mother’s day poems | charlie rossitter, ralph murre, donna balfe

13 05 2012

Painting by Mary Cassatt

POETRY DISPATCH No. 373 | May 13, 2012

Mother’s Day Poems

Charlie Rossiter, Ralph Murre, Donna Balfe

my mother, my mountain

standing on you
eyes fixed on far horizons
how could I know
back then
you were there

Charlie Rossiter

it was tricky
measuring
the way she loved us
since yardsticks
were routinely
broken
over our backsides

Ralph Murre

Mother

You stand between me and the sun,
A gorgeous cloud that casts a chill shadow.
Soon you will be gone.
Wind whipping you into white feathers
The sky swept clean.

I am rock, not water
And do not give way to winds.
But hold fast
Waiting to be drenched
In the milky light of morning.

Donna Balfe

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to everyone for the Mother’s Day poetry that was submitted. Once again both judges were entirely in agreement (almost) as to three favorite poems, as we sifted through all the work (names removed), Both of us picked two of the favorite poems featured above, while the last of the three favorites was the toughest choice, selected from a group of at least four other poems which were equally good, all in the running. Yet…

We weighed again all the factors mentioned in the invitation/description of what constituted a good poem. Finally it came down to the nuts and bolts and spirit of language and words and movement and image–what any poem should attempt to express/suggest in capturing the feeling of the experience.

Once again, many of the poems need just a little fine tuning to find acceptance in online or print publication elsewhere. Others need to be re-thought entirely Work with them.

The only order to the poems printed above is that of a timeline: the order in which they arrived in my computer.

I take a good deal of the blame that some of these poems weren’t better. That too many of them were too close to, if not entirely, narrative prose. That I may have led too many poets astray by the harsh but REAL examples I selected…suggesting, alas, either a verbose vernacular or “I hate my mother” poetry absent a real touch. Not that anger, hate, resentment, etc. aren’t perfectly acceptable subject matter for Mom but—let there be some sense of music to the lines, the language you employ. I wish now I had featured as an example at least one ‘gentler’ poem that was not Hallmark sentimental, yet captured an honest sense of mother. Something perhaps like this: –Norbert Blei

In Memoriam M.K.H. (1911-1984)
by Seamus Heaney

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives—
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

[from CLEARANCES]





ralph murre | crude red boat | psalms | the price of gravity

13 11 2011

Ralph Murre | Photo by Bobbie Krinsky

POETRY DISPATCH #358 | November 13, 2011

Ralph Murre

Editor’s Note: Ralph Murre began as a farm boy from elsewhere Wisconsin. I’m not familiar with his entire life history, but the rural is still in him and along the way other interests claimed his attention. Job titles include: dreamer, mariner, architecture—which he still practices for survival, when the words don’t call him home. Or shall I say “the sea”?

Ralph Murre loves water. In the deepest part of his heart, the sea in all of its manifestations, lyrically, matter-of-factly, speaks to him, sets him adrift. He’s writes with a true hand about a lot of ordinary things as well, as many poets do, but many poets don’t hear the sirens, don’t reach deep enough within for the extraordinary, as Ralph does, transforming line, rhythm, feeling, image, idea (note too: wry humor) in ways most uniquely his and inevitably ours.

Though I’ve lived in this county for over forty years, I never really knew him. A passing nod of recognition upon occasion…some knowledge of his working in the local building trades. “Great Northern Construction” comes to mind. I remember him sending me a poem (a good one) about a local character/icon that I had profiled in my first book about the county. That was my first inkling he had any interest in poetry at all. Sometime later he appeared in my annual writing workshop class at The Clearing. A beginner? A late bloomer most likely, born in 1944. Already shaped significantly by life…already a tone of voice in his words on the page. Little I could do but suggest some other directions: There. Try that way. Then over there. He had already launched himself…headed into those waters all writers dip into at the beginning, inevitably finding or not finding them too cold, too deep, too dark or just right. Smooth sailing.

