Sunday, September 27, 2009



He who travels on peninsulas must expect someday to to turn back.

~ Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Sure, you know about the red metal of common cents
and wires, its green patina inspires your sense of age,
and you’ve seen page and page of the Keweenaw’s
bardic sage talking of the Cliffs, but ‘til you’re there,
you don’t ask the what ifs, the copper-clad history
stiffs ya ‘til it stares ya in the face, this place evades
explaining term, not a germ of the thing comes through
‘til you stand on a zillion tons of rock broke and hauled
from shaft to light, this zillion ton blight a story of men.

Sure, you know, sure, you know, about the men –
the native men whose red metal was found on the ground,
the intruding men who showed the way to the deep dark
metallic middle-Earth toil, the Earth altering, never
faltering toil, the five-thousand foot down toiled rock,
the shock of Earth-rape tragedy, sure you know, sure.
About the men in Pittsburgh and Boston, lost in greenback
red-metal reverie and railroaded resource removal ‘til
it’s played-out and gone, ‘til it’s played out and gone.

Sure, you know, don’t you – about the Caesarian-section
birth from Earth of spirits unnamed, untamed – torn
with the red metal to the surface – left there in mourning
bourne of Earth-rape tragedy, warnings hidden now by
green drape raggedy forest recovery, winter morning
long-white snow-covery, oh, very well hidden warnings,
but stone rings mark spirits' homes and poems are writ
and hung in trees to appease these gods, these gods who
won’t be played out and gone in this little story of men.

- Ralph Murre
(first appeared in The Cliffs / Soundings)

I am an inveterate traveler on peninsulas, and a turner back. Of course, I've spent most of 40 years on one, but find myself continually drawn to other peninsulas of the Great Lakes, the Bruce, the Garden, the Keweenaw -- always comparing them to the Door, always asking "what if . . ." in the manner, I suppose, of travelers everywhere, newly enamored by their surroundings. If you think that my writing about the Keweenaw (see my post "U.P. North" from July '09) bears a streak of "don't throw me in that briar patch", you are quite perceptive. I rarely mention what's wonderful about the places I travel, because as Dave Engel said in a poem he read the other night in Calumet, "I don't want to see you there."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Whole Cloth

The latest from Little Eagle Press, and a very proud addition to our in-print list, is WHOLE CLOTH, by Ronnie Hess. The volume tells, in well-crafted verse and illustration, the story of Ms. Hess' exploration of her husband's genealogical roots and their subsequent transplantation onto American shores. "Roots" is the right term here, because they were hidden well underground and serious digging into the rocky soils of the Sub-Carpathian Rus' was required to unearth them. To tell such a tale would in itself be interesting, but hardly unique; to tell the tale in compelling poetry is a much greater challenge, and the one to which Ronnie Hess has risen admirably.

WHOLE CLOTH by Ronnie Hess, ISBN 978-0-9823419-5-7, 48 pp. 13 illus.
Available for $12 plus $3 s&h from:
Little Eagle Press
P.O. Box 684
Baileys Harbor, WI 54202

~ personal checks gladly accepted
~ book vendors: please inquire

Also available:
RED BOOTS by Michael Koehler
CROW INK by Sharon Auberle
BAR CODE anthology
PSALMS by Ralph Murre

Monday, September 14, 2009


So I'm sittin' at the counter
like always
not feelin' that chipper
sr. discount cuppa joe, black
like always
He comes in, starts yackin'
like always
givin' me the blow by blow, see
of how he squeeked out this victory
in a tough solitaire game
I say fer d'chrissake
why d'ya think they call it SOLITAIRE ???
n'why 'n hell aincha fishin'?
He says somethin' 'bout
his old lady's bum leg
like always
n' I say I didn't ask
why y'r old lady ain't fishin', y' putz
an' he's back with
the freezer's full anyhows
and why ain't YOU fishin'?
Aw, hell, I tell him
lookit today's special
Atlantic Cod, all you can eat
Can't afford fishin'
I tell him
pretty much
like always

~ Ralph Murre

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Weather Proof

But -- this little reality we've built
and shingled so carefully
to keep out the dreams --
can't we paint it a brighter color ?
~ RM

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Labor Day

Yeah, I'll write something about Labor Day, but I haven't much idea of what it means in this era. It's changed. We've changed.
I'm the son of a union carpenter and grew up in a time when a family could live pretty well on what ONE skilled craftsman brought home after a forty-hour week. We could celebrate the ability of American workers, we could sleep with full bellies under a leak-free roof purchased with fair wages fought for by organized labor. We had some notion of what Labor Day meant as we ate our slice of American Pie.
The slice, it appears to me, has shrunken considerably for the average working schmuck, even as the productivity of American workers hit an all-time high last month. Labor unions seem to be widely viewed as luxuries our society can no longer afford, in an age that allows easy exploitation of the world's most impoverished, wherever they are found, whatever form of slavery they can be forced into.
So, does the worker from the U.S. or any other rich, developed nation deserve more than one from a country teetering on starvation's brink? Of course not. But any worker, from anywhere, deserves some bit of dignity, some idea of parity, some ability to earn what it takes to feed, shelter, and clothe a healthy family. "Workers of the world, unite." they used to say, but "they" were commie bastards who are in some disfavor these days. Still, until it happens, we will only celebrate a meaningless Labor Day, with most of our picnic goodies supplied by the outsourcers as we wave American flags made in China (the home of ACTUAL commie bastards).
What do I know, viewing as I do, the working world from the safe distance of my Social Security dole? Not much. Not much. But I do see my children and grandchildren having, quite possibly, less opportunity than I had. Some of this, of course, is my own fault for believing that I, too, could work just forty hours per week. Some of it, though, is due to the devaluation of working people and of work, itself. And some of it makes Labor Day, for me, a bitter remembrance of a better time.

~ Ralph Murre