Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Starry Eve

on a new year's eve

always the same stars shining

and always

our search for more

- arem

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Toast

Simply brimming over with holiday spirit, so I propose this modest . . .


To the hackneyed heroes and the knock-kneed novices
(you know who you are),
to the youth carded at the front door
and the elders discarded at the back:
I raise my glass.

To the crap-shooters and the bull-shitters,
the card players and the played,
to the couple in the corner who are lookin’ to get laid:
here’s to ya’.

To the lonely,
to the lonely:
here’s to ya’.

To the one who’ll mop the bar-room floor
and the one who’ll clean the toilets:

To the blue-suited barristers from the blue-eyed ‘burbs
(there, but for the grace of God . . .),
to the cheerleaders and the cheerless,
to the peerless and the powerful
and the jury of your peers:

To the ones who make the headlines,
to the ones who give them ink,
to the one who does the nursing
and the one who’ll fix the sink up:
drink up.

To the surgeons and sailors
and the ones who work high steel,
to the painters and the busboys
and the ones who beg a meal:
wind at your back.

To the one who lost a lover,
the one who lost some weight,
the one who got a boob job
so she could get a date:
here’s lookin’ atcha.

To the ones who take it easy
and the ones who never will,
to the ones who just can’t take it,
to the driver at the wheel,
to the driven, to the cattle,
the distiller at his still,
to the loser of the battle
and the miller at his mill:
may you find peace.

To the innocent:
may you find peace.

To the ones who’ll just get by,
to the bystanders and the glad-handers
and the terminally shy:
may you be blessed.

And to all the rest:
may you be blessed,
may you be blessed.

- Ralph Murre

. . . and to all a good night

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Book Review

There's a new book on the shelf that I reserve for the fine work of my friends over at Cross + Roads Press. Not that I expect Saturday Nights at the Crystal Ball to spend much time on the shelf. Far too much good material to set it aside for long.

Poet Sharon Auberle, on the surface, tells the story of her mother's last days on this earth; that of a woman who danced her way through an uneasy life. Anyone who's ever lost a parent, or ever will, can benefit from the reading. Just beneath the surface, the writer finds other tales about to finally break into daylight: the story of a father who left early, in a time when that was the exception; the subsequent effects on the lives and loves of the author and her mother; the perhaps too quickly passed judgements all around; all told in the voice of an accomplished artist of the written word, and through it all, there is the dance. In "Spring Came Late That Year", we read:

Maggie danced
the night Edward left
her baby girl
about the kitchen
their mingled tears
spinning out
bouncing off windows
like the freezing rain
falling that night

and later, in Legacy:

What my mother left me
was not dancing shoes
or diamond rings
or bad luck with men

it was the way she stood
so straight
barely reaching my shoulder
but tall
on days when life
bends most people low

and that quickstep of hers
forward always
to music only she could imagine

Sharon Auberle is storyteller enough to find and relate what is unique in her life. She is poet enough to show us what is universal. She has deftly tackled subject matter that in lesser hands could have been maudlin, even trite -- but has triumphed in a way that elevates us. Her luck in collaborating with editor/publisher Norbert Blei assured an elegant book to stand beside the thirty others from his press. Blei's decision to reproduce pages from the author's journal, written in the days immediately preceding her mother's demise, was a brilliant one, giving us a very palpable connection to the writer in a time of vulnerability juxtaposed with great strength.

The book is Saturday Nights at the Crystal Ball, by Sharon Auberle, ISBN 978-1-889460-21-5, $12 from Cross + Roads Press, P.O. Box 33, Ellison Bay, WI, USA, 54210 and don't forget to slide them a couple of bucks for the postman & the packaging.

- Ralph Murre

Friday, December 12, 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Good Horse

Snow Devils, with their whirling, dance
Winter down from somewhere North,
dance Winter down from somewhere.
Ah, Little Horse, with your cocksure stance,
ready to bravely venture forth
and dance me down to somewhere,
this is where I must be,
where the wind and the sea
and the sky dance down.
Where the wind and the sea
and the sky dance down;
this somewhere.

