Thursday, December 27, 2012

Not to be Forgotten

photographer unknown

Attended, last evening, an event to honor my friend, poet laureate, and exemplary human, Bruce Dethlefsen.  Wrote this little piece for the gathering::

after Bruce Dethlefsen
on the conclusion of his term
as Wisconsin Poet Laureate

I forget each street by street
each road by road
your purple truck
Cross Plains to Crivitz.
The joys and pains.
As if it’s out of mind, now
your Wisconsin
cow by cow
their black and white.
I forget each day of days
the Champagne flight
of word by word
that tomato
that celebrated spread of mayonnaise
all gone again.
Each morning, each memory
flying bird by bird.
There, totally forgotten
the life by life
turned poem by poem.
Your laureate, bardic ways.

italicized lines stolen from Bruce Dethlefsen,
and herein returned by           Ralph Murre

Friday, December 14, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Times

Thinking of ordering a 2013 calendar, and I'm just wondering -- how did people know they were in the Middle Ages?  And how do we know we're not?  Of course, if the world ends on December 21st, or whenever it's supposed to end this time, that will clear that up, and these will certainly NOT have been the Middle Ages. I'm putting off most of my Christmas shopping, just in case.

It was easy enough, I suppose, to realize if you were in an Ice Age, and the Dark Ages? well, duh . . . nobody ever paid utility bills!  But precisely where you stood BC had to be a tricky calculation. And these people of the Middle Ages must have been far more advanced in their knowledge of the Big Picture than we give them credit for.  I have to double-check that this is a Monday.

None of this, of course, addresses post-modern architecture. The melting time-pieces of Dali.

~ RM

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012


woodcut: m.c. escher


The way we see pattern
       the way we assume
       it won't change

       The way we love today

The way M. C. Escher
       found in a pattern
       a fish becoming a duck

       The way we never saw it coming

       ~ Ralph Murre

Monday, November 05, 2012

Of Thee I Sing

Now understand me well - it is provided in the essence of
things, that from any fruition of success, no matter
what, shall come forth something to make a greater
struggle necessary.

. . . the road is before us!

~ Walt Whitman

Sunday, October 28, 2012

In Late Autumn

still a surprise

in spite of mounting evidence
to find that immortality
isn't likely

~ arem

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Let Us Admit

Let us admit

some of us can see dragons from here,
though we don't believe in dragons.

And some of us can just about
make out the conversations

of the several gods, though we don't
believe in them, their little indignations.

~ Ralph Murre

(this is an excerpt from a larger piece I'm working on)

Saturday, October 06, 2012

a little fiction

Stitches in Time
   ~ Ralph Murre

It, too, is called a thimble; this heavy galvanized fitting I splice into three-strand hawser on deck.  Outbound tug Maria.  My old man at the helm.

But the notion of “thimble” takes me back to that other sort, silvery there on the third finger of her arthritic hand.  Grandma Maria.  Seems it’s always been there, protecting that fingertip from the little stabs she knew were coming, leaving the rest of her bare to the unforeseen wounds that would come.  There was the thimble as she pushed and pulled needle and thread, stitch on stitch, as depression flour sacks became dresses, as a spare blanket became a suit.  Stitch on stitch, still, as my christening gown was shaped.  White on white, as a tiny row of sailing boats was embroidered upon it. Rising infant to be bestowed beneath crosses of cathedral’s spires on the high hill.  And her father before her, sewing stitch on stitch, white on white, patching sails blown out ‘round The Horn, stitch on everlasting stitch, triangle needle and leather palm, from Roaring Forties to Tropic Trades, and more than once, stitching a shroud: a benediction, a blessing. Fallen sailor to be bestowed beneath crosses of brigantine’s rig on the high sea.  Aroma of pine tar, beeswax, mutton tallow.  A very old man, long at anchor, calls out “Daughter, bring me rum.”  She looks up from her sewing and agrees, “A thimbleful, Father,” as an ocean of time slides by, sewn with a meridian of stitches.

The faithful Maria rises to meet the oncoming swell. Settles. Rises again. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

snapshot: starlings, maybe

A boy stands, looking out

through the barred window
of the cornfield
row on row
straight as blue silos
straight as red barns.
His father’s tractor
turns more dull furrows
to the flat horizon and
only that distant cloud
dares to show a curve.
And this swirl of starlings
-- exploding --
from the yellow grain.