Since then (not that long ago) he has developed into one of our more significant ‘local’ poets, where there is more good writing to be found than you can “shake a stick at”, as they used to say–which pretty much dates me. As I recall, when I moved here in the late l960’s, I was the only writer in the landscape on a serious mission to survive by my words alone–with the exception of a “little-old-lady” poet, Frances May of Sturgeon Bay, whom I did not meet (come to love and highly respect) for at least three years after my arrival.

There was the local newspaper, of course, a couple of local newspaper writers who entertained the folks with columns, gee whiz news, basking in local ‘celebrity’ (well deserved), all of whom may have penned a little book of local color or were thinking of it someday. But that was it.

Since that long time ago, I am happy to report from this oft called “Paradise” a plethora of fine poets and writers in our midst: Ralph Murre obviously one, with books, publications, readings, local and state organizational activities to his credit, a highly regarded man of few and many good, right words; Robert M. Zoschke, poet, novelist, cantankerous essayist, author of  DOOR COUNTY BLUES, MADE IN AMERICA, editor/contributing writer to REFLECTIONS UPON THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF JACK KEROUAC’S ON THE ROAD…another, (though not so obviously) an up-and-comer, our resident ‘outsider’ (reminiscent of my own difficult outsider years here…born to write to piss some people off), while I shuffle anonymously into the twilight these days, a few books of local interest trailing behind me, more than satisfied with the beauty and growth of this peninsular paradise, the wonder of earth, air, water expecting no less than the best within us–words and images…poems, stories, books, paintings, photographs, music…whether our subject be local or far away from here.

A good place to grow. To chart a voyage of discovery. To set sail. To just be.

The poetry of Ralph Murre reflects all this, from shore…to sea. – Norbert Blei

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.

[from CRUDE RED BOAT, Cross+Roads Press, 2007]

VIII.

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.

[from PSALMS, Little Eagle Press 2008]

Prayers of Old Men

I’ll bet you think the old men
are praying to be young men
with young lovers, but
they kneel now beside your bed
and pray for the things young men
haven’t heard of yet -
the high plateaus of you
and the rivers rushing
to the deep sea of you.
Old men pray for height and depth
and the quivering leaf of your ear
touched by a tongue,
for that quiet cove of you
where they may lie sheltered
for one more evening.
They pray for the light
of sunrise in your eyes
and they pray to believe
in whoever they pray to
for they want to believe in everything,
because believing in nothing didn’t work.
And they pray for the touch of you on me.
They’re all praying for you and for me,
the high ground of you towering
above me, and the river,
they’re praying now for the river of you,
and they’re praying for me
to go adrift in the river
to the sea of you,
to the sea of you,
praying I’ll be lost at sea in you
and they’re secretly praying
that this storm will drown me
in the depths of you,
because they are old men
and they know I am a sailor,
and they know that drowning
is the only way for sailors
to get home.

[from THE PRICE OF GRAVITY, Auk Ward Editions, an imprint of Little Eagle Press, 2010]

Much more on Ralp Murre can be found by clicking here…





norbert blei | the prose poem: alice d’alessio, al degenova, ralph murre, susan o’leary

17 10 2011

Photo by Al DeGenova

POETRY DISPATCH No. 356 | October 17, 2011


THE PROSE POEM:

Alice D’Alessio, Al DeGenova, Ralph Murre, Susan O’Leary

Editor’s Note: I presented a weekend writing workshop, “the poetry of prose” on Washington Island almost two weeks ago. I see prose poetry not so much as a strict form but more as a way to make a clunky prose line breathe, sometimes sing.

It was a good weekend of writing, discussion, reading…with great participants, as always–mostly my tried and true, solid bunch of Clearing advanced writing students, with solid credentials of publishing and/or book credits behind them.