- Ralph Murre

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Chris Aaron Band

Leadman finding
silver threads
among the blue
Baseman, thin and wiry
as the neck
of his guitar
Drum man, solid
laying back
for now, just for now
And now
oh man
And now
Sally ride Sally ride
in that hot light
in that hot night
where all you want to do
is rock
~ RM

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In Praise of Hairy Beasts

You know how
there are a lot of creepy things
with more than six legs,
like the Rockettes
and centipedes and committees
and some, like worms,
without any at all,
and the way four-legged things
are usually all furry and stable
and don't move about
in disgusting ways,
so are not really that creepy?
You know how your Uncle Al and Dick Cheney
and the guy that ran the drugstore
in your little hometown
each have two legs,
but are still creepy as all hell?
Creepier than morticians or
even dead guys?
You know how creepy
the clothes were
that you wore as a freshman,
both in high school and college?
You know how creepy you were
to people of the opposite sex, sure,
but to everyone, really?
You know how creepy
your Plymouth Valiant was?
You know how
there are a lot of creepy things
without hair, like salamanders
and your Uncle Al and bowling balls
and the way tennis balls
are kind of fuzzy so
they're not quite so damn creepy?
Think about chihuahuas.
You know how creepy
it is to look at somebody's ears?
No, really look.
And yours have hair
growing out of them now.
You know how some creepy things,
like pimples, have creepy names,
but zits don't sound so bad
and some things,
like human resources departments,
are really creepy,
but sound pretty good?
You know how a lot of creepy stuff,
like long shorts
and tattoos and pubic shaving
and Harley-Davidsons,
seem to be o.k. now?
And the way you figure
maybe someday you'll be acceptable
Yeah, maybe . . .
but if you're still reading,
you're probably
still pretty creepy.

- ralph murre

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Moonrise La Veta

a look toward home
from across these thousand miles
my pale friend rising
~ arem

Monday, November 10, 2008

Where I've Been

Sorry about the long absence. I've been doing a bit of wandering: bodily, mentally, spiritually. Back soon in all three dimensions, I think.

What I was doing, have done, is the editing and publishing of the little beauty of a book pictured above, Bar Code, the latest from my Little Eagle Press. Big piece of work. Good work, I think. Poetry, prose, photos and drawings from a terrific bunch of contributors, some very well known in small press circles and beyond, some just beginning to get work out there, all telling their stories of bars, saloons, and watering holes around several continents. The cover art you're looking at, incidentally, is by the master, Emmett Johns, to whom I am forever indebted.

More about this project and others in the days to come, but I hope you'll contact me me at or write Little Eagle Press, P.O. Box 684, Baileys Harbor, WI, USA, 54202 to order. ($15 + $3 S&H - and I will take personal checks until I get burned.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Light

the light this day
has every leaf of the forest
crying for its beauty
every ripple on this lake
outshining the next
a far crow
the loss of his darkness

- arem

Monday, October 06, 2008

Bragging Again

Just have to say that I've made another brief foray outside of the (very) small press world with two of my poems published in the current issue of Wisconsin People & Ideas, the journal of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, available in a few big box book stores and a few real book stores around these parts.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

By Night

Flying by night,
stars floating in waves above us
like the prairie towns beneath our wings
and our captain, silent,
so we may hear the soft lapping
of years against the bright metal,
the distant voices crying
I knew you, I knew you;
the gods chuckling at our passage.
Silent, so we may think of depths
and the fragility of our craft.

So we may think of
the lives down there in the little towns,
the folding chairs of meeting rooms,
the all-night laundromats and
the lonely folding of blue shirts,
the folded hands of the faithful and
the flags folded in neat triangles,
the here's-to-ya last call toasting,
the dreams of newsboys;
their red bicycles under the stars.

