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