Fractals

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video will be saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

It’s time for a hodgepodge. How can you follow the importance of one thing to another?

The virus has us all thinking with accompanied anxieties, plural, about the upcoming winter. And if you are where we are in Michigan, that means cold until May. What is the virus like in the freezing cold? I have yet to be told.

However, I should’ve begun with the wonder that is autumn. It all makes me feel honest awe, and at my age, I should be immune. I am not. The way the colors choreograph their appearance is silently orchestral.

Then there was my grandmother. (You met her before if you follow these posts.) Every year we—the family—would head out for a “color tour.” We’d beg her to go along. She would always refuse. Off we’d go, jaws dropping at every turn. On our return, she’d ask how it was, and my sister and I would all but jump around the room exclaiming the dazzle. Mom and Dad would maturely concur. My grandmother, who always sat in “her” chair by the window would turn, point out at all the trees that filled her front yard and quietly say, “Did they look like these?”

And we’re gonna worry about the holidays. How can we have them? They are tradition at its most celebrated.

And November 3. What will happen? What has happened is unconscionable. I started these postings not to argue with 45, but to counter him. I thought four-five months, tops. Frankly, I’m tired. Joe has to let me, if I keep going—kinda up to you—Joe has to enable me to write the sentiment-filled stuff I love to notice.

And if things are serious, I want them to be serious-personal as in the last two days. I’ve worked on poetry with Episcopal priest Rich Frontjes and retired philosophy professor Jim Allis, both of whom compose important, humane poems. I’ve heard and responded to the death of a friend’s father and brother, and I listened to a friend as he told me, somehow, of the death in a car wreck of his friends, a mother and daughter-in-law. Our daughter had a colleague commit suicide yesterday. I am doing the Crop Walk (For me, the Crop Limp?) and I am overwhelmed at the kindness and generosity of so many friends. I write these because I know you are experiencing similar personal experiences and want to give your time and attention to them, not to this virus and certainly no to four more years of gaslighting.

Example: Can you believe the doctor who treated 45 declaring him, what? Safe! 45? Safe??

This doctor took a Hippocratic oath.

That’s enough. Let’s savor the changing of the leaves. Let’s make it a secularly spiritual ritual. let’s all feel like jumping in the leaves, or like my grandmother, just look out the window.

Fractals

On this autumn afternoon, the light
falls across the last sentence in a letter,
just before the last movement of Brahms’
Fourth Symphony, a recording made more
than 20 years ago, the time when we were
looking for a house to rehabilitate, maybe
take out a wall and let the kitchen open
up into the living room, put in a window
so the morning light could fall across
the bed my wife’s grandmother made
the canopy for, the bed she slept in for
forty years. She was a doctor looking
for a town close enough that we can
drive past where she practiced, imagine
her picking up her violin when there
was time between patients, settle
it under her chin and play, looking
out the window into the same street we
drive down on our way to visit our
daughter in her studio. She creates
dresses, stitches turning into lines,
fabric turning into sculpture hanging
under her skylight, the dresses’ threads
knotted, their edges frayed. When
we knock on her door, she welcomes
us with cups of steaming tea, turns
down the jazz and kisses us. She
is happy in this light and later she
will ask us how we like our new place,
laugh when we begin to tell her all
our plans for tearing out the kitchen,
knocking out a wall so we can see
deep into the wood, along the creek
that twists itself around a pile of rocks
and through the trees. She makes us
dinner as we listen to Miles Davis,
“Birth of the Cool”—I always wonder
why he ended with a vocal, one
that sounds recorded twenty years
before. Its notes are sleepy,
the voices like smoke. At home
the dog and cats are sleeping. We
forgot to leave a light on for them,
but the radio is playing, and when we
get there, they will want to go outside.
The dog will pause for a scratch behind
his ears, his tail wagging as the cats
jump off the couch, hurry out the door,
disappear into the dark.
We’ll tune the radio to a symphony,
watch the moon harvesting
its light through the back window.

–Jack Ridl

Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

Intercessory Prayer

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video will be saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

There he stood ever so proudly on the White House balcony. I fully
expected him to break into song — “Don’t cry for me all you Proud
Boys!”

So I thought it only responsible to make sure you were aware of 45’s
conclusions drawn from his experience with Covid-19 or as
he would like it named, Trump-2020. I paraphrase:

“There’s nothing to fear. Couple days, you’ll be fine. Fine. The
recovery rate is fabulous. Fabulous. We have the finest recovery rate
in the world.

“It’s time to open the theaters and concert halls. People need our
cultural entertainments. True, they don’t make America great, but
they provide a good time for those who do. I am proud, so very
proud, of every one of my arts.

