Friday, May 30, 2014

Whitman's Voice

photo: ralph murre

Whitman’s Voice
by Susan M. Firer

He does not sing the poem like Yeats
reciting “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”;  he
simply continent speaks each word, & in between
each bump on the wax cylinder recording
Thomas Edison made of Whitman in 1890,
you hear another Whitman.

You hear Whitman
            interviewing P.T. Barnum,
            with Tom Thumb & the orangutan,
            Mlle. Jane, in the background.
You hear all the gaslight
            drenched operas he attended
            & even smell the peculiar
            l9th century perfumes.
You hear Whitman’s
            body kicks & swim splash & cold water scrubs
            at Gray’s Swimming Bath at the bottom
            of Fulton Street, and
You hear him
            at the corner of Fulton & Cranberry Streets
            in the Rome brothers’ print shop
            setting the type for the first
            LEAVES OF GRASS.
You hear all
            the Nor’easters he sat outside through
            under his tree in the healing country
            under his gray wool blanket
            recovering from a stroke, and
You can even hear the Civil War
            hospital kisses he soft lip-pressed on the often
            never-shaved cheeks of the dying
            soldiers he nursed.
You hear him ask them: “Stamps?
            Can I write a letter home for you?”

And in his American-formed voice inflected with canaries,
            locomotives, and turkeys,
            you hear electricity & his wild throat
            muscles.  Each syllable is a tableau:
Six year old Walter in the arms of Lafayette,
young teacher Walter playing baseball with his students,
Whitman at Poe’s reburial in Baltimore
            (the only literary figure to attend),
            Walter in Brooklyn purchasing his first
            silver watch, gold pencil, frock coat,
            & loud singing on top an omni-
            bus in New York.
You see Whitman in the Astor Library
            blowy from the ferry, a copy of CONSUELO
            in his hands, a bit of George Sand’s
            cigar smoke about his ears & beard.
            You see coffee & beefsteak eating Walt &
            l857 hard pressed for money Walt
            watching his Talbot painting and his
            few other belongings taken by lawyers
& carried out & through the streets –
            all for a $200 debt.
You see Walt visiting
            with brown velvet-suited Oscar
            Wilde, with Longfellow, with Thoreau,
            &, of course, with Emerson.
There’s Walt swimming & loping at Coney Island
            & writing: “The polka increases in popularity,”
            & even (I am not making this up) walking
            & loving walking the streets of Milwaukee!
You see nude sun-bathed, mud-bathed lame Walt
            at Timber Creek wrestling with saplings
            trying to strengthen his stroke-weakened
            arms & legs.
You even see old white-bearded Whitman
            napping in his wheelchair
            in front of his Mickle Street Camden window,
            like a “great old Angora Tom,”
            like a snowy owl.

And in each syllable, you hear transformation.
            You hear his dream
breath, his sighs
as he studies the night
            sky patterns, hieroglyphics,
            phrenology, & lexicology.
You hear him call through the centuries
            to all his young apprentices:  “Hen,
            oh, why, Hen.”
And if you are very still when listening,
            you can hear him rubbing lilacs
            in his beautiful, white beard, & I swear,
            you can hear him swallow a strawberry.

Here, on my CD made from Edison’s wax cylinders
is sapling planting Walt,
America’s great slang coloratura
word hero, plainly speaking; venerable Walt
saying his hymn of vowels & consonants.
And really his voice is much like the Long Island
pond and spring water he wrote about:
“The water itself has a character of its own,”
said Whitman, “It is deliciously sweet
--it almost has a flavor.”

~ previously published in Milwaukee Does Strange Things To People

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


artwork: william marr
by William Marr

a broken refugee boat appears
like a ghost
on the tired sleepless eyelids
jolting and rolling
toward the ever-narrowing harbor
of humanity
toward the shore
where lights die out
one after another

~ previously published in Between Heaven and Earth

Monday, May 26, 2014

How the Kiss Begins

digital art: ralph murre

by Cristina M.R. Norcross

It starts with the intoxicating drawing in of breath
as you lean forward,
becoming joined to your lover’s aura.
It is a melting and melding –
richer than the last dollop of butter in the pan.

The best kisses linger.
Before work,
the early morning, honeyed goodbye kiss
holds within each, soft brush of lip
the promise of more kisses
and simply – more.

You close your eyes,
just as the scent of summer skin
becomes your guide.
Your heart is a samba beat in your chest.

Next, the smallest gliding of lips finds a cheek,
allowing your mouth to wander to the fullest kiss.
Lips to lips, you stay there –
breathing in love like a thirsty climber,
until your lungs are about to burst for oxygen.
You hold the kiss just a touch longer
and fall into the embrace that knows
this will be a fleeting goodbye,
until the next kiss
brings waves of running horses to your door.

