Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Gratitude in Dark December

There's nothing more gratifying for a writer, I suppose, than to be read -- and to have a person or two in some way moved by the reading.  A couple of years ago, I penned "In Dark December" which has been published here and there in print and on line, and which I've read at several events.  Well -- people seem to like it and it's been spreading on the internet and by emails and now I get references to the piece from far and wide. Thanks to friend Kris Thacher for the above photo, showing the poem posted on the Poetry Pole on Candelaria Road in Albuquerque, New Mexico; a far piece from my digs in Northeast Wisconsin.  Sometimes, I think, a piece of writing can be bigger than its author, and that's certainly how I feel about this poem.  Grateful to have had my pen on paper -- my hook in the water -- when this one came swimming by.  Grateful, too, for the friends, new and old, who have helped keep this alive.    ~ RM

In Dark December
by Ralph Murre

Whatever you believe,
whatever you do not,
there are sacred rites
you must perform
in dark December.
Do this for me:
Pull together
the kitchen table,
the folding table,
and that odd half-oval
usually covered
with bills and broken pencils
and red ink.
Pull together family and friends,
cool cats and stray dogs alike.
Turn off everything
except colored lights,
the roaster,
the toaster, the stove.
Cook.  Bake.  Eat.
Yes, even the fruitcake.
Eat, crowded around
those assembled tables
with mismatched chairs.
Reach so far
in your sharing
that you hold the sun
in one hand,
the stars in the other,
and no one between is hungry.
Now walk together,
talk together,
be together
on these darkest nights.
Give and forgive.
Light candles and ring bells.
Sing the old songs.
Tell the old stories
one more time,
leaving nothing out,
leaving no one out
in the long night,
leaving nothing wrong
that you can make right.

~ first published in Peninsula Pulse                                                        

Saturday, November 09, 2013


I don't know about the streets of Heaven, nor am I likely to find out -- but parts of County Trunk Q were paved with gold this morning as a sheath of shed tamarack needles clung to the wetted roadway.  That's good enough for me.     ~ RM

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hallows Eve

With appropriate dark
And this damp chill
Tomorrow begins November
We shall wear brave masks tonight


Tuesday, October 15, 2013



No man, you tell me, but everyman, I tell you,
and woman and boat, every Wisconsin farmhouse
and apartment in the Bronx; an island.

That blue circle of horizon, the dangerous passage,
those days the ferry cannot cross from my shores
to the quiet cove of yours.  The sea between.

~ Ralph Murre

That's the little tug Neverwas in my sketch above, departing Rock Island, Wisconsin, in the early afternoon of long ago, and getting a friendly wave from an unidentified guest at the Thordarson Boathouse, where Sharon Auberle and I were recently privileged to read to a sizable and receptive audience from our book Wind Where Music Was.  Headliner on the program was ferryman Richard Purinton, who was introducing his Thordarson and Rock Island, an absolute "must read" for anyone interested in the history of the region and the biography of the man.  I predict that this wonderfully researched volume will be the standard text on the topic for a long time to come.     ~ RM  

Friday, September 20, 2013


digitally derived from seed co. photo

Like a Melon, Love.

She weighed it in her hand
in her heart
this chance
this could be

as a cantaloupe
this fruit
this thing
bought on faith
before it could be
cut open.

smelled of it
felt of it

~ Ralph Murre

That first line (italicized) is a snippet
borrowed from Louis de Bernieres

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Proud to present photographic proof, at last, that there is Someone Up There, a man at the controls, if you will.  Look very closely and you'll note that He, like the rest of us, is scratching His head as He looks at the good old U.S. of A.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Remembering My Education

On the First Day

Coy Colleen
goes not unnoticed
by slack-jawed juniors
and in the sky
mares’ tails
chased by stallions

their thunderhead bluster
their temporary insanity

~ Ralph Murre

Friday, August 09, 2013


One Day at Stonehenge

pretty much like another
the August sun

and over there
a couple

making promises
beyond a prayer

and praying
for something fortuitous

in this once
in their lifetime

alignment of stones
and stars

and over there
the gods

and all
the rest

~ Ralph Murre

Tuesday, August 06, 2013



There’s a guy on the radio
singing about Sweet Destiny
as though she’s bringing
something more palatable
than the just desserts I see.

     Could be.
          Could be.

Soon enough, I guess
we’ll be at Destiny’s table.
Don’t rush me
toward that sweet reward.

~ Ralph Murre

Sunday, July 28, 2013

somewhere a bell

somewhere a bell

and within
a dim and smoky lantern

swinging still
from its nail

the ship
plowing forever

into night
the sea


the stars still

the universe still

~ ralph murre

Friday, July 19, 2013

More Crude Red Boats in The Harbor

Scout’s Honor

Merit badges for tying knots -
the bowline, the sheepshank, the clove hitch.
Merit badges for whittling the likenesses
of dead presidents and woodland animals, and
of course, for assistance given to the feeble
in their never-ending quest to cross the road.

Maybe they should keep handing them out.

