Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Funny Thing . . .

A funny thing happened on the way to the podium.  As the result of a process totally mysterious to me, I have been named poet laureate of Door County, Wisconsin.  While I was sure that this was some gross miscalculation or simply a hoax, apparently the county board didn't get the joke, and I was installed yesterday at the board meeting.  Another funny thing:  Flu.  I haven't been sick for years, but the night before my big moment, I was struck, hard, by some nastiness.  I could not attend.  Luckily for me, the out-going and outgoing laureate, Estella Lauter, said a few very kind words on my behalf and read the poem I had written for the occasion, an imperative piece which is as much a note to myself as to the assembled board.
In awe of the three who have held this post before me; Frances May, Barbara Larsen, and Estella Lauter, I humbly submit:

To the Duly Elected,

the newly elected, and those selected
to serve many times before –

I ask you to speak for the farmer as he tills,
for the builder as he builds.
Speak for the bagger of groceries
and speak, please, for the trees.

Speak loudly to save quiet places.
Speak, too, for the ferryman,
the fisherman, the schools of fishes.
Remember the one who taught you to read.

Remember the ones who wash dishes.
Be strong for the weak, the unhealthy.
Speak up for those in need.
Speak up for the artist and the scene she paints.

Speak, please, for the creek.
Be wary of saints and the wealthy.
Speak out against greed.
Speak for the nurses and nursery-men.

Represent those who scrub floors.
Represent those who pull weeds.
Speak for the firefighter, the all-nighter cop,
speak for the crop in the field.

Listen to the one who voted against you.
Listen to the wind in the night.
Listen to your heart when it says to stand fast,
listen close when it tells you to yield.

~ Ralph Murre

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Je suis, aussi

artwork: ralph murre

je suis ecrivain
je suis iconoclaste
je suis artiste
je suis chaque homme
je suis, aussi, charlie

~ ralph murre

Thursday, January 01, 2015

(Slow) Running Things

photo: ralph murre

How slowly the writing comes these days, as evidenced by the fact that I haven't posted to this site since May.  Have barely written anything else for anywhere else.  Forgive me re-running this 10-year old piece, still possibly appropriate for the day:

Running Things

Another year
Another chance to get it right
To do the things I shoulda done
Tear down that fence I built
Quit the party
Let running things run

Another wave rolls up the beach
Tumbles stones
Polishes what survives
Shorebirds – hungry – rush
Consume the dazzled on the sands
End the safe, crustacean lives

Another day
Another chance to see the light
To see the clouded, rising sun
Copper flame in pewter bowl
Embrace the certain, coming toll
Or be a running thing, and run

~ Ralph Murre

On a brighter note, and concerning two friends for whom the writing seems to be coming along very nicely, I want to refer you to two new blogs that brighten my days considerably.  The first, a self-titled site by Mary Wehner, can be found at and the second, called The Poet At Large, is by Al DeGenova, and is at  Beautiful.
Both sites are new enough that you can easily read them from their beginnings, an exercise quite definitely worth your while. Links to both will remain in my right-hand column under "Good Places".
Happy New Year to all.     ~ RM 

Monday, May 05, 2014

the poet, at seventy, observes

and the aged

   discuss at length
 their aging
   the raging pains
and nagging
   the sagging
and the gravity
   their long-lost
youth,  naïveté
   as though
there was forever
   to converse
they heed
   no call for terse
nor feel a need
   for brevity

~ ralph murre

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

small talk

Little Eagle Press

~ proudly presents ~

small talk

A fine, new book of the shorter poems of Bruce Dethlefsen,
past Poet Laureate of Wisconsin.   Here’s your chance to see what a terrific writer can say in ten lines or less, and to see why Little Eagle, always very selective, jumped at the chance to publish this jewel of a manuscript.  There’s a lot of wry humor in these 92 pages, as well as good doses of poignancy and pathos.  Add a liberal sprinkling of the drawings of Ralph Murre, and we feel you’ll agree that this is a winning text.

a sample:


at night
my mother bathed me in a white tub
scrubbed me with white soap
rubbed me in a white towel
hugged and plugged me
into pajamas and the white sheets

an act so kind
so common
it barely even happened

small talk can be ordered directly from the author

Bruce Dethlefsen
422 Lawrence Street
Westfield, WI   53964

at $15. per copy, plus $3. for shipping & handling.
( For shipping fees on orders of multiple copies, please

Thursday, April 17, 2014

all it has to be

this river
is not long
nor swift
nor all that deep
but it flows true
from dream to dream
and it’s all it has to be
and it does all a river needs to do

~ ralph murre

Monday, April 07, 2014

Gone Blind -- Arvinson Log post # 600

Gone Blind  (2014)
Justice! they cry
What’s it mean? sez I
ain’t it just another name for revenge?
She’s often portrayed
as a blind chick with a sword
as untoward as blind rage
or blind drunk on a binge
Oh, she looks good
sittin’ here on this page
but she lights fires, you know
and if we’re not burnt
we’ll be singed
To invite her
we’re gonna need courage

let us try
one more time
for courage

Justice! they cry
Save me from it, sez I
or I and my kind
will swing in the breeze
and a lonely trumpet play
and the harpies will
tug at our flesh
‘til sometime late in the day
if anyone knows
that we aren’t on our knees
begging the unknown in the sky
begging, please
Let us try
one more time
for courage, for courage

