Vol. 8  No. 10  An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society    September 2009

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  @ Free


Goodbyes are nearly always hard to say, and this one is certainly typical.  I have greatly enjoyed our monthly meetings here, and I appreciate the efforts you made to make them enjoyable for me and other members of our group.  When I realized that I must quit editing this e-zine for health reasons, I decided to close out with the September issue because the Missouri State Poetry Society starts collecting membership dues for the coming year in October, and this way no one will send dues for 2010 for Thirty-Seven Cents this October because it won't be around.   Many of you are members of other chapters of MSPS, and you will be paying dues for next year to the treasurers of your chapters.  Your local chapter dues will include $3 to belong to the National Federation of State Poetry Societies and $4 to belong to Missouri State Poetry Society.  Others of you will belong to MSPS by paying $13 as a member-at-Large.    I shall look forward to reading poems by you that are published in Spare Mule Online, the newsletter published by Missouri State Poetry Society.     --Tom Padgett



Past Issue
Poems by Members



Winter Contest

Missouri State Poetry Society

National Society of State Poetry Societies


For the latest issue of Spare Mule Online visit
For the latest issue of Strophes Online visit


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 227

Jane Hirshfield, a Californian and one of my favorite poets, writes beautiful image-centered poems of clarity and concision, which sometimes conclude with a sudden and surprising deepening. Here's just one example.

Green-Striped Melons

They lie
under stars in a field.
They lie under rain in a field.
Under sun.

Some people
are like this as well--
like a painting
hidden beneath another painting.

An unexpected weight
the sign of their ripeness.

American Life in Poetry: Column 232

Iíve built many wren houses since my wife and I moved to the country 25 years ago. Itís a good thing to do in the winter. At one point I had so many extra that in the spring I set up at a local farmersí market and sold them for five dollars apiece. I say all this to assert that I am an authority at listening to the so small voices that Thomas R. Smith captures in this poem. Smith lives in Wisconsin.

Baby Wrensí Voice

I am a student of wrens.
When the mother bird returns
to her brood, beak squirming
with winged breakfast, a shrill
clamor rises like jingling
from tiny, high-pitched bells.
Whoíd have guessed such a small
house contained so many voices?
The sound they make is the pure sound
of lifeís hunger. Who hangs our house
in the worldís branches, and listens
when we sing from our hunger?
Because I love best those songs
that shake the house of the singer,
I am a student of wrens.


American Life in Poetry: Column 228

I don't often mention literary forms, but of this lovely poem
by Cecilia Woloch I want to suggest that the form, a
villanelle, which uses a pattern of repetition, adds to the
enchantment I feel in reading it. It has a kind of layering,
like memory itself. Woloch lives and teaches in southern
My Mother's Pillow
My mother sleeps with the Bible open on her pillow;
she reads herself to sleep and wakens startled.
She listens for her heart: each breath is shallow.
For years her hands were quick with thread and needle.
She used to sew all night when we were little;
now she sleeps with the Bible on her pillow
and believes that Jesus understands her sorrow:
her children grown, their father frail and brittle;
she stitches in her heart, her breathing shallow.
Once she "even slept fast," rushed tomorrow,
mornings full of sunlight, sons and daughters.
Now she sleeps alone with the Bible on her pillow
and wakes alone and feels the house is hollow,
though my father in his blue room stirs and mutters;
she listens to him breathe: each breath is shallow.
I flutter down the darkened hallway, shadow
between their dreams, my mother and my father,
asleep in rooms I pass, my breathing shallow.
I leave the Bible open on her pillow.
American Life in Poetry: Column 230

Itís been sixty-odd years since I was in the elementary grades, but I clearly remember those first school days in early autumn, when summer was suddenly over and we were all perched in our little desks facing into the future. Here Ron Koertge of California gives us a glimpse of a day like that.

First Grade

Until then, every forest
had wolves in it, we thought
it would be fun to wear snowshoes
all the time, and we could talk to water.

So why is this woman with the gray
breath calling out names and pointing
to the little desks we will occupy
for the rest of our lives?



Pat Durmon

Let me be a poet for the aged--
for those with stiff joints
when bad weather comes,
for those with frail footsteps
and stalled moments. 

Let me speak for those
with a buried past, who carry
a mute grief, for those
with cataracts blanketing eyes.
Let me be a voice
for those who graze at dinner plates,
for those who approach lifeís ebb,
for those who drift loose.

Look long, look hard. 
Let yourself know that you
may be drifting in some ways too. 
I croon for the agedó
and one day
I may croon for you.

Laurence W. Thomas

Walking smartly across the mall--
a honeycomb of buzzing concert-goers--
I heard my name, inflected like a question.
I turned, ďOh, I thought you were someone else,Ē
the man, lost in shadows but for a twisted smile,
said, and we went our ways.
During the intermission I saw the man
and quietly spoke his name.

Freeda Baker Nichols

Cotton candy, cloud-soft,
melts against the tongue,
as a swirl of laughter begins
somewhere within the heart
bubbles against the rib cage
until sides threaten to split
in half.  First day at the fair
for Sally, with her grandma,
who had almost forgotten
how laughter sounds
and how it feels,
all sticky,
like the best glue
for holding hearts in place.