The badge for showing up every day
right down to the day they tell you
not to show up tomorrow.
A merit badge for the day
your infant son needs major surgery.
Another for that day he’s grown
and buys his first motorcycle.
Badges for each of your daughter’s tattoos
and piercings. Diamond insets
if you can’t really mention what’s been pierced.
A merit badge, or, at least, a colorful neckerchief
as your party loses another one.
( But it could be taken back if you move to Canada.)
Bronze medals for burying parents.
Silver for friends.
You’d rather die than win the gold.
A merit badge and letter of commendation
the day you actually give up your abuse
of anything, or anyone.
And a little badge of semi-precious material
for every day that you get out of bed
and wear a brave costume.
One for that confident smile on your face
as your knees tremble beneath the table.

                                                               ~ Ralph Murre

Good news. That's just a sample poem from my first book, Crude Red Boat, which has been out of print for a while and pretty hard to find.  But.  I've just been able to purchase some archived copies from the estate of Norbert Blei.  His Cross + Roads Press was the publisher.   He'd probably be disappointed to know that I was letting any of them go for the cover price, but that's just what I'm doing.  I'll send out a few of them for $10 plus $3 for shipping and handling, and when I feel my own supplies have become dangerously low, once again, the price will escalate sharply.  Interested?  Drop me a line at (put Crude Red Boat in the subject line).  Any of my later books also still available at that address.     ~ RM

Monday, July 08, 2013


detail: louis sullivan bank - sidney, ohio

the banker asks
what use is a butterfly
having forgotten his childhood
the poet asks
what use is a bank
having forgotten his old age

~ arem

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


At his memorial

how pleasant we all are

dressed nice
a glass of wine
the blue of the sky

these shimmering women
this sultry day
almost as if

these fine shirted men
this striped awning
just as if

on a holiday
as if he'll be in
the Adirondacks

for the summer
Europe,  maybe
Bon Voyage!

how pleasant

~ Ralph Murre

It may be too much, all this going on for the passing of one friend.  I'd promise to stop soon, but I may not keep that promise.    ~ RM

Sunday, June 30, 2013




Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Yes, the Moon in June

that moon there
and the poet
with nothing to say?

~ arem

just having a little fun with the new camera, some old software     ~ R.M.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Kid, The Old Man

photo: valerie murre-schlick, 1969

But what do you get the man who has nothing for Father's Day?  A son.  Received 15 June 1969, Father's Day that year, Morgan, my firstborn, and he, today, celebrating the holiday himself for the eighteenth time as the celebrated.  But for big, round glasses and a well-waxed handlebar moustache, he still looks about the same, though taller.  I'm shorter, fatter, balder.  Still proud of my kids, their kids.  Still getting accustomed to being The Old Man. 

Just a moment, now, to thank Arvin and Daniel and Cornelius and all those grandfathers' grandfathers back to Lieven Murre, born in 1630, and his grandfathers, whose names I do not know.

~ R.M.

Monday, June 10, 2013


In the part of town     staggering     toward some awaited gentrification
Al's Hamburger     doing the same thing since '34     with little applause I'll bet
no ovation     Not much change after the depression     the second war
There's a notice posted     high on the white wall     near the white ceiling

This is not
You don't get it your way.
You take it my way
or you don't get
the damn thing.

Hamburgers shall have onions fried or raw     that's the decree     Al's word is law
and that's O.K. with me

~ Ralph Murre

Friday, June 07, 2013

No Rush

How can it be 
that the first moose
in the wild I'd ever see
would appear
at that moment
I'd bought a new camera,
dropped in the power,
and installed the memory?

And how can it be
that the first moose
in the wild I'd ever see
had the time
in that forest
to stand and wait for me?
Had the moose nowhere
more important to be?

And didn't the moose
(and the muse)
deserve better poetry?

(of course you deserve better, too, but I had hoped maybe my first-ever moose photo would do)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Another Memorial

Off Blackhawk Road

Blackhawk, old warrior
outnumbered by European starlings,
is that you, or your namesake,
perched high on that cottonwood branch?
Do you see me here on the land?
I think you’d still know it –
this path on this island of sand.
A creek still flows.
The deer still drink the cool of it.
But Blackhawk, hear the mourning dove mourn;
don’t fly back to that little lake.

In a hundred summers, the trees may return
that the damned fool clear-cut for a view.

Let his sons, for a hundred winters,
have nothing to burn.  Hell,
let his daughters freeze with them, too.
Or is that unkind, Blackhawk?
Too hawkish a thought for my mourning dove mind?
There’s a warning of chick-a-dee-dee.
Now, a racket of crows
and the waxwings wax alarming.
Can’t I relax?  After all,
a creek still flows
and the deer still drink the cool of it.

~ Ralph Murre

Sunday, May 19, 2013

in this kind of light

and always
on a bench
on the dock
on this kind of day
in this kind of light
a few old men
buttoned in
their dark coats
and dispositions
to each others'
long stories
their hearing aids
turned off

~ ralph murre

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Getting Across

How many boards      I ask
in a boardwalk
If  I tell     says the sage
you won't build one

~ arem

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A farewell . . .

from a photo by bobbie krinsky

Norbert ~
If, once again, you must lead us where we will surely follow; Via con Dios, Amigo. Gracias por todos.  My English is not good enough to express what I feel.  I resort to a language I do not speak.  You understand.     ~ Ralph  
. . .

