Beth Staas
2011 Illinois Senior Poet Laureate

Beth Staas, 81, Westmont, is a nationally known American poet who frequently wins in contests sponsored by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS), the organization whose members helped kick off the National Annual Senior Poet Laureate Competition back in 1993. Beth, a retired teacher who was widowed after 54 years of marriage, has five children, ten grandchildren and one great grandchild. She won the Honor Scroll Award in 2007. Her sun sign is Aquarius.


At first we both knew
then just me--a blessing, I suppose.

You couldn't remember
nouns and names
like maintenance and Oregon.
"The computer's jammed,"
you'd say with a bewildered smile.
"No input, no output. Just plain jammed."

There was more.

"Where will we put all these people?"
you'd say, wandering the empty house,
and more sadly, "I want to go home,"
when already there.

Choosing what to wear was hard,
so many days were spent naked,
your blue veins, white skin and whiter hair
a ghostly forecast of things to come.

First the struggle, shaking with rage
when a light bulb burned out
or the imagined truck down below
didn't unload fast enough,
thoughts that seemed like missiles
searing your bloodshot eyes,
scorching your lips
as you lurched toward lunacy.

Later you were gentle, I'll give you that,
stroking beloved books no longer read,
weeping for Brubeck and Brahms,
asking how to turn on the TV, please.

Then years of silence
and you were gone,
leaving us to puzzle out a warrior
who'd fought to the end
even as all the munitions failed.

Beth Staas