- Ralph Murre

That's an oil painting (about 3 x 5 feet) I started years ago, then abandoned, unfinished, for a very long time. I recently dug it out and completed working on it, I hope. Somewhere in the interim, the poem came to me. And no, it is not autobiographical. Exactly.   ~ R.M.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


You Gods in Granite

and, oh, you alabaster angels,
you marble Mercury,
I have carved you in my own image.
Can you not try to go lightly
in your shoes of ponderous
and imponderable weight,
can you not try to soar
on your wings of stone?

~ Ralph Murre

Monday, September 10, 2012

with all your science

            with all your science
                      tell me
            how much     
                      of the ocean
            is tears
                       tell me
                       the fish aren't crying
                                             all the time

                       ~ ralph murre

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Just Now

just now
as the planet still spins
with its endearing little wobble
and you
with that smile
and an air of possibility
just now
I think I'd like to live
to be very old

~ Ralph Murre

previously published in my collection, The Price of Gravity (Auk Ward Editions)

Monday, September 03, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

water's edge

long in its cradle
a weathered boat on the hard
a weathered sailor-man
on a green-painted bench
red sun in the west

~ arem

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Brief Article

found on the web, artist unknown

A Brief Article on Articles in Haiku
by Ralph Murre
(in response to a question raised by CX Dillhunt)

in the poem   the short-
est of the shortest short poems
is there room for the

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ides of August

end-of-summer sky
we call out names of those stars
close enough to hear

~ arem

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Fishermen and Poets

Against the Wall 

Like the beaded-pine wainscot
of his backwoods tavern, up north,
Clarence has darkened over the years,
hearing the lies of fishermen and poets;
the truths of hunters, fresh from the kill.
He’s been scarred by bar fights and carelessness, but
cleaned up and preserved by Irene,
who sees past his rough edges.

What’ll happen, he worries,
when the shot-and-a-beer woodsmen are gone,
when the kids want him to replace his old jukebox,
want him to replace the music of his life ?
Like his old paneling,
he may be replaced, too - by some modern miracle  -
shining and impervious.

Until then, he watches and listens;
soaking it up, gaining color - and
telling his stories under a flickering beer sign:
a bear in a canoe, going with the flow.

~ Ralph Murre

In looking at some old poems, I came across this one, written in 2004, and which appeared in my first collection, Crude Red Boat (Cross + Roads Press). There are a few from that era that I still like.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Here's an excerpt from something I'm working on:

. . . you have to know that in that time and place, they were Ma and Pa.  Most everybody's parents, unless they were thought to be putting on airs, were Ma and Pa.  Baths were taken on Saturday nights.  You went to church on Sunday mornings.  Yes you did.  Public schools were mostly walked to, had one classroom and two outhouses.  Catholic kids, though, were most likely to go to St. Michael's.  Several rooms.  Indoor plumbing.  Hail Mary, full of mackerel.  We all got along fine and settled minor differences with fistfights.
   In our little school, Miss Nedra Quartz held sway over the eight grades, or as many grades as had students in a given year.  She was it.  Teacher, nurse, theatrical director, janitorial overseer (we kids were the janitors), cop.  Palest woman I ever saw, when she wasn't red with rage, which was fairly often.
   And yes, we did walk to school.  Just a mile and a half for me, through snow and rain and dazzlements of all sorts, for a few years.  Then, Miss Quartz's brother bought a station wagon which became our schoolbus.  Comfy, but without dazzlement.  Unheard now, the curses of blackbirds, the scat-song blessings of bob-o-links.  Un-sniffed, the  wild roses in fencerows, as we traveled the graveled and dusty distance in a wood-sided Ford, assuming everybody in the whole world liked DDE, DDT, and Wonder Bread . . .     ~ Ralph Murre

Friday, July 20, 2012


Imagine my surprise, when in a shameless act of self-googlization, I learned that I do not exist. Not in these United States. 0 people named Ralph Murre. Which I take to mean "zero". But it might be O, I suppose. As in "Oh, people named Ralph Murre, why are you here, googlizing, when you could be sitting on the terrace of some pleasant taverna overlooking the sea, writing the poems that would save the world?" Alas, no, all I can see is zero. A circle of nothing. It gives me pause . . .

on this hillside
where blossoms have drifted
we wait for fruit

~ Ralph Murre (?)