- Ralph Murre

first appeared in Free Verse

Thursday, September 18, 2008


of dark and light
these days of days
growing short
of lengthening night
and northbound shadow
this last-resort aster's bloom
an evening chill
the cool room
the cool room
the unfamiliar room
these blue walls
-ralph murre

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sunday, September 07, 2008

From My Window

A young girl half-runs down this street
without sidewalks.
She sobs as she goes, a dark cloud
belying the sunshine color
of her dress. She is gone
but the street is damp with tears.
An old man prays for daughters
he never fathered.
Night is coming with its accusations,
morning with its forgiveness
and street sweepers.

- Ralph Murre

" prose invents -- poetry discloses" - Jack Spicer

Sunday, August 31, 2008

In Labor

In Labor

So they let you off for Labor Day,
like the 4th, like Memorial day,
and you have a coupla beers and
you char something on the Weber,
maybe listen to a ballgame,
your team still in the cellar.
Your cousin Bob comes over
with his face-lifted tit-lifted wife
and the Gameboy twins.
Nobody talks about labor except
that of delivering the twins
and there's some talk of her working
on her tan.
Your dad was in the strike of '52.
They drive a new Infiniti. It's gray.
Also the big one in '56. All summer.
You pick some tomatoes and corn
from the garden. Get salt and pepper.
They talk about the food
at Aquavit and Blu.
Your grampa rode the rails
in '35 and '36, stole chickens.
They have to go. Country Day School
starts tomorrow.
Your gramma was in labor
in the back of a Ford in '38.
There's a union man talking in the park
just a block away. Nobody listening.
A skateboard goes by.
The plant will close in 3 weeks.
You fall asleep in a plastic chair
from China, a little tomato juice
on your chin, a lazy fly circling.

- Ralph Murre


in this gleaming cove
don't they appear quite certain
those two little islands?
- arem

Saturday, August 23, 2008

sea story

funny, but
on the sunny
on the sunny
siding of the sea
you & me & jib &
gollywobbler set & filled
skimmy over skimmy
over wavy under-sea
a second story
and the roary wind
a blowin'
t'gallant ribbons
blue like prizes
all the sizes are assorted
on the foamy and the briney
and the tiny tiny ocean
'neath the keel.
a feelin' of a breeze
and of jesus on the seas
salts & tars awatchin' stars
and aprayin' on their knees
and the ladders to the pulpits
climbed by climby climby culprits
always gettin' closer to the top.
& the masthead's cuttin' slices
in the blue of skyward ices
and how nice is baggywrinkle
from the sternpost to the sprit?
the dark is darkly comin'
and the white foam is afoamin'
and the roamin' are ahummin'
of the comin' of a storm
in the early bleary bleary
and they're gettin kinda teary
in their warnings
in their warnings.
and the morning's comin' red
and the sailors in their dread
are eatin' weevily rations
and their passion's
are awaitin'
in the crusted shoreside bars
and the stars are twinkly twinkly
and the ink is flowin' wrinkly
on the tinkly tinkly page
as the sage is keepin' quiet
about the diet and the grog
and i watch it all a happenin'
in a puddle on the bog.

- ralph murre

Monday, August 04, 2008

# 300

Here I am, posting to this blog for the three-hundredth time. Perhaps it is appropriate that this is a moment at which my life has taken a turn and I will be without my regular internet connection for a while. I will still try to post, when I can, from some other locale, but I'm afraid I won't be able to include any visual images for now. Maybe it will make a better writer of me. When I began this endeavor, I had no idea where I'd go with it, and still don't ~ but if you take a look back through the archives, I think you'll agree that we've come this far along an interesting path.

in the mail box

just a postcard

with no picture

- Ralph Murre

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

About Hidden Things

It's the way you could no longer
hear the train on its rails
in the far off of the night
and the rain, it's the way
the rain sounded on that roof,
cooling summer.
It's the book you'd start again
each time, 'til you'd sleep.
It's the way you could sleep.
It's the way rusted iron
and old boards hid things.
It's about hidden things,
I'm pretty sure, and the way
you wanted to show somebody
the bright thing you found,
the way you were sure you could
fix it up and make it work again
and the way you thought you might.
it may be about hearing another train
at first light.
- Ralph Murre

