, proudly presents us with his name and its meaning.

My name came from. . .

My name came from my great-great-great-grandfather.
He was an Indian from the Choctaw tribe.
His name was Dark Ant.
When he went to get a job out in a city
he changed it to Emmett.
And his whole name was Emmett Perez Tenorio.
And my name means: Ant; Strong; Carry twice
its size.








American Life in Poetry: Column 182

Poetry has often served to remind us to look more closely, to see what may have been at first overlooked. Today's poem is by Kaelum Poulson of Washington state.  A middle school student and already accomplished maker of poems, he writes of the thankless toils of an unlikely but entirely necessary member of our community--the crow!

The Crow

So beautiful
but often unseen
a maid of nature
the street cleaner that's everywhere
never thanked
never liked
always ignored
so elegant in a way no one sees
but without it we would
be in trash up to our knees
with the heart of a lion
the mind of a fox
the color of the night sky
a crow
the unpaid workman
that helps in every way
each and every day



Dave Gregg

unpacking unwieldy boxes
clumsy with book and volume
I note her packing, pairing
noir with religion and dance
with history and in the hall I
question her couplings with
so small logic in her groupings
she giggles like she does and
smiles luminiscent and says
"now you see us like they do"

Heather Lewis

The climb robbed some of the air
from my chest—
From where I stand I can see
miles beyond miles,
and I feel small.
Trees over a hundred feet tall still frosted
with snow in the middle of July;
Roaring waterfalls carve
new paths into the mountain’s side;
As far as the eye can see—
mountains on top of mountains,
with meandering rivers slickly sliding
through the valleys thick with green.
This place,
This mountain top,
This feeling I have—
It’s home.

Laurence W. Thomas

The path seems to end at the stream
or maybe it continues on the other side.
I see you in the crossing
and offer you the stream.

Turning down stream, I find the security
of a large boulder after I leap
from a smaller one where I teetered
momentarily. I give you the rock.

There is something shining there:
a gold nugget maybe, a silver spoon
down deep, but the water covers it
and the sun splashes on the surface

so all I can see is the sky
broken into ripples and clouds churning.
I will give you the path, the rock, the stream
if you will show me the source.

Jeanetta Chrystie

I’ve been studying poetry
morning, noon, and night.
It seemed a clever hobby to
rhyme everything in sight.

Everything I say to friends
is coming out in rhyme.
They laughed at first but now they cringe.
Perhaps it’s more a crime?

I greet the postman and my dog
with unrelenting mirth.
But even at the grocery store
they question rhyming’s worth.

Everything I say these days
is coming out in verse.
So, is this really talent?
Or is this just a curse?

Diane Auser Stefan

He has a firm grip on ninety,
maybe ninety-three even—
one age-spotted hand
cupped over the other,
both resting
on his gnarled wood cane,
bent low
by gravity’s slow pull
towards earth,
barely five foot five tall,
standing silent.

But his eyes
dart, search, hope,
surveying the hallway
and the doorway
from his vigilant vantage point
at the front of the restaurant.

To no one and everyone
he stage-whispers,
“He’s coming, my son is coming,
joining me for breakfast.
He’s a busy man and important too—
but he’s coming;
he’s joining me for breakfast.”

Henrietta Romman

If God had made me a jungle man,

I’d climb the trees,

I’d live like bees..

no agitation..

no concentration..

nor allegation...

no need for speed

elevators, escalators..

not even clocks

for time would stop..

I’d snooze and doze

I’d simply slumber

not one pause…


If God had made me a jungle man?

I’d fill my lungs

with air so pure..

feel free, frolic

frisk and dance,

giggle with glee..

pick fresh fruits

wet and washed by

heavens sweet dews..

scented by God’s own scents..

sent by His love..


If God had made me a jungle man?

Only blue skies..

waterfalls, no walls..

no Malls..power-cuts..

no computers

no competition,

coffee and creams....

no candies

no nauseating news..

ripping reports

of harm and hurts..

no more weather storms..

no revolting dreams..

no more opposition..


If God had made me a jungle man?

there’d be more time

to dwell in His might,

bask in His sun..

in His strength..

I’d live in wonder

of His created birds..

tamed beasts.. rejoicing

in His days..His eves

with praise..


Yet, if God had created us all

in a jungle, we would never say,

“Heaven save us from that day,
that approaching giant.

that fearful. frightful

year Y2K!

Harding Stedler

First came the drought,
then the flood.
The bees, as it were,
came not at all.
What we needed,
we did not get.
What we did not need,
we got in great abundance.

Tomatoes struggled
the length of summer
with overmuch.
The plants had given their all
until they were fully spent.
Leaves on the vines surrendered,
turned brown and fell
without so much
as one ripe fruit to pick
as late as autumn frost.

Phyllis Moutray

In post-911 America
amidst intense scrutiny
for possible terrorism,
sometimes in an unscrutable manner,
the pot ran away with the kettle,
and the economy threatened
to go down with the moon.

In honor of Anthony Wayne Bland
Pat Durmon

My brother looked and found that half of his face hung limp
like a wet dishrag. He’d followed his usual routine that morning:

awakened his wife, sat down to watch the news and sip coffee.
Just put his lips to the cup and spilled hot, black liquid

down the front of his shirt. His arm jerked the cup up and away from his body like most would answer a hot stove. And he said

aloud, “What . . .?” The sun slanted through half-open blinds
into the living room, and he raised fingers to his mouth.