Friday, July 13, 2012


from a photo by eddee daniel

when a poet
attempts to be a painter, too
how can he afford
all those shades of blue?

~ arem

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Thing About Steel

The freighter American Spirit was in port here for repairs lately, and seeing her proud name rusting away seemed to cry out for some sort of Independence Day comment, some little State of the Union report. I think the ill-kept stern of the ship provided a fine digital blackboard and a fine metaphor.     ~ R.M.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Insel und Halbinsel

a peninsula, it doesn't matter which one
a ferry boat at the end of it
the island of last chances out there somewhere
at the ticket office, a long queue

~ ralph murre

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Confronting the Big Guys

A book I'm reading says the Buddha talks about four qualities of horses: the excellent horse, who moves upon merely seeing the shadow of the whip; the good horse that runs upon feeling the lightest touch of the whip; the poor horse, which doesn't go until it feels pain; and the very worst horse doesn't budge until the pain penetrates to the very marrow of its bones. What the hell kind of buddha would say such a thing? These may be qualities of horses as seen by the cart-driver, as though the only reason to be a horse is to serve man. What does the Buddha know about being a horse? Old Arem feels that among horses, the most revered is doubtless the mustang, the wild cayuse running free, while the hardest-working Dobbin is probably thought to be the biggest fool. An even bigger fool, though, might be a person who without question follows any man-god-myth, whether the Big G., the Big A., the Big B., or whomever.   ~ RM

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Arem's Thought for the Day

Of course, the "coexist" bumper sticker is the property of someone else, some genius, somewhere. One of my very favorite things.  I hope my satirical addition to the icon is slightly offensive, but not outright illegal. If it's yours, your lawyers can contact me at the address listed elsewhere on this site. Perhaps we'll coexist in copyright court.   ~ RM

Friday, June 22, 2012

No Colossus

Just knocked out a little oil painting I thought you might like to see. Each year, The Hardy Gallery, situated in an old warehouse on the Anderson Dock, which projects out into Eagle Harbor at Ephraim, Wisconsin, sponsors a project wherein a couple hundred of us do work on 6" x 6" canvasses which are then assembled into a community mosaic, which is displayed for a while, then disassembled with the individual pieces going to buyers from near and far. The trick is that the buyer has no idea which piece he or she will receive.
For an inspiration for my piece, I was thinking about some of the classic sculptures located in harbors, and thought I'd paint something based on one of them. Which would be fitting for Ephraim? The Colossus of Rhodes? Nah, a bit grandiose. The Statue of Liberty? Hmmm . . . maybe. Then I hit upon it. The Little Mermaid? YES. She fits. 
By the way, don't get creeped-out by her flesh tones, she's bronze, OK?
It sure was fun to drag out my oils, which I hadn't seen for about five years.    ~ Ralph Murre

Monday, June 18, 2012

what she's having

who’s counting

six times in the course of a conversation
overheard at the sandwich shop
a woman exclaimed o my god
which is more often
than I’ve encountered that phrase
in my several courtships and marriages

so much is in the presentation
of sandwiches and things

~ Ralph Murre

Sunday, June 10, 2012


   What shall I promise?
   Then what shall I promise
   I could promise
                                                    Not to promise
   But I’ve broken

                         - Ralph Murre

While I'm fond of saying that I began writing in 1999, it's not quite true, since this one, recently unearthed, is from 1986. Lost forever, I hope, are a few pieces from the early sixties.  ~ R.M.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bound for Glory

Bound for Glory

this train of black boxcars
this rain on the too thin roof
this black boxcar blue
this graffiti blue
this hue of spray-can
this spray-can’t
     sign of times
this sign of signing
     this singing     this song
  along the rails     this wailing
of a failing America
(or is this how it works?)
this boxcar with my name on it
this train of our names
this signing
this signature
this bounced check
this stacked deck
this black cloud thunder
this trestle as long as a life
this train
            this ride
                       this other side

~ Ralph Murre

Monday, May 21, 2012

hear it?

