Verse – Healthy as a Horse

Profs have found that it helps cancer’s pain
To take puffs of that old Mary Jane,
And our State says it’s great,
Docs write scrips for our trips,
But what cancer symptoms can I feign?

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 16, 2016

Verse – Ol’ Fuzzy Head

The nurse said I had “Chemo Brain”,
From writing, I just should refrain;
But I have the notion
That writing’s the potion
To retrain the brain to be sane.

  • Steve Shoemaker, two days after Chemo treatment, Urbana, IL, Feb. 26, 2016

Verse – But when…


John Dixon/The News-Gazette Steven Shoemaker, a retired pastor who attends the Philo Presbyterian Church, wrote a letter to the editor saying the Philo church leaders would be discussing hosting a syrian refugee family, despite Gov. Bruce Rauner’s stance on the issue. Shoemaker was photographed at his home in south of Urbana on Wednesday Nov. 25, 2014.

But when…

But when will you die? asked my two kids.
In sleep, my Doc said, are the best odds.
But I will not die,
I’ve propped open each eye,
But the toothpicks keep hurting my eyelids!

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, 11:58 p.m., Feb. 11, 2016

Two hours after Steve posted this on his CaringBridge page, one of his old friends with an equal sense of sardonic humor commented:

I think it is sly
to prop open each eye
and frustrate the doctor’s prognosis
What a wonder to see
that the powers that be
can be limited in their diagnosis

Death and dying are NOT fun or funny, but humor is one of God’s greatest gifts.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 12, 2016

Verse – Bending Down, Looking Up

As readers of Views from the Edge (VFTE) may know, Steve Shoemaker, my poet colleague on VFTE has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His sense of humor remains strong. This verse recalls a moment with Steve and four other seminary classmates following a rare Cubs’ win at Wrigley Field in Wrigleyville, Chicago.



A towering 69 year-old figure standing
six-feet-eight, Steve saunters slowly
through the post-game crowd outside
“the Friendly Confines” of Wrigleyville
like a watchtower on skates, looking
far and near for who knows what.

A very happy young woman as high
as he is tall pulls on his sleeve, asking
a question only he, bending far down,
can hear. He smiles but shakes his head
to whatever offer threatened to bring
him down to a lower happiness high.

Two years later at 72, he might be
looking again for the Wrigleyville fan
for something to ease the pain, settle
his stomach, give some relief from
the newly diagnosed cancer, a pill
or toke or two to raise him back up
to the watchtower, now six-feet-seven.

We who couldn’t hear the question
now smile, bend down low, and look up
beyond Steve’s lofty height with prayers
for courage, strength, whatever will keep
him tall in the game where everyone wins
and loses, and quite unexpectedly,
feels a gentle tug on an old shirtsleeve.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Dec. 8, 2015

Verse – Kansas

on the prairie
the wind turbines
can be seen
for twenty-five miles

after dark the red lights
in unison
seem to blink
as blades slowly turn

a football field high
the inscribed circle
is a full acre
echoing irrigation

from the air
only the green circles
can be seen
windmills disappear

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, September 12, 2015

Verse – ?

Question Mrk

Question Mrk

Sending a son or daughter off to college is hard for a parent.

Steve captured the sentiment in this piece “written in 1988 when my son, Daniel, left home to go to Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.”




To choose a title first is such an act
of pride (as if one knows just where a thought
will go.) Is “Saying Goodbye to Our Son”
a better choice than “Letting Go?” And when
is specificity superior
to breadth? Do only parents know the fear
of being left behind when children leave?
Is every parting death, a tiny grave?

A title should invite…entice…alert
the reader to the text. But what comes next?
That is the question. Eyes will open wide
and see new truth. Will truth lead to the good?
We hug and hope and wave goodbye. The path
twists back and then away (“A Brand New Birth?)

  • Steve Shoemaker [Published in Presbyterian Outlook]

Verse – after a 7-day party

the torah says the world was made
in 6 days then g_d rested our
big family gave gifts of food
& drink & games & laughs & more
for 7 days without a break
because for 5 decades my wife
& i were too stubborn to make
a split of course there had been strife
im often selfish or a jerk
so get a spouse who will not talk
& have 2 kids who always look
at the best side of what they see
give thanks for generosity
& for the worlds best family

  • Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, August 24, 2015

NOTE: Happy 50th Anniversary, Steve and Nadja.

Verse on Burning Man

Verse — Remembering Burning Man
After a Year at age 72

Experience it, don’t observe it.
Participate, give gifts to others–
nothing is for sale. An empty desert
is the frame, the canvas, the gallery–
see art appear out of the blowing
Nevada playa dust. Huge temporary
sculptures, many that will blaze with flames
to the skies, paid for by previous fees
to attend, and gifts of time, and effort.

70,000 people last year brought costumes,
creativity, music, dancing, humor (yes,
alcohol & other drugs), but although
there were over 900 bars giving away
free shots and cocktails & wine & beer,
I saw no fights, no violence, no sexual
harassment. Art cars glide slowly past–
a huge dragon breathing flames
with 50 folks on board,
An Amish horse and buggy
powered by solar batteries,
a bicycle rider pulling a wagon carrying
a sousaphone: he stops, plays, flames
shoot out the huge brass bell…

The week of Labor Day, every year
for the last 30. Some folks have gotten rich,
others spend more than they can afford
to buy entrance tickets, travel from around
the world, live in tents & ride bikes & walk
for hours in this modern garden of earthy
delights, or depravity–your choice.
A temporary utopia? or first-world narcissism?
Don’t analyze, dance with 4,000 souls
under the moon to the same song.
Hear others a mile away hearing you.

  • Steve Shoemaker, August 10, 2015