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Day In July

A Day in July

Why do I think of you two, now?
This hot day and your bones in cool loam
so long, it seems.
You, twins and I, a third musketeer
as we careened
through hot summers before.
Working . . . drinking.
You taking me from white bread
to fry bread.
I hear the council drum.
Working . . . drinking.
It’s concrete work. Building a bridge.
Old man Bultman driving us like slaves
that summer hot as this.
Working . . . drinking. Week-end
pow wow at Shawano and I, dating your sister.
Your dad, old Esau, quiet.
Liking me O.K., ‘til then.
And my ma - looking pretty liberal, ‘til then.
And me, backing off.
Less work . . . less drink . . . less sister.
And she to Alaska and you
working . . . drinking –
earning so early your places to settle down
in the cool of the earth.
And I,
unable to hear the drum,
do not weep.

- Ralph Murre 2005

from Crude Red Boat, Cross + Roads Press 2007

Friday, July 11, 2008

of pick-ups and prostheses

It’s not like I know you or anything,
but right now, I’ll bet you’re hoping
this is going to be the kind of poem
that talks about riding in the back
of my daddy’s Ford pick-up,
or the kind of poem that’s
about the peculiar odor
of my maiden aunt’s bedroom.
I’ll bet you’re really hoping
this will be about the way
autumn leaves remind me
of love in the woods, or
the way lying in a hammock
with you would be perfect (but, as I said.
it’s not like I know you or anything).
And, ohmygod, I’ll bet
you’re really, really hoping
this is NOT a poem about
the horrors of war, because
where in the hell is the poem in that?
Perhaps you’re hoping
it won’t be a poem at all,
maybe it will be a church bulletin
or a discount store flyer and
maybe it won’t be the poem
that mentions wars
and death and bad presidents
and shining prostheses.

Maybe, sometime,
it won’t be that poem.

- Ralph Murre

Friday, June 27, 2008

Got Away

Pretty Sure

Like any other fisherman
in a schnapps and Blue Ribbon bar
by the river,
he talks of the one he couldn’t catch -
a girl elusive as Dolly Varden trout.
He spends his pension on bourbon
and Budweiser, corners who he can,
tells of the one who broke the surface
in a silver rainbow spray
and got away,
the arc of her flight still in his eye,
the hook still in the angler’s mouth
as he watches the sidewalk stream,
praying for one more glimpse,
pretty sure she’s not a fish story
told in a bar by the river
with dull-eyed trophies on its walls.
Pretty sure she’s still in these waters.

- Ralph Murre

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thursday, June 19, 2008

among bricks

among bricks

i sense beats beaten senseless, this immenseness
holding mere echoes of former cells, wisps of smoke
of former hells and, lately, scents of latex, spandex,
nomex, romex, and tex-mex. ex-lovers and ex-pats
eating corn-chex, this immenseness not near the size
it used to be, when it just held two or three of us
reading cross-word puzzle morning news, tea leaves,
nazis killing jews, nancy into sluggo, adams into eves.
just when i think the beat can’t go on, another regains
his feet, chases protons across the sub - urban lawn,
loses jesus and brain cells, drinks cribari ‘til dawn,
fawns a dew-covered lover, sees the dark ascending.

i sense beats beaten, poison meats eaten. i repeat,
seize the dark if they’ve taken all the light, why
fight ‘em if they could be slightly right, but you can
take what they don’t use, poor excuse for cities
left behind, these towns could have some style,
maybe painters and their models, heavy drinkers,
thinkers for a while ahead of the wrecking-ball.
then they’ll build some condos for nine-to-fivers,
some parking for the barking-dog audi drivers,
some galleries to show the artists driven out,
the rout complete, waiters on buses, three-piece
realtors selling the bricks right out of the street.

i sense beats beaten senseless, defenseless against
bankers & wankers & painted women with mba’s.
i sense the dark of nights and a lonely trumpet plays,
a lonely pen scratches through light of live-long days.