the deafening weight of disappointment
the inaudible lightness of hope
a faint sound of lifeboats rusting
and from somewhere
an orchestra, laughter, dancing

~ ralph murre

Monday, May 07, 2012

White Bike at the Cross + Roads

Mentor to the midwest and publisher of Cross + Roads Press, Norbert Blei, recently sponsored a little event in the competitive sport of poetry writing, through his excellent Poetry Dispatch . Spur-of-the-moment, drop what you're doing and write a poem.  You can have a look at the results in his two most recent posts, "The White Bicycle" and "The White Bicycle II".  Some very good work here, and I'm happy to say that while my little piece didn't make the podium, it landed squarely among the best of the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time poems.  Good enough.  Here it is:

her white bicycle

the way she rode it
as much on clouds
as on concrete

as much from as toward
on a pavement of dream

the way I saw or didn't see
the way it didn't seem
she any longer needed me
to run along beside

the way the ride then
circled back in setting sun

the thing about a cycle
is the way it'll repeat

her white bike may come back
may lean up
again against my shack

who knows when a cycle
or circle is complete?

~ Ralph Murre

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Going Taupeless

Spring is officially here. Isn't it time you painted something? And by "paint", I don't mean beige, taupe, or ecru. A bolder shade of gray. Paint comes in colors, too. Real colors. Isn't your neighbor vacationing this week? Wouldn't this be the time to start? His house or yours.

~ arem

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


From that granite you might have used
to mark my gravesite, carve instead a
short column too small to support your
carefully balanced weights of worry,
carve an orb to bowl over the top-heavy
tenpins of your fear, or just chip away
at that stone in your search for truth,
‘til only gravel remains. Scatter it along
the path you walk each day, and that
little pain in your heel can be in memory
of me. It is as much truth as I know.

~ Ralph Murre

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dream On

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

In the spirit of Good Used Poems, here's an old one, previously published in Soundings, in Clark Street Review, and in Crude Red Boat (Cross+Roads Press)

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Going Down With the Ship

What unreliable vehicles are poems. Even the great ones rarely take you where you want to go. Poet and reader alike can only sit idly by, hoping for the best. I suppose the reader can jump ship though, at the first sign of trouble, while the writer, like the good captain, must ride her down. ~ RM

Sunday, March 04, 2012

March Fourth

Remind me -- what classic text was it, that in part read,

". . . and we'll march forth, trailing arbutus behind us . . ." ?

~ RM

Monday, February 27, 2012

Just Moonlight

The moonlight behind the tall branches
The poets all say is more
Than the moonlight behind the tall branches.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .~ Fernando Pessoa

It is just moonlight, there
as a god is just a god
a hummingbird just that
with its ruby throat
tall branches not really
reaching for the sky
just the moonlight, there

. . . . . .~ Ralph Murre

My thanks to poet Barbara Larsen, who passed along the Pessoa quote.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Joan, Juliie, and Juliette

There doesn’t seem to be a major award ceremony
for best daydreaming,
though I imagine long limos
and carpets in the streets
and, perhaps, Juliette Binoche
confidently holding my elbow.
As the giddy reporters recede
and camera men are beaten back,
( I modestly assume they’re focused on Juliette)
we settle into the thick plush
of the multi-tiered theater and
anxiously await Best Performance
in a Leading Role; Domestic Daydream,
Comic or Tragic; Male.
I am, of course, honored simply
to be mentioned in the same breath
as my rivals, and Sam Shepard
and Penelope Cruz hand me
the weighty statuette. Penelope, in congratulation,
( and a see-through gown cut down to here)
kisses me for an embarrassingly long time
which makes Juliette frightfully jealous
and I am speechless, except to thank
Walt Whitman and Mohandas Gandhi
and no one can explain why
Joan Baez and Julie Christie
rush the stage before I can be led off
to safety where I find that
I am in a laundromat;
driers slowly turning,
a light rain tapping the window.

