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Peninsula Poetry: Ralph Murre

Ralph Murre is something of a jack-of-all-trades, and as any good jack must, he’s tried his hand at writing a few poems. Now 75, Murre has been around Door County, mostly, since the late 1960s. He’s done a bit of fathering and grandfathering here, and he served as the county’s fourth poet laureate from 2015 until 2017. Murre dreads the day when he won’t be able to reinvent himself and people will be able to attach a label that sticks.

In addition to releasing several of his own books, he has published the works of other poets through his Little Eagle Press, and he collaborated with Sharon Auberle on a book of love poems. He is frequently asked to read his work across Wisconsin.

That Guy Who Is Nothing Like Me

He’s there again today down at the dock
mumbling something
sweaty kerchief that old park bench
knuckles battered by monkey wrench
mind in a fog his back to the rock

He dreams in color it seems
rhyming on about reds and greens
port and starboard starboard and port
Queen of Hearts’ horse in the ivied stable
a high green gable a little red light

Seven-ball swimming toward corner pocket
off the bank another shark another tilted table
in his wallet he says a russet locket another time
British soldiers rank and file
Limey sailors on a sea of brine

Fife the fife love the wife drum the drum
little red rooster in the old gum tree
little red herring in the deep green sea
holly berry bayberry barberry razz
sweet cherry tart cherry sumac fuzz

Cardinal in a pine in the sifting snow
crimson-edged pages of the Book of Envy
somewhere there’s a garden he used to know
somewhere that’s probably gone already
red for stop green for go

Yellow for I don’t know 

He talks of black cherry nights
scarlet cove stripe on a dull green sloop
Green Bay Sturgeon Bay the River Rouge
something about a little red hen
something about an old green coop

He’ll sit there ’til the shipping lights are lit
emeralds and rubies in a night like another
he pines for Mother and Christmas past I guess
and all manner of perfection that couldn’t last
faded rosebud on a long-gone sled

He talks of home

He talks of bed

— Ralph Murre

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.