- ralph murre

among bricks first published in The Cliffs "Soundings" 2007

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


And the canvas waits
for her pale body
the way I’ll paint her
and the flake-white bed
she’ll be rising from

- Ralph Murre

Friday, June 06, 2008


and when he said let there be light
it is not certain
who he was talking to
but he stained the glass of the churches
so not too much could get in
'cause he decided he liked it dark
after all
and so he couldn't see out
'cause things were going wrong
just outside
and he made the stained glass pretty
so we wouldn't take our eyes
off of it
'cause he didn't want us looking around
too much
'cause things were going wrong
inside, too
and when he said let there be light
he didn't mean to reveal
-ralph murre

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

So Long, Old Friend

The Great Man, Paul Sills, has left the room. Friend. Director. Stern task-master. Lover of life. Father. Husband. Improvisational theater, as we know it, would simply not exist without him. Co-founder of Second City. Godfather of countless theater experiences. Worked with Nichols & May. Worked with Woody Allen. Knew how to fire up a woodstove in a Wisconsin winter farmhouse. Liked a nice glass of beer. Liked a good book. Taught me something about acting. Taught me something about life.

Paul Sills has left the room. Paul Sills will never leave the room.

- Ralph Murre

Please read all three pages at

Monday, June 02, 2008

pelican brief

column detail: Frank Lloyd Wright

alone not alone

with that book of history

over our shoulders

- arem

Friday, May 30, 2008

links op rechts

The sharpest-eyed may have already noticed a couple of new links in the right-hand column, but for the mortals in the crowd, let me point them out:
You should be aware that anything put together by Norbert Blei and the mysterious Monsieur K. will be worth following diligently, and Basho's Road is exemplary. Dedicated to haiku and other short poetry, the site is beautifully done and will certainly be an education. Watch it like a hawk.
I am also mightily impressed by the work I see in White Rose's Garden. Take a look, I think you'll like it. Not a weed in sight.
You know, I was once working some ground to plant a new garden, when I plowed up a steel rudder for a boat. Since I had no boat, it would have been logical to throw it away, but about a year later, a small boat came to me, and it needed just such a rudder. Similarly, I took the photo above a few years ago, not knowing why, and now a White Rose has come to me, perhaps in need of just such a photo.

- RM

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


in sun-flooded day
tell me how to remember
the light of one candle
- arem

Thursday, May 22, 2008

writing haiku with conrad

oh, turn down those lights
listen to the beat of it
this heart of darkness
- arem

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And Yet

And Yet

I have walked the broken surface
of your roads
and heard commerce rattling by
I have seen the raven
dodging Dodges and Kenworths
and Cadillacs for his meal

And I have dreamed

I have cried the sour tears
of your skies
and tasted the acid in the rain
I have seen the gleaming trout
gulping amid baggies and Bayliners
and bargeloads of hybrid bounty

And I have dreamed

I have listened to Sunday sermons
from pulpits
and heard your gods denied
I have seen the holy men
begging for crumbs from the table
and going unfed and crazy

And I have dreamed

I have known the laughter
of children
and seen them by the yellow busload
going to their lessons
and rehearsals and recruiters
and heard the laughing stop

And yet I dream

- Ralph Murre

from Crude Red Boat, Cross + Roads Press 2007

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


in the sharp needles
of these green-gowned spring nurses
the cure for winter
- arem

Friday, May 16, 2008

at altitude

Black and white daydream:
the continental divide,
this old fear of heights.

- arem

Monday, May 12, 2008


"Forgive us our trespasses," we beg; to no one in particular. "As we forgive those who trespass against us," we continue, as white Americans, having no idea up until a few years ago what trespassing against us might even feel like, let alone being ready to forgive it.

I saddled up my Harley-Davidson Rozinante on Saturday, and ventured out on a little quest to another corner of paradise and saw just what I had hoped to see -- but did not feel what I had hoped to feel. I knew, of course, that I was on the land of the Menominee, but had failed to REALLY take into account that it was not, by any stretch of the imagination, my land. Because I am sympathetic to Native causes and may even have a drop of Native blood in my veins, I had supposed that my being on a land reserved for its original people would feel just fine. After all, I was entering with a degree of reverence, would take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints (and not MANY of either.) I sprinkled some tobacco which I'd brought along as a sort of spirit offering. It was not my first time on a reservation.

