Sunday, April 29, 2012

Blue Traveler

Steady, As Water

spring ice-out
the long lingered goodbye-ing
dusky dockside bar

Through air the color of the pigeons swimming in it (sulfur, foundry, tannery, coalpile, salt) and light as much from furnaces as from fluorescence in this backwater corner of a blackwater harbor, drunk with old wine and new love, the second mate swings up on deck; sleeps there. Tomorrow, there’ll be a farther horizon and, perhaps, a soaring bird without a name.

two perfumed letters
one from his wife

Sparse beard, watch-cap affectation, misfit among misfits, trickless coyote, would-be lone wolf, would-be sea dog; living and hating his dream, loving and hating its crew.  A woman here and there.  The threat of security, the security of the unknown.  Another day on the inland sea.  Another season.  The laughing gulls circling.

winter lay-up
irregular gait of sailors
friendly front street pub

~ Ralph Murre

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I may go back to blues, back to blue-black times
when rhymes and little pills didn’t cure the ills.
Joy-killer realities, banalities like paying utilities –
but it’s so hard to paint in the dark – back to a fridge
of don’t-know glowing meats, rancid eats, few beers,
pickled herring, pickled beets, picking up the beat
of trash-can slam, picking up jobs of poor-I-am and
picking up women in good-night dreams, bad-night bars,
rusted cars in South-Side parking-lot wake-ups, staggering
to fourth-floor walk-ups, singing blue of our break-ups,
if we’re singing at all.
~ Ralph Murre

This is Verse VIII (if you haven't guessed) from my longish 15-verse poem, Psalms, from the book of the same name, still sometimes available from Little Eagle Press. Each verse is accompanied by one of my pen & ink drawings.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Of Desire


That thing you wanted
Or I wanted you to want
That thing I gave

Was a little like the flower
I picked from the neighbors’
To give my mother and

That thing I wanted
Or you wanted me to want
I want still

Steal it if you have to

~ Ralph Murre

This one also appears in the Museletter, from the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets

Monday, April 09, 2012

Another Time

Another Time, Maybe

Wasn’t there a time when it all seemed o.k.?
Mantel clocks faithfully wound, maternity wards
thriving, Montgomery Wards thriving,
a Ford in the garage? An occasional world war
or mob lynching, the atomic removal
of a couple of cities far away,
a case of Schlitz in the cellar?

Wasn’t there this background music,
a bearded man conducting a thousand strings
and Dinah Shore and a summer of cicadas
in a Hollywood Bowl of Cherries?
Wasn’t it just swell? And didn’t you get
that orange box of Wheaties with Eddie Matthews
when your dad got the job at the gas station
after striking for a couple of years at Kohler?

Didn’t you shine your little shoes and put on
your little suit and snap your bow-tie
on the white collar and look up
the skirt of the angel costume on the stepladder?
And how hard was it to swipe a pack of Luckies?
Wasn’t there a time when feeling-up the Schmidt
girl in her pointy little bra was pretty good?

And wasn’t it great to go to art school
and draw nude models and swipe packs
of Gauloises at the Knickerbocker? And
wasn’t it great when your brother
let you come along to a park and build
a fort with his buddies and then
that old guy drove up and was real nice
and wanted to see your . . .
touch your . . . Oh, that’s right,
you can’t remember that, can you?

And wasn’t it fun the time you and Billy
put sand in the fuel tank of that bulldozer
and busted the windows out of that cabin?
And wasn’t it cool when you didn’t get drafted
and got to mess around with chicks
who burnt their pointy little bras?

And wasn’t it nice when Ike, in his gray suit,
and Mamie, in her navy blue dress
with the little white dots looked up from golf
and told us everything would be o.k.?
Wasn’t that nice?
And weren’t her gloves just so white?

- Ralph Murre

note: The picture was found on-line and digitally altered. The poem is from my Crude Red Boat (Cross + Roads Press)

Sunday, April 01, 2012


My congratulations to everyone concerned at "The Writer" magazine, which, with the April issue, celebrates its 125th anniversary! What lasts a century and a quarter?

The fact that a piece of my work is included in this publication is a matter of some pride, and I am sincerely grateful to Marilyn L. Taylor for including my poem, "April", in her Poet to Poet column, where I am in the good company of Annie Parcels, Bruce Dethlefsen, and a few others you may have heard of, i.e., A.E.Stallings, Elizabeth Bishop, and Emily Dickinson. The column this time takes a look at narrative poetry.

My contribution:


In boots near new from blue-
walled Harborside Resale shelf,
through mud snow crocus snow mud,
April walks down the crow-caw morning,
the dog-sniff morning, gathering
graveyard plastic flowers displaced
by storm and faded by sun
as she’s done this time each year,
and puts every one around granite grey
with his dying and carved with the life
of her long-ago Eddie who married another,
who married another, then left
early in a Chevrolet roar
at a hundred and more in fourth gear
it is said, of his leaving,
as old men grieve and drink to the dead.

~ Ralph Murre