Let us try
one more time
for courage

For I and my kind
by choice have gone blind
and our names
are signed to the checks
and our names are in the fields
of oil and blood
and our spirits
are dragged through the mud
as Old Glory waves
and we salute the ones
who send children
We salute, and dig graves
for our children

Let us try
one more time
for courage

Justice! they cry
but does she ever forgive?
And if it’s an eye
for an eye
how will grandchildren live?
Just look at her there
Sweet Justice – how fair
though she seems only to care
for the sound of alarms
It takes courage, too
to not take up arms
it takes courage to say
Let her go, now
we’ll start new

let us try
one more time
for courage

~ Ralph Murre

Friday, March 21, 2014

at evening


could I be
a sundown man
enfold you
unfold you
the colored rays
of our shining
the western sky
at evening?

~ ralph murre

Sunday, March 02, 2014

as Mardi Gras approaches

Delta Blues

There, on the edge of the shelf,
in the sad and beautiful frames of generations,
the black and white portraits of us,
the sepia of our flesh,
the glisten and the dance.
There, the mouth of Old Man River
speaks to the sea of a continent stolen,
but Mother Ocean says, “Africa
I’m here for her children. Europa –
I’m here for her children.  And Asia’s,”
she says.  There,
where those two meet day in and out,
night after night, in throes
of love and fight and blows
of gods of wind, there
in a mixed-blood flood,
she takes away a few of those
she’s brought on her broad back,
but carries them now in her womb
from that Crescent City where the water
rises above the tombs.

“Shall we gather . . .”, sings the old man,
“On that beautiful shore . . .”, says the sea.

~ Ralph Murre

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Grandfathers

the grandfathers
their hands flinty with work
reaching down to take mine

smell of oil and liniment and wool
smoke rising
snow falling

their heavy shovels
and plaid coats
the names of old countries

~ Ralph Murre

If that sounds like an old one to any of you, well, it is.  Kinda.  In the spirit of revise, revise, revise, I boiled a fair to middlin' nineteen lines down to nine, and I think I like it even better. If I keep going this way, someday, I'll say nothing at all, and that may be best.   ~ RM

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

In That House

In That House
". . . any room was full       
of such choreography . . ."
~ Michael Ondaatje
each of the chambers
of his heart
held a dance
his inner ear
a symphony
the optic nerve
told of roses
and rose windows
remembering that day
in that far away
when her eyes whispered

and still
the quick step
of all these
a waltzing
and that fox
still trotting
the way she does
in that house
full of the choreography
of whispered

~ Ralph Murre

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Gratitude in Dark December

There's nothing more gratifying for a writer, I suppose, than to be read -- and to have a person or two in some way moved by the reading.  A couple of years ago, I penned "In Dark December" which has been published here and there in print and on line, and which I've read at several events.  Well -- people seem to like it and it's been spreading on the internet and by emails and now I get references to the piece from far and wide. Thanks to friend Kris Thacher for the above photo, showing the poem posted on the Poetry Pole on Candelaria Road in Albuquerque, New Mexico; a far piece from my digs in Northeast Wisconsin.  Sometimes, I think, a piece of writing can be bigger than its author, and that's certainly how I feel about this poem.  Grateful to have had my pen on paper -- my hook in the water -- when this one came swimming by.  Grateful, too, for the friends, new and old, who have helped keep this alive.    ~ RM

In Dark December
by Ralph Murre

Whatever you believe,
whatever you do not,
there are sacred rites
you must perform
in dark December.
Do this for me:
Pull together
the kitchen table,
the folding table,
and that odd half-oval
usually covered
with bills and broken pencils
and red ink.
Pull together family and friends,
cool cats and stray dogs alike.
Turn off everything
except colored lights,
the roaster,
the toaster, the stove.
Cook.  Bake.  Eat.
Yes, even the fruitcake.
Eat, crowded around
those assembled tables
with mismatched chairs.
Reach so far
in your sharing
that you hold the sun
in one hand,
the stars in the other,
and no one between is hungry.
Now walk together,
talk together,
be together
on these darkest nights.
Give and forgive.
Light candles and ring bells.
Sing the old songs.
Tell the old stories
one more time,
leaving nothing out,
leaving no one out
in the long night,
leaving nothing wrong
that you can make right.

~ first published in Peninsula Pulse                                                        

Saturday, November 09, 2013


I don't know about the streets of Heaven, nor am I likely to find out -- but parts of County Trunk Q were paved with gold this morning as a sheath of shed tamarack needles clung to the wetted roadway.  That's good enough for me.     ~ RM

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hallows Eve

With appropriate dark
And this damp chill
Tomorrow begins November
We shall wear brave masks tonight


Tuesday, October 15, 2013



No man, you tell me, but everyman, I tell you,
and woman and boat, every Wisconsin farmhouse
and apartment in the Bronx; an island.

