Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fare thee well, Ellen Kort

RE / VERSE contributors Sharon Auberle, Michael Koehler, & Ellen Kort
at the launch party for Mike's book, Red Boots

The poetic community of Wisconsin and well beyond, I suspect, is reeling at the loss this morning of a dear friend, a phenomenal teacher and inspiration, and our state's first Poet Laureate, a position she richly deserved.  Ellen Kort set the bar incredibly high for those who would follow.


Tell me of your river, Ellen asked
when I saw her last,

and I said mine brought things
and took things away.

I'm so glad you know a river,
she smiled.

~ Ralph Murre

I'm so very proud of Ellen's friendship and glad to
have a couple of her fine poems on RE / VERSE.
When you've read those, do what you must to
find one or all of her dozen beautiful books. 

Monday, April 20, 2015


artwork: ralph murre

by John Flynn
Within the shaggy cottonwood yard                              
A lengthened sun-drenched patch of sod was found
And planted with white wooden posts
Whose grounded ends were dipped and stuck
With creosote borrowed from the railroad.
Crossbars were notched and set upon the tops.
Stretched between, the wires—
     new and blued,
     without the curls and
     kinks that age
     and almost daily
     use would bring—
Bobbed and hummed
And gave the sun
New tracks for it          
To run upon.

Each weeksworth of childhood’s dirt
Was worried out in a swollen tub
Whose agitator pounded time
Like a galley master gone berserk.
Detergent surged across the rim
And dabbled down enamelled sides.                          
A willing child’s imaginings could rampage
Through this hydrophobic scene,
Witness as the squinch-browed troll
Staggered stiffly through its death throes
And spurted soiled water through its nose.

Bed sheets hung with wooden pins
And slung from separate lines
Bloomed as the summer wind
Swooped between the pinioned sides.
From the porch the washline                                     
Rigged out in bedclothes
Looked for all the world a ship
From some exotic myth
Floating flatly on a grass green sea.                          

 To the boy, strolling lightly
On her spongy decks,
The dampened slabs of sail
Soothed and caressed him
And coddled dreams.

During one such topside stroll,
Sailing off a southern shore
He’d one day recognize,
He shouted greetings to a new bird
Borne from a sea-side cliff.
He watched aghast                                  
The callow, sentient heart
On stiffened wings
Drill smaller circles in the calid sky
And failing, merge into the pageantry.

Lifesworth of family’s laundered clothes
Dripped dry and bleached                       
Beneath the prairie sun;
And greened coarse grass and softened it
So in the dark barefoot you still could tell                                                                              
Just where you were and raising arm        
Catch up and follow to the end.
Then use the washline’s weathered bars
To hang upon and tease the stars.   

~ previously published in Cottonwood Yard       

Friday, April 17, 2015

B-boys of Green Bay

buenos aires graffiti, digitally re-imagined

B-boys of Green Bay
by Sylvia Cavanaugh

Asian b-boys in Green Bay
breakdance in Boys and Girls clubs
in Madison gyms they session, too
Menasha, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee

story re-writes itself in those who move
cultures fuse to dream anew
right foot lifts and steps aside
followed by the left
yet the center always holds
mid-western cyphers ground this dance
gravity partners with defiance
they fly in the placid face of it

South Bronx lynched in ‘70’s style
freeway fuels spontaneous combustion
Kafka jives to a Latin beat where
all that fly are colors
two turntables spin to just one song
layers of loose linoleum whirl helicopter legs
dizzy headspins on cardboard sheets
remnants of desire
windmills shrug off concrete floors

far to the west a mountain people
also lived on slash and burn ‘til opium
smoked their crops to cash
alchemy of imperialism bespoke a
golden triangle secret
war and hidden trail
hunger’s flight through clicking steps
of landmines and helicopters hurling souls
scattering winds
extended clans gone nuclear

b-boy flies up off the floor
released from footwork, spins, and one-armed stands
statues himself to a landing freeze
integrity gestures to the ground
because all your pieces and all your steps
and the way in which you rock the beat
dance the very math of funk so that
two against three adds up to One

~ first published in Verse Wisconsin

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


artwork: ralph murre

by Sharmagne Leland – St. John

for Sylvia Plath
1932 – 1963
in Winthrop
beach behind house
storm behind cloud
beside azalea path
near the grave
of Otto Plath
before cloud
hid sun
before depression
had begun
before deceit
before letters home
had changed their tone
before despair

on Primrose Hill
no band of angels
could ever heal
nor soothe
nor salve
with balm
or metaphor
for Ariel
she is no more

~ first published in Contingencies (WynterBlue Publishing)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Since we are not heroes

artwork: ralph murre

Since we are not heroes
by Gary C. Busha

for fish guts
headline the events
of another crisis
while we sit
in the driveway
of our moment
and we know
the present age
is not magnificent.