I learn a lot from them, whether it’s my annual Clearing class (beginning and advanced) or this new, autumn-weekend writing workshop we established on the Island a year ago–thanks to Karen Yancey, who handles the registration details, keeps the party going on the Island; Dick and Mary Jo Purinton, who provide the perfect setting for Island living and learning; and Jude Genereaux, who facilitates communications, easing much of the burden from my back, especially last minute glitches. My thanks again to all of them.

Without going into definitions galore of prose poetry or class instructions, assignments etc., I promised the class a lot of work–and a little exposure on “Poetry Dispatch,” if things went well. So I thought I would share with readers three of the prose poems the students themselves selected (by secret ballot) from their reading on Sunday morning, when each writer read a favorite, best ‘polished-to-perfection’ prose poem of his or her own from class assignments just the day before.

Everyone quietly listened to everyone else, then secretly noted on a piece of paper (folded and passed on to me) the three favorites. The three favorites became four because of a tie.

Here they are, presented alphabetically by author. Enjoy, enjoy. –Norbert Blei

The Left Hand Speaks

by Alice D’Alessio

Perfect, save for one flawed knuckle, beautifully seamed and creased, I am content to be what I am, the left hand, the second hand, the neglected hand. For I have a secret.

It is true that my neatly fitting skin is turning blotchy now, stretching into ridges and crevices. Yet it does its job so well, wrapping tight the underworkings, the critical bone and tendon, the rivers, streams and estuaries of blood and other juices that keep the fingers active and lubricated. It protects from invasion of those enemies that would enter and do great harm.

After seven decades of flexing and gripping, I am capable and strong, my five digits line up like soldiers for review, from short to tall, and back to short, to my sturdy thumb, altered a bit at the base with a lovely triangular scar. How well they stand at attention.

It’s true my partner, the right hand, gets all the glory. It is the one extended to shake the hands it meets, it picks up the pen and writes, brushes teeth, waves, plays a major role in buttoning, tying, stirring. But behold – on keyboards we are equal! And furthermore, there were glory days, now gone, when I was supreme. When we teased that violin into music, the runs and trills, the haunting melodies – it was I and I alone who found the notes, knew exactly where to press the string – never flat nor sharp – to make the purest sound. All the other one did was saw that bow across and back, across and back. I made the music, created the sweetness of tone with my vibrato. I, the genius twin, blessed with the gift of perfect touch. The other one, purely utilitarian. I rest my case.

At the Ancient Pond

by Albert DeGenova

Drunk with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you please. But get drunk – Charles Baudelaire

The hanging Spanish moss looks one-hundred years younger today, I’ve drained the ancient pond through a red and white striped straw and licked the salt from the rim, the frog sings plop and I’m tokin’ on his flip flopping feet, on mind altering harmonic resonance, the whole band is in tune – the cool cats, the birds, the wind, the dirty swamp, cars speeding by pulling boat trailers, the hammering on the roof, the knife as it slices the bread, the dentist’s drill, the kid next door practicing guitar. Wake up!… Plop goes the blue-orange sunrise. Plop goes the weasel. What is the sound of stagnant water, water filling the bathtub or poured from a bucket, water as it gulps air swirling down the toilet? What is the sound of Eve’s first orgasm echoing through the universe? Of one hand clapping?
Plop! Plop! Plop!

Stitches in Time

by 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.

HEAD IN HAND

by Susan O’Leary

The hands come to the face to hold, to hold, as a rounded comfort to sustain. And in that comfort, the balm of touch. The hands become the Pieta of self, embracing with such tenderness, such desire to undo crucifixion, to bring solace to the impossible, to physically counsel grief.

With their sure shield, knowledge and reality can be shut out. At least in this moment. At least as, echoing their curve, the shoulders bend forward, the neck bows, and with eyes closed, words unspoken, breath halted, the body forms its own safe cave of retreat.

They have arrived too late. Or like Mary have had to remain and unwillingly witness sorrow. But their paired presence signals we are not alone. The earth spinning, they are the space that holds spinning in its orbit.