Then he navigated down the dead-end hallway to a mirror to gaze on a face half-collapsed: there he was— wearing one droopy eye

and a half-wilted lip on one-half of his face. Nothing but silence came to mind. His natural wit absent. The man of dust took-in air

and exhaled as he stared like a curious bird checking-out an 
in a mud puddle. Long moments passed before he moved

to the bedroom and said in a low voice, “Honey, I may have had
a stroke or something last night.” After his wife sat up, after she

asked him to see a doctor, and before she left for work, he stood there before her, posing a question: “Don’t you want half

of a whole kiss?” The man half-smiled, letting a half-light
play over the two of them.



 Top Workshop Index






Judy Young

This is a thin place.

Arid ground,
A fall cool breeze,
hot sun dry.

Its expanses
Are too wide.

Too broad
for the air to linger
in such a thin.

It strays
and spreads,
and stretches.

It could wander

How can you explain
such a wideness
such a narrowness?

This place.
It makes you feel so small.

So thin.

Steve Penticuff

The age of innocence
is sometimes purchased
with lies, and the window
to certain joys is open

just long enough
for a few soft breezes
to carry the smells of spring
and a little birdsong.

So I strap her on my back
and chase the sun:
disillusion nips my heels,
where a strange shadow

slowly lengthens.
Darkness, right before
my eyes, trades its pawns
for queens, but we slip away

from another clever check.
A mere deferral,
but I know with each new
smile of hers the flight

is not in vain. Clouds
will come--and rain, and
worse--but now a shiny gold-
fish flaunts its orange

and shimmers, bathes itself
and us with the promise
(blown in kisses through
the glass) of glitter.

Gwendolyn Eisenmann

If it pinches
wear a never-mind warm sock,
listen to someone else's new poem,
and straighten the mind wrinkles
that bulge
or maybe not
maybe that's a place for wonder
(there's always wonder under tomorrow)

because you never know
you're going to break a leg,
or win first prize.

What a surprise!
I stepped in a hole,
woke up in a hospital
recommended for ten days of walking
through an accelerated program
to recovery. So I did.

It still pinches but my socks are warm,
and it's a wonder how mind wrinkles
blossomed into sunlight on flowers under blue
and left me wondering.

Dewell H. Byrd

and a good one if dirt under the nails
is any indication. Brand new gloves
are tucked away somewhere,
probably right next to the stylish
gardening hats, knee pads, hand tools,
a Western Gardener Guidebook
and Burpee seed catalogues.

Last year it was a lily craze, this
year it’s all about fuchsias and the
County Fair. Any cutting or snippet
thrust into expensive potting soil
or into mud honors her green thumb
with hardy foliage and vibrant blossoms
before fuchsias of other Club Members.

When night ushers in the stars
she’s still on her knees, strands
of red hair teasing her freckled nose.
Her dermatologist cautions against
continued exposure to direct sunlight,
but the blossoms and the praise of her peers
are worth the risk of deviant cells.

Jennifer Smith

Preened, Prissy, Pretty
MaryRose is brushed and combed
Gorgeous Ragdoll cat.

Valerie Esker

As autumn leaves decay through centuries,
they give their lives to nourish future green
while building loam of richness, for new trees.

So perfect is this order, it’s obscene
to think of altering this sequenced flow
celestial powers graced, to earthly gene.

And yet at times, ill winds can chill and blow;
malignant forces climb and intertwine
their evil tentacles that silent, grow.

Behold this tree whose leaves now lose their shine,
and though I mourn their loss, accept my fate
not minding sacrifice, for what is mine.

But you, my child, sick soil will dissipate
despite my willing sacrifice of leaves,
for in their essence dwells a cell of hate

not known to me, yet in this tree that grieves . . .
cruel cancer blight your Satan’s helper weaves!

Jean Even

You have no voice to speak out, but you shine as bright
As though the great King dubbed you a mighty knight.
In your solitude and glamour, you glow for His delight.
Yet you are just a moon, while my voice takes flight.
I will not howl like a love-sick coyote in a dogfight;
I will sing until my heart's content if it takes me all night,
For the Lord is great even during hours of starlight.
I'll declare His holiness, and my voice won't need a kite
To reach His ears, nor will I have to take a spaceflight.
God hears my praise even if I'm not the moon all bedight.


Pat Laster

a four-inch mantis
by the front door handle
for the second day

drip of the faucet
into the lemonade jug ~
sassafras reddening

a long strand
of the spider's web shining
from her hair

among the pumpkins
the laughing seven-month-old
claps her hands

allowing myself
time to porch-sit at both ends
of the autumn day

Tania Gray

this part was easy
things from our basement, garage
no longer wanted

sell dishes, crystal
from years of entertaining
we don’t do that now

cut my heart open
daughter shedding childhood toys
she’s moving away

let your brother go
he’s in a better place now
so people tell me

Tom Padgett

Letters spelled out H-A-P-P-Y--B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y
on the wall of the barber’s half-full shop.
His wife, the night before, had hung the greeting

while he with friends at home had watched
the hoopla of a political convention. 
Today the corner TV continued celebrating

the nomination of the candidate.
Politely observing the rule that religion
and politics are topics not allowed--

that only the rude introduce them--
those awaiting haircuts gave the TV
furtive glances, broke them off abruptly,

returned to newspapers, magazines,
or sale bills on the bulletin board.
A young man’s cell phone harshly rang.

He responded briefly to his caller,
“Yes, I’m watching,” and on TV
appeared the words: A STAR IS BORN.

The barber stopped his clipping,
staring at the TV screen.
The clients put their papers down.

Relieved by the interruption,  
each felt he could say something now.
They had wasted too much time in silence.