~ first published in The Lava Storyteller (Red Mare Press)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Arrows That Choose Us

photo: ralph murre, glass artist: unknown

The Arrows That Choose Us
by Marilyn Annucci

the ones who hover above us, pressing us
to live or love or be eaten by death
are smaller than ferns, taller than goats,
redder than blood, cold as snow inside snow
inside caves of rock or shadows or
a garden’s hell. They exist in mud, in a sky
beyond sky, in a mind that won’t stop,
in the white light of another realm where
duty calls, where tunnels are wrought,
where strange creatures move forward
bearing black bones, talons, words, the prick
of desire, whatever is needed to tear us awake

~ previously published in Waiting Room (Hill-Stead)

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Sky is Full of Bluebirds

artwork: ralph murre

The Sky is Full of Bluebirds

but not everyone can see them
so they think it’s just a blue sky,
and at night, when it’s all crows  –
well, you know.
And early and late
come the cardinals and tanagers,
but don’t try to explain that
to just anyone.
There are gray birds, too.

~ Ralph Murre

first published in Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar

Saturday, May 17, 2014


artwork: ralph murre

by Susan Tepper

Scrape my face— find
vines and what I want

leave tangled—
there were countries

cut in sections
viable yet invisible
but for leanings— a shoulder

against a train window

raindrops blinding trees
beyond the reach of
what was cold

You clutched a coat
promised again to be sorry.

~ first published in Poetry Salzburg Review

Monday, May 12, 2014

Abbey Road

Abbey Road

by Michael Kriesel                                          

Apperception. Knowledge tattooed on my
brain. Like knowing my left hand’s there, or time’s
contemporaneous. Everything
demanding God’s attention all at once.
Every bill falls due now. No credit
for the lord of time who floats above the
grooves of linear experience. Old
hippies remember Abbey Road, side 2.
In grooves we live, forced forward. In dreams we
jump the vinyl wall, travel astrally.
Kept in line by time. The only way we
learn down here. The perfect training tool. Time
merely measuring matter in motion.
No matter, no time. Just eternity’s
ocean, and consciousness, attaining to
pure light’s height, looking down on its record,
cued to every note at once. A burst.
Release. We become lighthouses on a
shore with no sand or water, one at a
time. A light for others to steer towards,
until we’re all light. Eternity’s not
very long. A winter walk. A movie
where you’re frozen between frames, like slides. You
exit, enter doorways in the air, as
you balance on emptiness, between fields,
zippers jingling a second, stepping through. 

~ first published in The Writer

Sunday, May 11, 2014

remember cousins

artwork: ralph murre

remember cousins
by Barb Cranford

remember how they tumbled
suddenly into your backyard
where you were playing
with your best friend
older, boisterous boys
they smashed the sandcastle
scattered the buckets
and broke your hi-li paddle

after dinner they went away
with their parents
to wherever they came from

three who lived in Seattle
existed only as blurry faces
in the front row in snapshots
that arrived every year
 with your aunt’s Christmas card

one much-loved cousin, gone now
sent her poems to you
from a nursing home
you held onto her life line
as long as you could

some day when you are old
and living in the country
one you’ve never met
will drive into your yard
and walk slowly up the path
with sunlight behind him

amazed you will recognize
the image of your father
come clear across the country
to meet you

~ first appeared  in The Oak

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Not Bringing Souvenirs

photoart: ralph murre

Not Bringing Souvenirs
by Don Schaeffer

Although she remains
as a small changing wavelet
through which the particles pass,

everything around her
flows away, all the
material nuggets.

I can't bring
tokens of a home
she can't connect again.

Even the molecules of
her lifetime

~ first published in Loch Raven Review

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


photo: ralph murre

by Peggy Trojan

When snow melts
in the deepest shadows
of our Wisconsin woods,
white of wild trilliums
takes its place.
Though my father understood
the state has claimed them
as their own
and threatens fines
for anyone who argues,
he dared every May
to walk the south forty,
his sweetheart
with a large bouquet
of spring
offered in his wide
calloused hand.

~ first published in Rav'n

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Park Eden . . .

by CX Dillhunt

Park Eden, El Valle de Antón, 

Yes, that's a toucan,
yet I wrote this piece about
those white pelicans

~ first published in Hummingbird:
   Magazine of the Small Poem

Thursday, May 1, 2014


photo: ralph murre

 by Bruce Taylor       

The sun rises from its depth
to set the world on fire,
water overflows with clouds
thirsting for rain.

Tops of trees shimmer still
following the current light
rootless in the shallows
where the sky edges the shore.

Two lone boats doze and float
the morning, misty as it settles,
the same old man, the same dog,
another day the world allows.

~ from The Longest You've Lived Anywhere:
             Poems New & Selected