Photo by Mary Jo Purinton





linda aschbrenner | verse wisconsin | issue 101 winter 2010

9 03 2010

Poetry Dispatch No. 317 | March 9, 2010

VERSE WISCONSIN

Issue 101, Winter 2010, $6

It’s good to see Linda Aschbrenner’s excellent FREE VERSE, alive and well, newly christened VERSE WISCONSIN, all dressed up (cover, design, glossy paper, etc.) looking great, the Wisconsin (and beyond) poetry torch passed on to the very capable editorial hands of co-editors Sarah Busse and Wendy Vardaman. If the first issue of VERSE WISCONSIN is any indication of the direction and depth these editors seem determined to take it, we’re all in good hands.

I was a firm believer and supporter of the old FREE VERSE from the beginning. I was especially thankful that Linda kept the pages open to new poets, young and old, writers looking for and needing their first taste of print: the word on the page. Though it has always been a challenge to break into little mags, from indies to university publications, it grows increasingly difficult these days to find print, period, not to mention experienced and honest editors who keep the door open for one and all—the quality of writing alone, being the determining factor. Not who-you-know, not a long list of previous publications, not all the professional ass-kissing that takes place amongst the usual suspects. Linda Aschbrenner deserves much credit for nurturing poets and poetry in Wisconsin (and beyond) since 1998.

There are over fifty poets represented in this first issue of VERSE WISCONSIN under Sarah Busse and Wendy Vardaman. I wish I could feature all of them. But you’ll have to buy a copy—or better yet, subscribe to the magazine, (have your local library subscribe) to read all the good poems I was not able to feature.

Here are some of my favorites though. –norbert blei

Silly Little City I Live and Love In

by Susan Firer, Milwaukee, WI

Silly little city with your harp street lamps,
blizzards and vigil light stars,
with your tutued street lights
and 30 below wind chills, bandshells and polkas,
and steamy smoky lake’s pink waves,
with your huge orange moons rising from the lake,
with your huge red suns rising from the lake,
with your sad jumpers falling into the lake,
& your socialist watershed and Oriental Theatre minarets
………………..and Sunday morning Quakers’ meetings
………………..surrounded by church bells and taverns,
with everyday George Washington
walking down Wisconsin Avenue,
with your ice fishing clinics and beer blessings,
with your seven deadly sins parades,
with your alewives” parades and cladaphora winds
…………….and streets named after sausages (Nock),
with Francis Bacon’s blue face
………………..on the side of your art museum
………………..and Joseph Cornel! “s “Celestial Navigation
………………..by Birds” (Gallery 18) inside your museum,
with your statues of Goethe and Burns,
……………………………….Olmstead parks and bakery winds,
silly little city that erases me, I keep
fastening your lake winds to the page.

The Way the Light Shines

by Ralph Murre, Baileys Harbor, WI

The way the light shines
through Vermeer

on a Dutch afternoon
a girl with a pitcher

of something cool
and sweet I’ll bet

The way the boys
in the low sloop

laden with the smell of salt
look through Winslow Homer

The way the stars see
through Van Gogh in the night

The way you’d come
right through

me painting you
in your room with red walls

The way water-lilies
make love to Monet

Home, Sweet Home

by Antler, Milwaukee, WI

A mouse in its nest inside a moose skull
looks up at miniature icicles
……..dandling from cracks in the bone
above her head,
Silver icicles inside a moose skull
as darkness falls
…….and the cold wind howls
while the mouse feels
…….safe and warm-
home, sweet home.
But one night she froze
..and come spring
……there was a mouse skull
..inside a moose skull
……and inside the mouse skull
A spider spun a web
and lived all spring–
home, sweet home,
and when it died
A tiny mite moved in
inside where the spider’s brain was
…….and lived all summer-
……..home, sweet home,
……….before it died,
So there was a skull in a skull in a skull in a skull
causing a poet’s brain in its skull to think
…..isn’t the Earth in the Sun’s skull
…..the way his poems
…..are in his head?
And the sun in the Galaxy’s skull
…..and the Galaxy in the Universe’s skull
and the Universe in the Big Bang’s skull and the Big Bang in Eternity’s skull
…….and Eternity in Infinity’s skull and…. Home, sweet home.

