Monday, July 27, 2009


On the walls of this cave,
my paintings of the hunt
for the perfect excuse,
umber on dolomite illustrations
of my near-conquest of the fear of success.
Close to the fire,
where we might have huddled
and invented language,
my drawings of the vision
I hoped to have,
and in the deepest recesses,
the undervalued reliefs
which I carved in your absence
to commemorate the time
we were almost together.

Sometimes still,
the sputter of a torch
where I sketch.
Sometimes still,
the possibility
of dreaming.

~ Ralph Murre

"Graffiti" appeared in Crude Red Boat from Cross+Roads Press

Friday, July 24, 2009

Another Side

The photo shows another side of the Keweenaw Peninsula, and has nothing whatsoever to do with another side of my writing, which I am proud to say appears at the excellent Haibun Today site, and to which this link may direct you >>> <<< (go there now)
~ RM

Sunday, July 19, 2009

U.P. North

south in green summer
around the foot of Green Bay
a green car turns north

As we’ve done before, and I’ve done before that, we point toward the Keweenaw – once copper rich, now dirt poor – the Upper Peninsula of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. North of Green Bay and the Fox Valley’s fortunate, farmlands fall away quickly, and so does any evidence of recent prosperity. Forest and bog slide by a million trees at a time and we get into the big land of Tookaway. Took away iron. Copper. Silver. Took away first-growth timber and First Nation people. Took away everything of value. But the invaluable remains, flourishes. The rivers flow. The trees grow. A few people eke out a life.
In Houghton, browned men and yellow machines dig at the pavement. The dirt. The history.

an old man walking
as if bearing a great weight
his soul enormous
through a thin jacket
against the cold of summer

The railroad tracks have been removed from the lift bridge to Hancock; the taking away complete. Quincy smelter ruins of the past fight for the right to co-exist with condos and other ruins of the present. Wavelets of blue water make a chuckling sound as they nibble at foundations.
Climb the long hill to Calumet. Behold glory gone so quickly there was barely time to screw-up its old quarters. Barely money to re-muddle the red-on-red stone and brick of the place, now deemed unsuitable for Mom, Pop & The Oh-So-Average Kids, but not yet vacated by the denizens of depression; the drunks, the drifters, the drop-outs.

from a red stone stoop
in Sunday morning brightness
his unshaven stare

In a nation that’s just getting back to hard times, behold a place that’s harbored them for a couple generations since the mines have played out. Behold the look of uncommon wealth gone away. We may all get used to it. But look at the handsome buildings left behind; left for the taking. Look at the epitaph of The Good Life. Look at the good folks fixing up in spite of churches out of business along with their parishioners, dance halls along with dancers, milliners with mills.

in an empty street
as if something might happen
a cameraman

Even some of the taverns have closed, unlikely as that may sound. Even some of the best of them. Elegant emporiums of leaded glass and leather-backed booths, of mahogany and madness. A few remain.

the darkened windows
with their neon signs gone out
Sunday morning bars

In the vacuum, after the great sucking sound of the removal of resources has subsided, come the artists and poets and other marginalized people with imagination, drawn by the low rent and high ceilings of the place, drawn by the Big Sea Shining Water so close at hand, the Woods, the Cliffs. Drawn by the very fact that this is a place away. They fix things, some. They fix more. It starts to get pretty nice. They win a few. They lose a few. If they win too many, they lose it all, because property values go up to the point they can no longer afford to stay. They find a new town, I suppose, and make it safe for realtors and re-zoning. In the meantime, Calumet is just the mix of heaven and hell that I like to visit when I can.
May our friends, the fixer-uppers on the Keweenaw Peninsula, stay ahead of the forces of gravity, entropy, and the tearer-downers; but not so far ahead as have our friends on that over-priced peninsula of Wisconsin, which we call home.

south in green summer
around the foot of Green Bay
a green car returns

~ Ralph Murre

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Like a Bridge

The thing about a bridge - The Golden Gate, The Mackinac, Brooklyn, London, Pont Neuf, or Monet's Garden - the thing about a bridge is that its utility is lost on no one; its symbolism is lost on no one. It is as pure and straightforward a thing as mankind has created. Is it in spite of, or because of that, I wonder, that there are so many designs, so many ways of solving what is, essentially, the same problem? Oh, I know any engineer would tell me, rightly, that each is a unique problem, but my point is that 100 engineers would design a hundred different bridges to get the same path across the same same stream. Vive la difference!
A bridge, a home, a lighthouse, a fireplace, an airplane - all utilitarian things that also have tremendous symbolism, and all have been designed in almost as many ways as have snowflakes or pebbles on a beach - alike, but not alike.
I suppose I'm writing not about bridges at all, but about the beauty of the human mind; about whatever is that instinct that makes us want to create, to BE, something different.
Perhaps we should celebrate our difference with each bridge we cross.
~ Ralph Murre

Thursday, July 09, 2009


detail of image from Como Park, St. Paul ~ don't know who the artist is

"See Spot run," they said, and I did, but noted that he couldn't change his spots. Could he spot six differences between the drawings, I wondered, could he find the G-spot, could he spot me a C-note, or at least a 10-spot? Was his high-C spot-on? Should he have been in the spotlight? Could he spot a stoplight? If he were bathed really well would he be Spotless, or would he still be seeing spots? My memory is a bit spotty on this point.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


So you're telling Jolly Old England the affair is off. Good for you. Good for you. She's got kind of a lot invested in your little Wild West show, though. She's gonna fight y'for it and it could get kinda nasty. And she is family. In the end, you're still gonna love her, y'know. You're still gonna love her people, wierd as they are. You'll still want to help her out if she's in a scrape. But go ahead n'tell her, if that's what you've got to do. Go ahead n'tell her.

~ Ralph Murre