I think the difference, this time, was that I began to think about that word. "Reservation". Began to think about it not only as a prison where we hold people for the crime of being native, but as a tiny fragment of land reserved. For the people born to it.

Oh, I will still ignore "No Trespassing" signs most of the time, but I think when I'm on reservation land I will show the courtesy of asking my hosts' permission before wandering in as though I owned the place. I think I'll never hear "This land is your land, this land is my land," in quite the same way. This land is your land.

Forgive us our trespasses.

- Ralph Murre

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Could Be (revised)

Now, don't think I've gone 'round the bend on ya, and don't be lookin' fer me down at Sunday go t' meetin'; but there COULD be angels, I guess. And I sure as hell am not sayin' there's a big G God out there, since I find it a lot easier to conceive of a lot of little g gods who don't get along very well. But when, I'm wondering, did I get so much smarter than all those people over the millenia who absolutely believed in SOMETHING in the way of a force or mind that occasionally, and maybe just for fun, screws around with our little, mortal mentalities. Oh, the true believers have done more out and out EVIL than an arena full of atheists could ever dream of, but hey, a very few of them aren't all bad. A few, even, are among my heroes -- consider the words of one of them now:

. . . I never believed in the presence of angels, but my dreams have changed . . . I asked him for one more moment of the dream, which gave me peace.

. . . Science is concerned to deprive us of illusions, though why it is eager to do so is unclear . . . What have they left us? Only the accountancy of a capitalist enterprise.

- Czeslaw Milosz, from his book SECOND SPACE

Incidentally, one of the angels in the photo above is my five year old granddaughter, who, upon returning home with her new costume said to her two-and-a-half year old brother, "I'll be an angel, and you can be Baby Jesus.", to which he replied, "No. I'm a snake." Clearly, both have inherited my genes.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Cinco at JJ's

cinco at jj's

looked a lot like this

but there were more people

and less who looked like hookers

and I weighed 50 pounds more

and the floor was not checkered

I guess

- rm

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Somewhere, there may be beauty
that is not a little sad;
but not in the ear of a poet,
not in the eye of an artist.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


Don't know how I'll ever get a haiku right,
or how to know when I have.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Looking Up

I don't often present the work of others on this page, but I was just going through some of my Buenos Aires photos, when I remembered looking up to see the image shown above, which got me to looking up "Dorothy Parker", who is too little remembered by people of my generation, and even less by those younger. Things are looking up in the field of looking up: the Googlization of Dorothy yielded, among other things, these quotes:

A little bad taste is like a nice dash of paprika.
Dorothy Parker
Brevity is the soul of lingerie.
Dorothy Parker
I don't care what is written about me so long as it isn't true.
Dorothy Parker
I might repeat to myself slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound - if I can remember any of the damn things.
Dorothy Parker
I've never been a millionaire but I just know I'd be darling at it.
Dorothy Parker
If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn't be a bit surprised.
Dorothy Parker
If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.
Dorothy Parker
Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves.
Dorothy Parker
The best way to keep children home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant--and let the air out of the tires.
Dorothy Parker
This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.
Dorothy Parker

Thursday, April 24, 2008

unCONVENTIONal wisdom?

it looks like

I could drive

across the state

to be with poets

or stay home

and be a poet

- r.m.

Monday, April 21, 2008


and look! there I am
with the other shades of blue
in your dark glasses
- arem

Thursday, April 17, 2008

short stuff

So, I'm sitting in a coffee shop and minding my own business (as much as a writer can), when I have the great good fortune to recognize haiku master Jeffrey Winke, similarly minding his own business (as much as a writer can). We talk. I score his new broadside, That Smirking Face, AND his sensational new chapbook of sensual haiku, coquette. This, after many readings of his broader collection, what's not there. If you are at all a fan of the short stuff, you NEED these books! Visit and do whatever it takes to get them.
- RM