“Masks — like Dr. Anthony Fauci says he didn’t say, but of course he
did — are not at all necessary. Not at all. More fake ideas to scare
you and can you believe this guy Biden? He thinks they should be
mandatory. Weak. Very weak.

“All those people they say died? Hoax! Just wanted to make me look
bad in Scotland.

“I had a couple Secret Service guys with me in the car when I left
Walter Reed. Dozens wanted to ride along. Fun. Terrific time. Really
terrific. Stopped for burgers and fries. They even paid. Nice guys.
Really nice guys.

“Yeah, lots of other presidents — like whats-his-name, Izinhour? — had
illnesses. Hey, but I’m the only one who is contagious. How about
that, huh? The people at Wally Reed were fantastic. Every one of them. That
doctor who said I shouldn’t leave? He didn’t say that. He said that I
shouldn’t leave my room. Big difference there. Biiiiiig difference.
They shouldn’t track me. I’ll tell you who they should track — that guy
Biden. See how he’s always wearing a mask? What’s that tellin’ ya,
huh? Think about it. That guy’s scared. He’s afraid. He’s weak. And
weakness, that’s what’s contagious. You surround yourself with
weak people and before you know it, well…

“This thing is almost over. I suggest you order a big turkey right now,
this afternoon. Why not?”

*********

Jack here now — more than 210,750 Americans have died. Likely none
received the same care as 45.

So-called Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have
suggested that the Court reconsider the case that legalized same
sex marriage saying that the ruling has impeded on religious
freedom. If that’s true, than abolishing the law impedes on the
religious freedom of our church, The United Church of Christ.

This is post number 202 since I began this project in 2016. May there be but four more.

Let’s vote for civility. Oh and by the way, don’t help destroy
democracy by voting for a third party candidate.

Intercessory Prayer

Think of all that doesn’t make a sound:
eyes, hands folded, certain feet on
a forest floor. And think of the deaf
world living on this silent
comforting:
the hair on your dog,
the thoughts that make a city
of your mind, moss
the emptiness we have to carry,
the space between the stars.

–Jack Ridl

from The Same Ghost (Dawn Valley Press)

Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

Bartholomew: Disciple

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video will be saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

“ I cannot tell a lie.”
“I cannot tell the truth.”

Well. This is post number 201.

I can remember where this started — 2016, and feeling I needed to try to do something when the ridiculous-idea-of-an-electoral-college placed cruelty-incarnate inside the White House.

I, of course, knew that writing each week would be ineffectual. I naively thought when I pledged to myself to write a post each week, that the most-inhumane-person-ever-to-assume-the-presidency would be gone after half a year. I sure was wrong to believe in the integrity-of-checks-and-balances. So, here I sit trying once again to protest in the way that I can.

By the time you read this, 45 will have distorted and obfuscated and lied and fouled the office of Lincoln as he faced the decency of one Joe Biden, the only one of the two seeking office who knows and understands and believes in democracy. The presidency is an office meant to protect not prostitute the Constitution, an office where one serves and doesn’t boss the people, whose hair grays, rather than costs taxpayers $70,000 to maintain in a circus-clown-coif.

Some friends got trapped in the traffic jam of a 45 rally-parade near here. What stood out to them was that there was little if any affirmation of 45. Instead there was a loudspeaker barrage of vicious, racist, misogynist lies. And along the route was an enormous billboard containing just three lines, one under the other:

PRO GOD
PRO GUNS
PRO TRUMP

Imagine the man riding, not a chariot, but a donkey, slowly passing that billboard. I always think that when giving The Sermon on the Mount, that same donkey rider had in mind the preface, “YOU are NOT the blessed! Blessed are . . .”

There was a memorial service the other day for the man who changed my life when I asked him if he remembered what he wanted to be when he grew up. He looked into my eyes and said, “Kind.”

Vote kind.

Bartholomew: Disciple

I never knew what was going on.

He would say, “Let’s go,” and we
would follow. “Follow” was his word.

And we would. Fools we were to let that
take us all that way. Why we did to this day

I don’t know. Look how it ended. Look
what it became. But what did we have

to stay for? Nothing. There wasn’t much
work. Nothing much to do. There were no

stories left. Bread. Fish. So we ended up
with more bread and fish. But we did find

stories and stories. Well, what else is there?
I never did much along the way. Look it up.

In the big deal painting I’m the one who appears
rather glassy eyed, and believe me, it wasn’t the wine.

I just went along. The miracles had been done before.
I will say, though, that it was his words. Words!

Imagine. Words had never done what his did.
I’d listen, and I wasn’t much of a listener. Then

later I would try to make sense of them. I couldn’t.
But I could feel them. And maybe that was it, how

they got inside you and made you wonder and wrinkle.
They got in my brain’s garden and made it seem like

the roots were above ground and all the flowers and
vegetables, all the nourishing, were now below.