~ Ralph Murre

previously published in Wisconsin People and Ideas

Thursday, February 23, 2012

this rose

the day is gone

a garden of flowers closing

but still, this rose

~ arem

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Will and Testament

Will and Testament

They’ll need to know this much – the two strong sons –
to know what, beside their flesh and progeny, I leave.
The jack pines I planted, I’ll tell them,
over a half-century old, those that survived
the first summer. It was dry.
But they’re sold with the ground
that holds your grandparents’ ash, I’ll tell them.
There are the boats I built, I’ll tell them,
the green-painted boats. But those are sold too,
I’ll tell them, with the sunlight on the bay.
And the houses, I’ll say, drawn and built
by these hands. And yours, I’ll proudly add.
Sold now, but think of the times we had.
The roof-beams and hell we raised.
And the poems, I’ll say, here are the poems.
Couldn’t sell those, I’ll tell them truthfully,
or give them away. Here – I’ve books of them, Boys.
Thin books, it’s true, with few words,
but they’re like new. Here are the poems.

~ Ralph Murre

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Self-Portrait as Cliff-Diver

Self-Portrait as Cliff-Diver

you've seen our brass and bronze
to the sea
our naked intention
that long leap from the known world
into her unknown arms
you've seen us climbing back
facing the edge
all over again

~ Ralph Murre

Friday, February 03, 2012

SECOND REWRITE: the storyteller

So I'm laid up a little, you might say, since I scuffled some with Eldred comin' outa Buddy G's 'round closing, what with the ice on the walk & all. Now, Eldred's a kind of an ass, but ever since Fat Allen's got missin' somewheres, he's the only one of 'em left, 'cept for Bickner. So Eldred feels kinda bad 'bout gettin' the best a me, or somethin', an he comes up t' my flat, gets me some supper. Brings pints of peppermint & blackberry. That's how y' know he feels bad or he'd a just brung Aristocrat. That's what he gen'ly drinks, cuz he thinks the name of it puts him somewheres in the upper crust. He even asked Little Bickner t' come over & that's who we figured it was at the door, thank y' Jesus, cuz Eldred's bin tellin' me some kinda tale ain't got no end to it at all, see?
He comes back in the room an' "Hey," he sez, "what was at th' door," he sez, "it ain't Lil Bickner, it was Magdalene. She sez come right now, Lil Bickner's hurtin' some. So I'll jez finish my story an' we . . ."
Well, I can't hardly say nothin'. but I'm tryin' to rise up from outa my chair, tryin' t' get Charlie L.'s old cane, what I won offa him, under me. Eldred sees I'm aimin' to go. ". . . yeah, but my story," he sez, "now where was I?"
"What happened to Little Bickner?!!!" I sez, in that kinda way where y' could see I wasn't just askin' t' pass the time.
"Oh, I dunno, Ralph" he comes back at me as he sits him down in that lazy boy I bought offa Suzy when Fat Allen got missin', "somethin' 'bout down th' block, somethin' 'bout that crazy fella down there, but hey, that ain't my story . . . doncha wanna hear th' end to my story? It's just Magdalene at th' door, it ain't Lil Bickner, an b'sides," he sez, "his story's bout over, sounds like."
Well, I can't get the damn cane under me nohow, so I settle back down. Pour me a little bitta that blackberry.

~ Ralph Murre

what was at the door
it ain't Little Bickner
it was Magdalene
she says come right now
Little Bickner's hurtin some
so I'll finish my story an we . . .
yeah but my story
now where was I?
oh I don't know
somethin bout down the block
that crazy fella
but hey that ain't my story
doncha wanna hear th'end
to my story?
just Magdalene at the door
it ain't Little Bickner
an b'sides his story's bout over
sounds like

Not a dream, exactly, but having just fallen asleep, I woke at two o'clock with this little monologue running around my head. I jotted it down exactly as I saw it, heard it, and went right back to sleep. I have no idea who these characters are, but if you know anyone named Magdalene and Little Bickner, you might want to look in on them this morning. ~ Ralph Murre

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


29 days, on a good year,

and there are so few.
Rhode Island of months,
but big enough
for the long shadows of ground hogs,
the scarlet heart of love,
the big, fat Tuesday before the lean
- big enough –
for the full face of the moon
to smile over at the climbing sun
- big enough –
to allow hope and to start seeds on window sills
- just the right size –
to stand between two-faced January
and surly March
- just the sort –
to shine a bit more light
into a dark corner
while trying to straighten out the mess
the others have made of the calendar,
as sap dreams toward upper branches,
and saps like me, toward spring.

- Ralph Murre

first published in the Wisconsin Poets' Calendar, a few years back