Pausing with Poetry

Door County boasts a thriving poetry scene – weekly readings, long-established critique groups, even its very own Poet Laureate to promote the ancient art throughout the county.

Door County’s tight-knit community of poets pen poems as diverse as this community and its inhabitants, calling upon memories, figures of their past, drawing inspiration from the landscape, their imagination, and one another.

A callout for poems to grace the pages of Door County Living received an overwhelming response. These are just a handful of the meticulously crafted, poignant and compelling poems submitted by the poets who call Door County home.

~ Sally Slattery, Literature Editor


Wash Day

By Judy Roy


Today at mass, Father Bob

announced that he’d met God

at the Valmy Laundromat,

where he brought his shirts and socks,

along with altar cloths,

for their weekly purification.

A few parishioners laughed.

Father Bob fixed them with his one good eye.

He said that after a preliminary exchange of credentials

he’d asked God (who wore a gray shawl

and had Her hair pinned up)

if She ever had regrets at what she’d made.

He thought that war and fratricide might make Her list,

but She replied that these were our choices.

Her only second thought was snakes.

Then she gathered up her laundry,

put it in a red plastic basket

and went out the door.

She might have winked;

Father Bob wasn’t sure.


Judy Roy, a Wisconsin native and retired teacher, has been writing since she first learned to hold a pen. She is a co-author of Slightly Off Q and Two Off Q. A solo collection of her poems, Now and Then, will appear this summer. She lives in the woods north of Baileys Harbor.


Blossomburg Cemetery

"Reaching Pines" by Ryan Miller.

“Reaching Pines” by Ryan Miller.

By Barbara Larsen


Sun filters through the tall white pines.

Shadows play tag on the green grass

that roofs the earthy homes

of the tolerant dead.


A stone on each grave lists facts,

adds words the living find important:

 Will remember her smile…

  Landed Omaha Beach – D-Day…

  Say they were happy, say they knew it…


The dead are nonjudgmental, welcome

those who stop here to study words,

absorb peace. If sojourners listen

they hear whispers or perhaps

just the susurrus of the pines.


Barbara Larsen, Door County Poet Laureate, 2011– 2013, has been active in teaching and promoting writing activities for 30 years in the county. She has published six books of poetry.



By Sharon Auberle


in the coffeeshop

a man is writing

and I nearby

am mesmerized

by his words

so neatly marching

across the page

endless row upon

row of obedient

upright soldiers

not a single desertion

from the ranks

whose commander

rarely pauses or looks up…


my words are gypsies

black-maned and mustached

hurtling down the page

leaping from line

to line


whirling wenches

in tattered skirts

bosoms heaving

castanets clacking

coaxing comrades

out of darkness

tinkers and tramps


mad as hatters

battling up into the light


Sharon Auberle is a writer and photographer, the author of a memoir in poetry, and several collections containing both her poems and artwork. For reasons which are still a mystery to her, she has authored a blog – “Mimi’s Golightly Café” – for eight years, which contains a potpourri of her images and words.


A Revelation of Stars

(for Joe…who sees just enough…to still think I’m beautiful)

By Jami Hanreddy


Spots of food from last night’s meal

or even yesterday’s oatmeal

hardened onto porcelain kitchen sink

and he gave no thought or wink,

to the time to soak and scrub or what she feels?


Bits of almond from last night’s snack

decorating the bathroom sink in fact

from spitting in the sink no doubt

after brushing his teeth to get the particles out,

a little present left for her with lack of tact?


Dots of coffee drips on the new hardwood floor

leading to his study door and

carpet adorned by crumbs of toast

seeming to be a boast

of carelessness, and no thought of her forevermore?


These were the things, because they took up hours,

that once led her to irritation, then resentment, even rage and roars,

until, walking the pups one starlit night on their nightly dance,

which might have held so much more romance,

he told her he could not see the stars.


Jami Hanreddy lives in an interspecies household in Ellison Bay with Joe, Fred, Emma and the wolf that hangs around trying to mate with Emma.



By Hanne Gault


Uncle Holger,

a most unlikely candidate for the position.

Overweight and self-indulgent,

never without a cigarette ashing itself

liberally on tante’s furniture.

He had a hard time letting go

of a bottle of booze till he finished

every drop in a single sitting.


No rosebud either when it came

to off-colored expressions,

and as far as was known never

had a regular job but spent his days

at the Royal Library until it was time

to go home, with his decoy briefcase.


And there was I, hanging on him

every chance I got.

Listening to his stories,

laughing at his jokes.

He called me funny names

and I called him uncle Ho.


He wrote songs for all occasions,

especially family events,

with alacrity he skewered

everyone’s quirky spots

but always with a twist of love.

His heart as big as the Titanic.


Often he asked me for a little help

and I, in ecstasy by the honor was told

to go find “good words” and bring them

back in my father’s old cigar box.

When done writing he would ask my opinion.


In my young years I wondered why

this unlikely man so held my childish adoration.

I know it now.


Hanne Gault, author of You Are From Where?, has lived in Ellison Bay since 1997. She belongs to two poetry groups and has published poems in Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, Free Verse and Peninsula Pulse. She won third prize in The Joanne Hirshfield contest, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and was featured in the 2012 late summer issue of Door County Living.


Somewhere nearby,

By Ralph Murre


a man is singing

Los Chicos de mi Barrio.

But I hear Las Chicas, I think.

And I think

about the women of my neighborhood,

old now, like me.


Because a man of many years

surely cannot remember

young girls, cannot remember

anything of their dark eyes’

flash in dancehall light.


He has no recollection

of locked together

night-time rhythms

of the sweet, sweaty



He thinks mostly of willows

and rivers now.   Songbirds.


Still, a man is singing

in a language I do not speak,

and I think

about the women of my neighborhood,

old now, like me.


Their soft bodies and hard looks,

their thin lips, unsmiling.

But beguiling still,

these chicas viejas.

And still, there’s a chance –

there’s something in their step

that could be dance.


Ralph Murre, a longtime Door County fixture and curmudgeon-in-training, is the author of four books of poetry to date. His poems have been published in journals too numerous and obscure to mention and his readings have been generally tolerated by audiences around Wisconsin and in several states farther afield.

"Horseshoe" by Ryan Miller.

“Horseshoe” by Ryan Miller.

Sitting Now in Doorways

(In response to “Somewhere nearby,”)

By Francha Barnard


Ah, we chicas sway still –

somewhere in our memory,


lean on your sweat-drenched shoulder;

two pair of feet turn in tight, matched rhythms

beat – beat, beat

turn    step     step,

bodies blending trunk to trunk

and under dresses – now loose cotton,

we remember silks,

low necklines,

waists cinched tight,

skirts full-flowing.


We remember arms that held us,

shirts unbuttoned,

loose pants draping

dusky muscled legs and more.

Dark-lashed half-closed eyelids,

impish smiles escaping.

We still hear low in our inner ear,

the soft purr of your humming,

the swush of your huaraches moving

over hard-packed earth.


You may think of willows now.

We will think of you.


Francha Barnard works at her poetry and plays at her art, mostly handmade paper and collage. Sometimes the three even combined. She finds inspiration all around her in nature and by crawling back into her own memories, often with surprising results. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications. She is a member of the Word Women poetry critiquing group.