Jennifer Smith

Today is a happy dayĖ-but in a sad sort of way.
Or maybe a sad day--but definitely in a happy way!
Today is the first day of school.

Oh my son is happy to be going to school.
And Iím happy for him (really, deep down inside).
But itís sad, too, when a Mommy sends her son to school.

Mommies are happy to see their children grow
To learn to walk and talk and count their toes
To explore this great big world of ours
To watch an ant carry food or to number the stars.
Learning is such a marvelous thing--
And we want our children to grow and learn!

But itís sad for a Mommy to send her child to school
To say good-bye to all the snuggly times--just Mommy with  
Two-lap books, long walks, adventures just the two of us.
Now he will have other friends and other interests.
Someone else will be teaching him, too.

Yes Iím happy! But Iím sad, too.
Today is a happy day--in a sad sort of way.
And itís a sad day--but in a happy way!
Today I took my child to school.

Tania Gray

I want an eco-burial
no cast-iron vault for me;
no walnut casket with brass trim,
donít waste a big pine tree.

I want to quickly decompose
within my lightweight box;
from dust to dust in friendly earth--
donít put me in Fort Knox.

I want an eco-burial
in woven bamboo sheath;
a tiny sign that says ďHere lies
just memories underneath.Ē


Diane Auser Stefan


Poetic forms entice us all to write.

Oft times I stretch and try a form thatís new,

for that is how I came to pen haiku.

And etherees come to me one dark night

stressing right words to make my poems tight

Iíll try new forms, but one I will not do--

the sonnet scares me.  Why? I have no clue.

Might be the fear that I wonít get it right.

But even Shakespeare had to start somewhere,

did he easily get his first one done?

Did he pace, like me, in his writerís lair,

or did he just sit down and have some fun?

A sonnet from me?  That would be so rare

I doubt I could--oh, wait, look, this is one.



Henrietta Romman


APPLES! HO! Look at their faces--

Behold their blushes and admire,

Behold their tinged cheeks as they brace

Themselves to meet the happy buyer.

They hide and lean one on another

To expose Godís beauty hid from view,

Their heads in wonder do they raise

To smile and beg quick sale for you.






Dewell H. Byrd

gathers up geese in the valley.
Vs practice flights in false starts
like truthís twilight and the half-lie.

As the days of summer dwindle down
farm hands shell parched corn
and rusty stalks hide ring-necked pheasants.

Time sifts with her slow spoon
while snow falls flake after perfect flake.
The shadow of the prayer wheel tilts

to favor the gods of cornucopia
and my thirst for you exceeds the ocean
as we dance with the harvest moon.

Faye Adams

Small boxes, tall boxes,
flat boxes, fat boxes,
boxes of any shape or size--
they're obsessed with boxes.

They climb inside plastic bags,
in suitcases when we're packing,
into drawers if left open,
in closets and behind doors.

But mainly, in boxes.
We don't dare leave a box
sitting around, unattended;
they hop right in as if to say
"OK, this is mine."

What is it with cats?
They're such box freaks.

t i m e
Dave Gregg

these crumbled bones
punch an ancient time clock
each click a moment passing
every breath a calendar page
that has turned but
in the coolness of leaves
time has no agenda
there are no committees
only joyous things
for time is a purple flower
that waits to bloom

Harding Stedler

In an ambulance of dreams,
she rides through darkness,
wondering if she'll have
one more tomorrow.
Labored breathing
gives her cause to pause
about things she took for granted
for over ninety years.
Suddenly, she realizes
that for her
life has few promises.
The countdown is in full force.

A dark cloud veils the moon tonight
and muffles coyote howls.
With flashing lights,
she rides home against the wind.

(gardenia pattern)
Pat Laster

HOT SPRINGS AR, September 24, 1939.--In an effort to
reduce stealing of bird dogs, Police Lt...Kauffman began
taking the noseprints of such animals at the Whittington
Avenue fire station this afternoon. More than 50 owners
had impressions taken of the noses of their dogs. A
charge of 50 cents was made to cover actual expenses,
and for this the owners got the dogs' noseprints.

The sheriff proposes
that printing dogs' noses

will cut down on thieving
and keep us from grieving.

Let's stop all our riddling
and fork out a piddling

four bits (fifty cents)
to cover expense.

We'll keep those illegals
from stealing our beagles.

Tom Padgett

Dad called the house a bungalow,
the house our family lived in
my first eight years, the time
before we moved out on the farm.
I was too young to question why
he called it that unsuitable word.

For now I know a bungalow
was supposed to be a modest home,
a small cottage of thatch or tile,
while the best carpenter in town,
who later would construct our church,
built our house from oak and rock.

Neither he nor Dad had been to India,
specifically Bengal, where bungalows
were one-storied houses surrounded
by verandas usually on four sides,
so our house had two stories plus
a basementóand one porch in front.

In years that followed our family
occupied six other houses, and though
the meaning of the word changed
to refer to row houses in big cities
or vacation houses at the sea shore,
Dad never honored them as bungalows.


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