An evening of stitches
sew our unheroic era as we
sink in our armchairs
like knights in quagmire
not heroic in battles
fought against epic odds
and we languish
not from mortal wounds
but from fatigue.

~ previously published in The Skeptic (Wolfsong Publications)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Seferis' Houses

artwork by ralph murre after a photo by (of?) george seferis

George Seferis, a Greek poet and diplomat
born in Smyrni (now Izmir), Turkey, won
the 1963 Nobel Prize for Literature

Seferis’ Houses
by Stella Pierides

The houses he had owned
they took away from him.

Seferis carried his home
on his back like a tortoise.
Iron beds in empty hotel rooms
rang through his lines,
and the sounds of loneliness–
the silent screams of souls
left to themselves
in the dark.

The houses he had owned they
took away from him.

He used his poetry,
he strung words from the stars
stared at them from afar.
Flowers of Agapanthus
he nailed on his lines,
and crickets, beating time
for the machine.

Only briefly did he go back to Smyrni.

For he knew. Seferis knew. He knew
you have to talk to the dead.
Hades is full of whispers–
the house is always watching.
And waiting.

~ appeared in Gathering Diamonds from the Well: London
   (New Gallery Books)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Here - There Spring

photo: ralph murre

Here -There Spring (or Why a Truce)
for the citizens of Sderot
by Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld

Here, where the sky
has stitched two clouds together,
two brown doves have been sitting
on the wall outside my kitchen window,
their heads at forty-five degrees
of separation, tails crossed in an X
which cancels something out.

Do you remember how hopeful
you once were each spring—the world
newly formed and all of it in flower?
Now a fractured sky.  Red dawn.
The shriek of rockets.

Peach trees have donned white robes. 
Acacias have put on their crowns.  
On your sill, Cousin, a white butterfly
puts down, a piece of pale lace fluttering,
impervious to distance.  Even in the desert
there are these butterflies.  The whole
world hatches out, sky cerulean,
just as the world,
sprung into blossom,

            ~ previously published in Before There Is Nowhere to Stand.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

First Tulip

digital photoart: sharon auberle

First Tulip
by Donal Mahoney

Sometimes you sit for days
sucking yourself in 
praying the right words
will fall in your ear
toboggan over the whorls
pierce the canal
and settle in your brain
an embryonic delight.
Sometimes you sit for days
and finally the words come
and they're always a surprise
like the first tulip in April
or a sudden
orgasm for your wife.

~ previously published in The Citron Review

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Adventures in American Poetry 101

artwork: ralph murre

Adventures in American Poetry 101
by Mike Orlock

When my students needed him most,
Walt Whitman was nowhere to be found.
He’d resided for the longest time
in the section on “Post-Civil War Literature,”
tucked comfortably between selected poems
of Emily Dickinson and three excerpts from
the vast literary canon of Mark Twain
(carefully expurgated to reflect racial sensitivities
in these troubled times); but when students were asked
to turn to him for an example of vernacular
free verse, all they found was space
empty as the American plains in those days
where Whitman, shaggy as any buffalo, roamed.

Perhaps he’d tired of loafing and lazing
his legacy away. After all, a man in his boots,
so used to wandering, had to feel impatient
that a new world so alive with song
had relegated him to the silence of stuffy libraries
and textbooks thick as headstones.
There was grass out there to be contemplated
and hawks aloft to admire. Still,
when I directed my students to the designated page,
where together I intended to Sing the Body
Electric with them, eleventh graders
already juiced on cafeteria junk food,
I never expected Whitman would have ditched my class
(along with two chronic truants whom I hadn’t seen
in weeks) by abandoning the hallowed space
that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt had reserved especially for him.

“Where’s Whitman?” I asked aloud in disbelief.
What does one do when an American poet goes missing?
Especially one as unpredictable and iconoclastic
as Walt Whitman? To be honest,
my students thought it was “kinda cool” that some long dead
dude had “booked” for parts unknown
in a text few of them had ever bothered to open.

It became a game of “Where’s Walto?” for the remainder
of the period: Was he “kickin’ it” with the Realists,
“chillin’” with the Naturalists, or “bangin’” with the Beats
some seventy years down that long literary highway from home?

In the end, it was “Spacey” Staci, the day-dreamer
at the back of the first row, who found him
just before the dismissal bell,
hiding among the Contemporaries.

He was sitting on a stone wall,
bathed in the gold light of a late afternoon,
examining an apple Robert Frost had just tossed him
from the second step of a ladder.

Both looked so comfortable in the other’s company
we left them there to their musings,
and, so as not to disturb them,
quietly closed our books.