That blue circle of horizon, the dangerous passage,
those days the ferry cannot cross from my shores
to the quiet cove of yours.  The sea between.

~ Ralph Murre

That's the little tug Neverwas in my sketch above, departing Rock Island, Wisconsin, in the early afternoon of long ago, and getting a friendly wave from an unidentified guest at the Thordarson Boathouse, where Sharon Auberle and I were recently privileged to read to a sizable and receptive audience from our book Wind Where Music Was.  Headliner on the program was ferryman Richard Purinton, who was introducing his Thordarson and Rock Island, an absolute "must read" for anyone interested in the history of the region and the biography of the man.  I predict that this wonderfully researched volume will be the standard text on the topic for a long time to come.     ~ RM  

Friday, September 20, 2013


digitally derived from seed co. photo

Like a Melon, Love.

She weighed it in her hand
in her heart
this chance
this could be

as a cantaloupe
this fruit
this thing
bought on faith
before it could be
cut open.

smelled of it
felt of it

~ Ralph Murre

That first line (italicized) is a snippet
borrowed from Louis de Bernieres

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Proud to present photographic proof, at last, that there is Someone Up There, a man at the controls, if you will.  Look very closely and you'll note that He, like the rest of us, is scratching His head as He looks at the good old U.S. of A.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Remembering My Education

On the First Day

Coy Colleen
goes not unnoticed
by slack-jawed juniors
and in the sky
mares’ tails
chased by stallions

their thunderhead bluster
their temporary insanity

~ Ralph Murre

Friday, August 09, 2013


One Day at Stonehenge

pretty much like another
the August sun

and over there
a couple

making promises
beyond a prayer

and praying
for something fortuitous

in this once
in their lifetime

alignment of stones
and stars

and over there
the gods

and all
the rest

~ Ralph Murre

Tuesday, August 06, 2013



There’s a guy on the radio
singing about Sweet Destiny
as though she’s bringing
something more palatable
than the just desserts I see.

     Could be.
          Could be.

Soon enough, I guess
we’ll be at Destiny’s table.
Don’t rush me
toward that sweet reward.

~ Ralph Murre

Sunday, July 28, 2013

somewhere a bell

somewhere a bell

and within
a dim and smoky lantern

swinging still
from its nail

the ship
plowing forever

into night
the sea


the stars still

the universe still

~ ralph murre

Friday, July 19, 2013

More Crude Red Boats in The Harbor

Scout’s Honor

Merit badges for tying knots -
the bowline, the sheepshank, the clove hitch.
Merit badges for whittling the likenesses
of dead presidents and woodland animals, and
of course, for assistance given to the feeble
in their never-ending quest to cross the road.

Maybe they should keep handing them out.

The badge for showing up every day
right down to the day they tell you
not to show up tomorrow.
A merit badge for the day
your infant son needs major surgery.
Another for that day he’s grown
and buys his first motorcycle.
Badges for each of your daughter’s tattoos
and piercings. Diamond insets
if you can’t really mention what’s been pierced.
A merit badge, or, at least, a colorful neckerchief
as your party loses another one.
( But it could be taken back if you move to Canada.)
Bronze medals for burying parents.
Silver for friends.
You’d rather die than win the gold.
A merit badge and letter of commendation
the day you actually give up your abuse
of anything, or anyone.
And a little badge of semi-precious material
for every day that you get out of bed
and wear a brave costume.
One for that confident smile on your face
as your knees tremble beneath the table.

                                                               ~ Ralph Murre

Good news. That's just a sample poem from my first book, Crude Red Boat, which has been out of print for a while and pretty hard to find.  But.  I've just been able to purchase some archived copies from the estate of Norbert Blei.  His Cross + Roads Press was the publisher.   He'd probably be disappointed to know that I was letting any of them go for the cover price, but that's just what I'm doing.  I'll send out a few of them for $10 plus $3 for shipping and handling, and when I feel my own supplies have become dangerously low, once again, the price will escalate sharply.  Interested?  Drop me a line at (put Crude Red Boat in the subject line).  Any of my later books also still available at that address.     ~ RM

Monday, July 08, 2013


detail: louis sullivan bank - sidney, ohio

the banker asks
what use is a butterfly
having forgotten his childhood
the poet asks
what use is a bank
having forgotten his old age

~ arem

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


At his memorial

how pleasant we all are

dressed nice
a glass of wine
the blue of the sky

these shimmering women
this sultry day
almost as if

these fine shirted men
this striped awning
just as if

on a holiday
as if he'll be in
the Adirondacks

for the summer
Europe,  maybe
Bon Voyage!

how pleasant

~ Ralph Murre

It may be too much, all this going on for the passing of one friend.  I'd promise to stop soon, but I may not keep that promise.    ~ RM

Sunday, June 30, 2013