Door Poetry: Tom Toerpe

Tom Toerpe


Tom Toerpe lives in Baileys Harbor, where he’s been a regular contributor to the public library’s annual Local Lines poetry display. His poems have appeared in a variety of publications, including the Peninsula Pulse, Wisconsin People and Ideas, Thema, Exquisite Corpse and Harp-Strings, as well as two Dickinson Series chapbooks. 

He earned the 2005 Lehman Prize from the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters; and he was recognized in two Hal Prize competitions (Peninsula Pulse) and the Helen Shaible Shakespearean/Petrarchan Sonnet Contest (Chicago Poets Society). 

Tom enjoys writing in established forms such as sonnets and haiku, with an occasional free verse added for variety.

The Tao of Ice Fishing

Lao Tsu, a sage of ancient China, said

“go with the flow,” but Lao Tsu didn’t live in

Wisconsin. Nature’s hardness is a given

when January’s fingers choke earth dead.

There is no flow here: lakes crack, blown fields shed

blades and the rivers lose their tongues. We’re driven

into our dark confessionals, unshriven.

To tell the truth, I’d rather lie in bed,

but I get up, gulp down a cup of joe

and grab my tackle-box from the garage,

put on my winter gear, climb in the Dodge

to meet my fate, my old cold-blooded Foe,

to drill, chop, drop and wait until the day

Hell freezes over. It’s the only way.

A Song of Gratitude

“We’ve forgotten about nature, to be thankful even for just the breath of life, for the sun coming up.” — Edna Gordon, Seneca

Let us be grateful for this feast today, the harvest

of each day that has passed,

and each day to come.

Let us be grateful for all who have gathered here

and all who have not, for those we hold today, and those

riven from us by tragedy and time.

Let us be grateful for this meal, its cooking, eating

and cleaning up, for a warm house

and the chilly night air,

for the sweet potato pulled from the earth,

the cranberry from the marsh,

the turkey whose wild spirit

still calls from the woods,

for the corn that tastes of a swaying wind

the pies that smell of the apple’s thud

and the pumpkin’s hollow drum.

In Autumn and in Spring

in plenitude and insufficiency

let us be grateful

for the courage to see

beyond the comforting fable, the Rockwell print – 

to hear the untold stories and unforgotten griefs

to feel the cold of frail shelters and troubled lives

to bear for one another the weight of loneliness

to sing at last for all the joys and sorrows

of all the generations that have brought us here

to this burdened feast, the harvest

of each day that has passed,

and each day to come.

Peninsula Poetry is a monthly column curated by the Door County Poets Collective, a 12-member working group that was formed to publish Soundings: Door County in Poetry (Caravaggio Press, 2015) and continues to meet.