This morning, our friend, Norbert Blei, left us to wander in another realm.  Sunnier, maybe.  He was our teacher, our compadre, our conscience sometimes.  He was the thorn in our side.  He was the salve for our wounds.  He was our encyclopedia.  And he wrote.  Oh, Jesus, he wrote.  He published some of us, read us, read to us.  He told me I was a poet, and I believed him.

Norb caught the 8:18 train this morning.  Jude was there, on that cold platform, to see him off.

My deepest sympathy to his children and to all who loved him.

Fare thee well, Norbert.     ~ RM

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I've moved into a pretty classy neighborhood.  Well, at least one of my poems has.  Take a look, if you like, at the post for April 15, 2013, at , the online poetry page of Shepherd Express.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Ink-Dark Waters

A friend, who understands these things, suggested that the best artwork I've done in the last couple of years may be in the ink-splattered mess I've made of my little drawing board.  I stared into it for a while and began to see something of myself. This may not be what he saw.   ~ RM

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Quick Silver

and I said what I did
           and then you

and now

this frigid afternoon
   comes between us

~ ralph murre

a twenty-fifth anniversary, but my wizard alchemy
turned silver to quicksilver, and it slipped away . . .

Friday, March 01, 2013

Born Toulouse?

art of  henri de toulouse-lautrec

the thing about sad songs --
-- they make me so happy

~ Emmylou Harris

What is it, I wonder, that makes us love the blues, the sad country ballad,  the somebody done somebody wrong song, the dark forces of pulling apart?  Sure, I'm talking about song-writers, poets, and artists -- we're the worst, I suppose, but is anybody rushing out to buy totally happy music?  To buy novels or see movies without any conflict or struggle?

A lot of people, though, seem to be able to see the flick, get their safe dose of tragicomedy, and go home.  Is it only those of us striving to be creative who turn our lives, and those of people around us, into little operas?  I know people who appear to be continually happy, and it seems to me they must be running on some alternative fuel to the stuff I burn.  I fear, sometimes, that the urge to tell a good story gets all mixed up with living a life that makes a good story.  The problems really seem to arise when the tales of our existence are winding down and we try to get to a "happily ever after" line.  I keep writing, but some days I feel I'm getting farther from that ending .

   ~ Ralph Murre  

Thursday, February 14, 2013



and how they
never cease
like the best
fair to middling
like, let’s say

Anybody loving
is a kind of
to say
of you
loving me

To say
nothing at all
of miracles

~ Ralph Murre

Friday, February 08, 2013

Better Prescription

I've got some powerful new glasses which have allowed me to see things that seem to have gone unnoticed in the past.  For instance, I took a cursory glance at the Ten Commandments and saw a footnote in fine print that I hadn't been aware of at all:

Thou shalt not kill.*

* Except if thou shalt happen to possess drones. Then it's way cool.

"Democracy as law is a fight for every day. If you don't fight for that, it’s just a piece of paper." 
~ Juan Garces 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


the way
it casts beethoven's
long shadow
and here
the bare birch
dark arbor vitae

~ ralph murre

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Work (?) In Progress

What I Used to Know

I understood
that dandelions
are beautiful
as dahlias and
the cheesemaker's daughter

I knew
the grace of grasshoppers
the pomp of presidents
or peacocks and
pigeons stand iridescent in sun

I suspected
there is less
to people
than they
let on
and more

and I knew
my flesh was holy
as communion bread
or Wonder Bread
and Mogen David wine
after blessing

I heard pines

I saw the early signs
the dancers on aching toes
yet I never doubted
the questions
in the eyes of does

~ Ralph Murre

note: "work in progress" refers to the poem, not the building!

Monday, January 14, 2013

La Noche

in the Spanish night
La Abuela
her tale of great sorrow
and dancing

~ RM

Inspired by pieces for a viola ensemble, which I heard yesterday, written by Michael Kimber and performed by some gifted students of Lawrence University playing at Bjorklunden . . .

Saturday, January 05, 2013


“frig da freakin’ frackers”
I heard said
as townfolk gathered
at their poisoned well
“we’ll make some bucks
on natchral gas
but owe it
to dem crackers
what’s got
drinkin’ water to sell”

~ ol’ uncle ralph

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Another Year

Running Things

Another year
Another chance to get it right
To do the things I shoulda done
Tear down that fence I built
Quit the party
Let running things run

Another wave rolls up the beach
Tumbles stones
Polishes what survives
Shorebirds -- hungry -- rush
Consume the dazzled on the sands
End the safe, crustacean lives

Another day
Another chance to see the light
To see the clouded, rising sun
Copper flame in pewter bowl
Embrace the certain, coming toll
Or be a running thing, and run

~ Ralph Murre

An old one, from my first book, Crude Red Boat (Cross + Roads Press)