~ first published on Your Daily Poem

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


artwork: ralph murre

by Susan Tepper

The veil has creased the morning
into aftershocks— an unmade bed
will stay unmade, wet towels
drape an uncertain future—
about this place, did you see

the garden turn crumbling gray
during the winter storms

It was a matter of privacy.

You rushed to set the stones
back where nature had upended
But, still—

~ previously published in The Green Door

Friday, March 20, 2015


dig. mod. from image by litlnemo

by Estelle Bruno

I have invaded your privacy—
the privacy of the dead.
So many books and files of your writings.
Impressive diplomas, framed letters from famous people—
Governors, actors, congressmen,
all displayed on your wall.
When I entered your writer’s sanctuary
my hand automatically reached for the light button.
I had no idea I would find such a treasure.
Perhaps you were writing a book on humanities.
I did not read your writings, only what was visible
to my eyes on your wall.
So, rest easy Isabelle.

We moved your books from another place
and brought them into your space.
You must have been suspicious of me.
I left your dusty place knowing full well
I would have to come back.
I did.
This time you were ready for me.
I searched everywhere for the light button.
It had disappeared.
Yes, you were ready for me this time.

~ first published in Poesia (2006)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


detail: artwork: marc chagall

by Ronald Baatz

The empty
Lancers wine bottle,
product of Portugal,
serve chilled, has
pussy willows in it now,
standing in the sun,
Sunday morning. 
I guess Eva put them there
so I'd see them
when I woke.
how such a thin creature,
exposed to all the
deteriorative elements of
nature and the chaotic
nature of man,
can blossom such
round silk beauty.
So beautiful,
and so thoughtful
too as to
leave pussy willows
in the empty wine bottle
next to my bed.

~ first published in Kansas Quarterly (1972)

Sunday, March 15, 2015


photo: ralph murre

by David Scheler

He watches her fade
on the other side
of the glass

between them,
kept so clean,
even the evidence
of fingerprints
is absent

and he beckons her
to slip back
from a place
he’s already gone
before she vanishes

~ previously published in Reed Magazine

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hot Flash

artwork: sharon auberle

Hot Flash
by Sylvia Cavanaugh

To forge weapons
with fire
is a sign that we are civilized
but the taste of knowledge
had its price
dealt in a currency
of fertility
in calendar clicks of counted days
a real blood bargain
paid periodically
paid in labor pains and
in pre-menstrual syndromes

but now I wield
my own damned fire
to cauterize the wound
the first sin settled up
my womb
now sweated caustic clean
Adam’s bones are mine
and he is scorched
turning on these embers
he re-arranges and adjusts
looks at me
across his stiff
cold shoulder
and winks

~ first published in Red Cedar 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


photoart: ralph murre

by Charlie Rossiter

Some mornings it’s so cold
the car won’t start on the first try,
or the second, or the third.
In youth, that made me
hit the dashboard.
Now I simply sigh
go back inside,
take out a book,
get on with my life.

~ previously published in Winter Poems

   (FootHills Publishing)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ice Storm Woman

photo: ralph murre

Ice Storm Woman
by DyAnne Korda

When winter isn’t cold enough, you collect this natural loss in bits—like you might pocket specks of light from oak caskets.  You remember frozen caves lined with dried pine needles and mauve crystals drifting…where water is stone, and stone is your companion, the reflection of your translucent bones pulled down by the pulse of forest roots.  Rest now, for soon you will search for another home, like an ordinary woman who takes fond leave of her old lover.  I offer you sienna ribbons of prairie cord grass alongside this ice water creek.  Let the winds deliver themselves.

~ first published in Wisconsin Academy Review

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


maple-leaf ironwork design: r. murre - execution: big horn forge - photoart: r. murre

by Joan Wiese Johannes

It is syrup time,
and Tom tramps, taps, and talks
about the bear who took ten buckets
and left tracks around his camp.
He shakes his head and says
he hopes the fire
keeps it away when he boils down,
tells me he applied for a permit
as he mimes the pull of a trigger.

But I like his bear
will follow the trail of white buckets,
drink sap clear as streams.
I plan to walk circles around spring
before the big boil-down turns me
dark as bear fur thick as blood.

~ first published in Peninsula Pulse

Monday, March 2, 2015

Organ Grinder

photo: ralph murre

Organ Grinder
by Ed Werstein
            One donor can save up to eight lives.
                                    -Donate Life Website

But who except an organ grinder
would want these?

Sixty-five year old eyes
cataracted, full of floaters,

Who would want a graft
of this old skin
easily bruised

Dry, pocked joints
without cushion
that grind and pop
ache and bind.

Ears ringing with bells
that aren’t there.

Brittle brain.

Heart long past its warranty.

~ first published in Red Cedar