Tantalum, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


a href=”http://www.janetkuypers.com” target=”new”>Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#73, Ta)
(with references to the poem “High Roller”)

People expected
to see me around.
I couldn’t be a recluse.
So I got out my camera
and kept myself
hidden to the world
by separating myself
with a camera lens.

But I longed to see you
sitting again,
cigarette in hand…
I wanted to be able to
walk up behind you,
rest my hands
on your shoulder,
lean my head
next to your face.

I longed to have
my cheek near yours,
not touching,
but so close —
so close that I could
still feel the warmth
from your presence.

But wasn’t I doing that
when I tried to
take pictures instead.

So I then kept myself hidden.
I’ve been a recluse.
Just sat at home
and played video games
so I wouldn’t have to
think about you.

How did I know
you’d work your way
into my shell at home.

I vowed to never
call you again,
you tantalize me so,
but I’d have to remove
every cell phone
I’ve ever used…
You worked your way
into every small crevasse
in my modern world,
and still,
you never cracked
under any pressure
I ever gave you.

It made you
the strong silent type,
you always seemed hidden,
but still so influential.

I should know,
i’m finding everything
that leads me to you
when I try to escape you
in our technology
inundated existence.


I call you tantalizing,
and I think of Tantalus,
a king in Greek mythology —

after king Tantalus
stole secrets from the Gods,
he was forced to stand
in a pool of water
that flowed away from him
whenever he tried to drink.

Kind of like you,
how I seem to need you so,
but how we just
seem to mix.

Summer Solace by Linda Straub

Summer solace painting

Summer solace painting

Summer Solace

I sit on our cottage porch

and listen to the undulation

of waves lapping against

the concrete seawall.

A family of mallards bob

around and under

the planked boat dock,

their air of perfect serenity

belying the driving motion

of webbed feet below

a calm and watery surface.

In the distance,

a pair of loons

call out to each other,

their haunting wails

echo in the wilderness.

I am hypnotized

by their conversation–

the universal language of the lake.



Linda Straub

Copyright May 2014

Art by David Michael Jackson


turtle laying eggs

turtle laying eggs

Turtles coming to the beaches again this summer to lay their eggs.


Under the tropical moon

sea turtle slowly, inexorably

leaves her element for the foreign strand

the once graceful wings

are now clumsy flippers

What was sleekly suspended

weightless on the breast of the wave

is now heavy and earthbound

are covered with the suffocating sand

but the ancient song is sung

and the tide can not be ignored

She plows the wet sand

an ancient armored chariot

covered with barnacles

What voice tells her where to nest?

What secret scent led her to this beach, this dune?

The moon rises higher

while the clutch of leathery eggs is laid

She covers the future with sand

and monumentally slow turns again to the sea

The first wave frees her of the clinging sand

and looses again the wings

that will carry her to the deep.

– Ken Peters

Gertrude Will Not Go Quietly Into That Good Night by Ken Peters

bake sale

bake sale>

Gertrude Will Not Go Quietly Into That Good Night

Gertrude T. Suggs was a hard case. She had all the edges her name suggests. A widow and a pillar of the Mt. Ida Methodist Church, she could quote scripture at length and frequently did. The other dowdy ladies who worked at the baked sales and ham suppers deferred to her. Her frown made lesser women quake. To disagree with Gertrude was risking cold smiles and withering, knowing looks. Gertrude was the chair of every committee, the tireless worker at every garage sale. She was a member of the choir. She could not carry a tune and her voice grated on the nerves but in the Mt. Ida Methodist Church volume took precedence over any other musical requirement. The musical director, like everybody else, did not want to incur the undying enmity of the omnipresent Gertrude. Every Sunday, she was there in the loft, beating the congregation about the ears with psalms about marching soldiers and rugged crosses. She would amplify any indiscretion by any of the congregation in thinly veiled diatribes against “whited sepulchers” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. Gertrude T. Suggs was, in short, the type of person who did all the rights things for all the wrong reasons. Her Christianity was one of acts, not feelings. Her life was an antisacrement in which outward and visible signs were the antithesis of inward and spiritual acts.
Her marriage had been brief and childless. Thomas Suggs was a colorless man who stood silently in Gertrude’s shadow for a few years and then died when his press at the Ilium Machine Works caught his sleeve and indelibly stamped him into the organic equivalent of a t-bar. Gertrude wore black for a month and then settled quickly into the routines of the pious widow. The Machine Works pension plan was not generous and Gertrude took a succession of foster-care children into her narrow flat over the years. She turned many of them into unrepentant atheists with her constant bullying but the house was clean and the meals nourishing. Gertrude looked down on other ladies who were not as committed to good works. She made ends meet.