Our Body

by Bruce Taylor, Eau Claire, WI

It’s too heavy
in the early morning
too easy to lay down
lightly late at night.

If only this were bigger
and this smaller,
if these were like that
and that was blond..

If this could be longer
harder, sharper,
if that weren’t too soft,
so palpable and moist.

If only it didn’t fill
and empty, didn’t ache
so sometimes to be held
and others to be let go.

Miniatures, a Quintet

by Philip Dacey, New York, NY

1. Ars Poetica

I’ll leave the porchlight on for you,
the mother says.
That’s what the poet says, too.

2. At the Feeder

Is the favorite word
Of the hummingbird
Stillness or motion?

But I’m the same:
Should I stay home
Or cross an ocean?

3. The Suicide

I always liked
to be early
for my appointments.

4. Hanging the Wash Outdoors

My mother stood
with wooden clothespins in her mouth,
a fan of benevolent little cannons
she plucked out one at a time
and squeaked down over my heart,
which is still on the line.

5. Tanka

I have written
too many poems;
they live now
in refugee camps,
inside tents.

Editor’s Note: VERSE WISCONSIN appears quarterly. $25 regular, $18 students) VERSE WISCONSIN, P.O.Box 620216, Middleton, WI 53562-0216 | editorsATversewisconsinDOTorg





ralph murre | a few haiku in autumn

14 01 2008

autum.jpg

Poetry Dispatch No. 110 | October 16, 2006

The Small Poem Re-visited Again (Forever!)

A Few Haiku in Autumn by Ralph Murre

voices on my walk
gold leaf veneer of this day
the bright-bloused women

among the birches
old men listen for music
peeing on dried leaves

which is you, heron?
white bird or white reflection –
the dark pond won’t tell





ralph murre | fooled

7 12 2007

strichstrich.jpg

sally.jpg

Poetry Dispatch No. 183 | August 16, 2007

crp028.jpgHere’s a relatively new one by bestselling Cross+Roads Press author, Ralph Murre, (CRUDE RED BOAT) which was entered in a local contest (you all know how I feel about contests) and should have won 1st, but didn’t — but you all know how that goes. You could a fooled me — and did. A winner in my book, though. Norbert Blei

strichstrich.jpg

Fooled by Ralph Murre

You know how you can substitute
baking (soda) for baking (powder)
by adding buttermilk or cream of tartar
or yogurt or molasses or (something),
and how you can make a fake
apple pie with Ritz crackers and lemon juice?
Well, there you go.
You know how, when your local
rainforest is out of ebony and
you really wanted some for that
(jewelry box) you’re making her, you can
use birchwood and (black liquid) shoe polish?
Well, there you go.
You know how, when you buy scallops,
they might not be, but just little circles
cut from (shark fins) or how happily
you buy imitation crab meat made,
it says right on the label, from God-Knows-What?
Well, there you go.
You know how (Sally) could fake an orgasm
and it got you to wondering, and
how NASA faked the moon landings
in a desert with bad lighting, and
the way some American flags are (Made in China)?
Well, there you go.
You know how you can elect complete idiots
pretending to be (presidential),
or how easily a truckload of chickens
can be mistaken for a weapon of mass destruction?
Well, there you go.
You know how you can play solitaire
or go to reallygigantictitsdotcom
while appearing to be at work on your (novel),
or how you can act like you’re listening
to me now, saying (blah, blah, blah),
by nodding and saying mmm-hmmm, mmm-hmmm?
Well, there you go.








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