Elizabeth was the last of the foster children. She was placed by the agency when only nine. A pale, thin girl with an unexplained scar at her throat, Elizabeth seemed to thrive where other children had shrunk into themselves with Gertrude’s harsh ministrations. She meekly followed her benefactress to every church function and her shy smile was a counterpoint to Gertrude’s constant chill.

Over the years Elizabeth became a favorite of the congregation with a kind word for everyone and a demure attitude that was somewhat at odds with her budding womanhood and obvious good health. Elizabeth wore simple dresses that covered her throat and was a good but not gifted student. The ladies at Mt. Ida Methodist Church watched Elizabeth closely as she matured. They hoped for and expected the girl to inevitably rebel against Gertrude’s mean and narrow attitudes. They all hoped Elizabeth would realize the wider happiness that seemed to be her potential. For some it was a desire to live vicariously through the young woman. For all it was the long-deferred dream of seeing Gertrude punished for her supercilious ways.

Elizabeth dashed their hopes for a “comeuppance” of Gertrude. Even after graduation from high school and the end of foster care supervision she stayed with the Widow Suggs. A job at the local pharmacy was not well paid but compensated for the loss to the small household of the foster agency stipend. Elizabeth gave every penny to Gertrude who received the slim pay packet with an imperious air but without gratitude. Elizabeth also began night classes at the community college. Eventually the women of the congregation gave up their hopes of a repudiation of Gertrude.

The years passed and Gertrude grew more irascible with age. Her judgment of others foibles became more harsh. Her condemnation of any frivolity grew more strenuous. The conviction in her own piety and moral superiority became even more smugly assured. Elizabeth never wavered though in her devotion to the old woman. She seemed to not notice the slights, the condescending comments, and the constant disapproval that Gertrude radiated.

Gertrude retained her regal bearing but her strength waned with passing time. The younger member of the household slowly assumed all the cleaning, cooking and other duties but Gertrude never relinquished her role or attitudes as benefactress and mistress to be obeyed. The ladies of the church began to speculate about why Elizabeth never had friends or male admirers and they agreed the spirit of the young woman had been crushed by the years of deferring to Gertrude. “A young thing like that with that old biddy,” they clucked. “She should move out of there and find herself a good husband.” But Elizabeth stayed and no unkind word about Gertrude or complaint about her station in life was ever heard.

One fine May Sunday morning Betty Carson, who worked at Dr. Keene’s office, brought news to the afternoon pancake supper that electrified the ladies as they served coffee and cleared tables. “I saw the file myself,” Betty said. “Gertrude Suggs has cancer! ”

Diagnosed with cancer. Perhaps some thought that cancer, with its unrestrained antipathy to all that is natural and good, was a fitting disease for a woman as negative as Gertrude. Such an unkind and unchristian thought would never be voiced at Mt. Ida Methodist Church of course. People treated Gertrude with a saccharin and overbearing kindness that soon let the Widow Suggs know her cross, which she had meant to bear silently and stoically, had become church property. She immediately ended all her association with the institution that had been at the center of her life. She quit every committee and never came to Sunday services again. The ladies ascribed this surprising development to the vicissitudes of dealing with a terminal disease but Gertrude was simply unable to admit even a physical failing to anyone. The Widow Suggs retreated into an even more narrow existence. Her life became bounded by visits to the hospital for her chemotherapy and her bed at home where she lay exhausted by that regime. Even as her body failed Gertrude never softened. She continued to harry and order Elizabeth about. Elizabeth responded with even more gentle care and respect than she had accorded Gertrude in health.

The dissolution of Gertrude was rapid. It was as if, after years of keeping everything at bay, her compromised system was exhausted. A crack had appeared in the monolith and chaos was afoot. Elizabeth quit her job and cared night and day for the dying woman. Gertrude became completely bed-ridden and dependent upon Elizabeth but it was not reflected in their relationship. Gertrude rewarded her nurse with vituperation and constant denigration. Elizabeth bathed the wasted limbs while Gertrude heaped insults on the young woman. Gertrude railed at Elizabeth even as she emptied the bedpan or gently moved the cancer victim to change the sheets. Gertrude would use what little strength was left to push away the spoon that Elizabeth held to the pursed lips. Every kindness was repaid with anger. Each gentle act was rebuffed with callous disregard. Gertrude and Elizabeth were both locked in the roles the universe had assigned them. The imminent death of the torturer seemed to spur both her and the caregiver to the quintessential essence of their being and the most extravagant display of those disparate natures.

One night in late September Elizabeth knew the end was near. Gertrude’s breathing was ragged and the shrunken frame glistened with fever. Elizabeth gently bathed the febrile limbs and tried to comfort the Widow Suggs with her presence. The hours passed. A small moan escaped unbidden from Gertrude’s lips. Elizabeth leaned over her, to once more plump the pillow and utter a kind word. Gertrude drew all her strength into a last breath in order to curse the young woman one more time. The deprecation was never uttered. Where Gertrude had intended a mean word there was a bright flower. Elizabeth looked in wonder as the tendrils flowed from Gertrude’s slack lips. The plant of glossy leaves and gentle fragrance entwined the desiccated body and lifted it off the bed. Elizabeth drew back, not in fear, but in awe. Elizabeth never saw the dark stranger enter the room or the sharp scythe he carried to cut the towering green plant.

– Ken Peters

Wasn’t It | by Seymour Shubin

Why Me

Wasn’t It?

I remember, when I was a kid,
hearing that if you wanted to be anything
in medicine or any of the sciences
you had to go to Germany
you had to study there.
But it was of no interest to me
since I was just a kid.
But it came back to me
like a blow
when some months later
I saw a man sitting in what was
described in the newspaper
as a Jew in a garbage wagon
being paraded by what were called
But that was just an ugliness,
I remember thinking.
After all, that was the world
of the sciences,
wasn’t it?
What could ever happen there?

Why Me

Barbara Brett‘s review

Aug 22, 13
Read in August, 2013


“A poem…begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness…. It finds the thought and the thought finds the words,” Robert Frost wrote nearly a century ago. The words are as true today as they were then, and they are a particularly apt description of the forty gems in Seymour Shubin’s eloquent and moving poetry collection, Why Me?. This is the first time that Shubin, best-selling author of crime fiction, has turned his hand and his heart to poetry, and it is as close as he has ever come to autobiography. Every poem opens a window on a thought, a longing, an incident that though unique to the poet also shines a light on the life of the reader and awakens the warmth of recognition in his or her heart. From the poignant “Wait Your Turn” that opens the collection to the heart-rending “Joel” that ends it, the book is a journey of discovery for its author and of rediscovery for his readers. Why Me? Shubin asks, wondering why he is still here when so many other loved ones have gone before him. But every reader of this book comes away with the answer: “It’s because we need the insight and wisdom you give us in this beautiful book, Seymour Shubin—and we long for more.”

Strontium, “Periodic Table of Poetry” poem by Chicago poet Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

from the “Periodic Table of Poetry” series (#038 Sr)

People seem to think
that they need to eat
a ton of red meat
in order to be strong.

They think eating slaughtered
animal is the only way
a human being is capable
of getting themselves protein.

And I know it may be a tightrope walk
to get what you need —

I know how you
can turn a flame
into satan red
(but that means
we use you
in red flares, or
even red fireworks)…

I know how a part of you
can turn radioactive
(like when the Chernobyl explosion
threw Strontium 90 into the air:

but yeah, we’ve learned,
and can use that Strontium 90
in cancer therapy)…

And since Strontium
can get into your bones
(since it’s similar to calcium),
salt Strontium ranelate
treats osteoarthritis.

The thing is, plants are higher
in Strontium than meat,
and because it’s like calcium
it stays in our bones.

Because when we tested
ancient bones,
Austrian researchers
that Roman gladiators

they ate
mostly barley,
beans, and
dried fruit.)

So yeah,
the strong,
Roman gladiators
(the confident,
Roman gladiators)

Sorry, but I’ve heard
of how run down firemen
started feeling better
after they cut out meat
(metaphorically, I mean,
they didn’t actually cut any meat,
no animals were harmed
in this experiment
in making people healthier)…

Because if just the right Strontium
can help your bones,
and it is more common
in plants than animals,
maybe people can realize
that they don’t need to eat
a ton of red meat
in order to be strong.
Because with a plant-based diet,
a little Strontium
can go a long way.