He didn’t reverse things, exactly—the first shall be
last and the last first and all that. It was that everything

changed inside me when he said those things. It was
what happened to me. I started looking at lepers and the poor

and paid no attention anymore to the kings and scribes and
Pharisees. I had thought the world of them. Now they seemed

unimportant in their importance. See? See how hard it is to
explain this stuff? You just started seeing everything with a

new mind. You began to be drawn to a whole new world,
and it was a world. Like now. A world within a world, one

drawing you, the other imposing itself on you. Why am I
telling you what you already know? Erosions. That’s it.

The reversals were erosions. And in what was left, I
wanted to plant what didn’t belong. Lilies in fields.

You might say, okay, whatever, and yet those words
did become flesh, my flesh. And my flesh, my body, held

the kingdom of God, and if it’s a place that’s a place
for children, then most of what I know really doesn’t matter.

Labor doesn’t, and money, and reason, and, well, you
go make a list. He’d get me so confused. And then we’d

head off worrying about how we would eat and where
we’d sleep. Our feet were filthy. My God, we were always

filthy. We stank. And then he’d go and point at birds or
stalks of grain, even stop and have us kneel before a flower,

and then he’d smile. That haunts me still. That smile.
And then he died. He brought out hate, not love. He had

a terrifying sense of justice. Nothing he said or did
was impossible. Maybe that was it. It was all possible.

–Jack Ridl
Published by Image Journal, 9/28/2020

Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

Maybe

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video will be saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

Decades ago, there was a product called Serutan. A fiber laxative. At the end of each ad, the announcer would resonantly announce, “Remember, Serutan spelled backwards is Natures.”

My little sister and I, at the conclusion of a Geritol ad, would announce, “Remember, Geritol spelled backwards is Lotireg!”

Most of us are now suffering, if not from Covid, then from Covid fatigue. Most of us, though not very active, don’t feel like being at all active. Most of us are depleted. Our “surge capacity” is depleted. Please read Tara Haelle’s reporting behind that link. “Surge capacity,” the ability to manage from within a crisis, is meant for crises whose end you can see from here. We can’t see the end. So we have no way to restore our surge capacity. And it’s all long ago spent.

The depletion shows up as a mixture of anxiety, depression and ennui. The cause? A neverending series of ambiguous losses. Maybe we go out to eat once a month. But now not going out once a month is an ambiguous loss when stirred together with all the other daily losses we never realized we depended on. We always walked our dog with Jane and her dog Diamond. We’re sick of washing our hands. One Birthday Zoom party is enough. For a while we loved spending the day in our pajamas and working online, but what we’d give for finding a parking space, wearing a blue blouse, and eating an egg salad sandwich with a fellow worker. Sure we’re glad we get to read those books we’ve been putting off, but we’re sick of reading. We are sick of managing from within a crisis. We are sick of cancellations. We are sick of it all.

And if we have suffered the loss of any of the 200,000 who have died, are caring for any of the millions who are infected, lost a job, a home, a business, we’re among millions who are grieving or barely coping.

45! 45 who can only blame, offers excuses, and wouldn’t be able to spell comfort, let alone offer it.

Americans aren’t good at grieving. We’re to be strong, carry on, get over it, let time heal. It’s embarrassing to grieve, and amid a pandemic we have no way of comforting one another except to send over another casserole.

You aren’t alone.

Not only are we afraid for ourselves and those we love, and have a leader who cannot give us assurance honestly, but one who stacks the deck against us, we now must find, on our own, some way to sustain ourselves when there really is no foolproof way to do that.

What a true, deep hug could do. But we got nothin’.

Here we are, pretty darn well off if we’re lucky, and can’t find the energy to do a thing. Not even Lotireg can give us a boost.

THIS is the norm. I almost wrote “new normal.” New? We’re all feeling old and there’s nothing normal about it.

Surge depletion and ambiguous loss are real. Take two understandings and a spoonful of compassion each morning and know that the guy across the street is experiencing it too.

Maybe

It’s another morning, the sun
pulled slowly hand over hand
to sow its earth-bound light
dappling the grasses,
fuzzy whites, lady’s mantle,
lamb’s ear, and lying across
the variegated leaves, hexing
what we think we see. Along
the lily-padded pond, the frogs
with ever croaking gulp swallow
the light’s arrival. On the porch
the dog at peace between his paws.

–Jack Ridl

First Published in Talking River
Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)

Chris Clark has published a spiritual anthology, Blessings for the Backpack of the Soul. Chris had planned to walk the entire El Camino and felt having a collection of spiritual writings, poems, and prayers would help nourish him along The Way. Of course Covid struck. However, instead of giving up on the collection, Chris decided to have it published and give the proceeds to charity. It can be downloaded for free or ordered behind the link above.

Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

After Spending the Morning Baking Bread

Jack will post today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video will be saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

Two anecdotes that in one way or another encapsulate our experiences during this inexplicable time:

After our Douglas UCC church service, we have a Zoom coffee hour. Remembering 9/11 was brought up and Pastor Sal gave a thoughtful and poignant response to the lives lost, some 3,000, and talked about Father Mychal, with whom Sal worked when he was a Christian Brother. You may have seen the iconographic photograph of the fireman carrying Father Mychal, the first official victim taken from the Towers. Father Mychal was priest to New York fire fighters.

I then brought up the nearly 200,000 people who have died because 45 refused to take proper early action against the virus. There are no dramatic photos of each of those people, just someone who passed away, likely in a hospital bed.

My comment aroused the fire of a lone Republican in defense of 45, who we all know is not at all even a Republican, but a despot. Well, that was interesting. I have never heard “Blessed are the liars and the billionaires for they shall inherit the earth.”

However, they are giving it their best shot.

To balance that unexpected experience, I have to tell you a rescue story. Julie is mothering two kittens she discovered behind the air conditioner at the same DUCC church, They are now about five or six weeks old and it is very difficult to stop watching them. They’re inseparable, curl all around one another when they sleep, eat out of the same bowl, although Jennifer tends to surreptitiously nudge Molly over in order to gobble more kitten repast. Of course Julie has created a kittens’ amusement park complete with towers to climb, boxes to hide within, a three-storey sleeping quarters and multiple stuffed everything that can be unstuffed and batted and carried by a kitten. Ya gotta smile, no matter where you are in the house you can hear them squeaking at each other. It’s a sound like no other.

So perhaps those two anecdotes in one way or another represent the lives most of us are leading. Anguish at its peak. Joy at its peak. I don’t know how we’re doing it, but we all are.

As we say in DUCC, “Namaste.” I hope you stay well, and if you are ill, may you recover to join us as we try to wander our way through these times like no others we have known.

After Spending the Morning Baking Bread

Our cat lies across the stove’s front burners,
right leg hanging over the oven door. He
is looking into the pantry where his bowl
sits full on the counter. His smaller dish,
the one for his splash of cream, sits empty.
Say yes to wanting to be this cat. Say
yes to wanting to lie across the left-over
warmth, letting it rise into your soft belly,
spreading into every twitch of whisker, twist
of fur and cell, through the mobius strip
of your bloodstream. You won’t know
you will die. You won’t know the mice
do not exist for you. If a lap is empty and
warm, you will land on it, feel an unsteady
hand along your back, fingers scratching
behind your ear. You will purr.

–Jack Ridl

First published in North American Review.
Subsequently published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State
University Press)

J.R. Solonche has released not one but two new collections this year already: For All I Know and Piano Music. “In lines full of mischief or romance, gaiety or grief, he is the poet of the everyday, spent on Earth or in an imaginary heaven.”—Judith Farr, author of The Passion of Emily Dickinson

Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

It Doesn’t Matter this Early in the Morning

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

My buddy from college, Mel, is a brilliant and eccentric therapist and professor, and has lectured throughout the world. His publications are multiple, he chairs his department while keeping his private practice.

In 1971, Melvin Miller is in Vietnam, in charge of a troop. He has his men leave a space during roll call for one invisible soldier — Private Harold Harnch. He orders his men to go into the jungle, tear down vines and make peace signs. A superior officer tried to have him court martialed, but the reasons were so absurd that they decided to just let it go.

“Sir, we demand a court martial for Miller’s invisible soldier.”

Nah.

One day Mel drove his jeep over a cliff. I can’t recall how many bones he broke.

He was sent home and placed in Valley Forge Military Hospital. I was living in Pittsburgh so I drove across Pennsylvania to visit him. And there he lay in bed with both his arms and both his legs held up in the air in traction. there was no way he could move. There was no way he could heal except by waiting — for a long time. And then very slowly begin to walk and lift, and move again. Painfully.

However he could talk.

“I got out of that damn lie of a war,” said Mel.

So 45 thinks our soldiers are “suckers” and “losers.” Say, what?

It Doesn’t Matter This Early in the Morning

The sun beats down
somewhere else and
the moon is lower
than the top of the trees.
The cat comes back from
its prowl and curls up
in front of the back door.
Coming up the street,
the headlights on the
night shift worker’s car
turn into his driveway. We
can hear the refrigerator,
the pump in the basement,
the fan in the bedroom
upstairs. If there are
ghosts, they have only
the silence, only the last
of the moon’s borrowed light.

—Jack Ridl

Published in Point Shirley/Oxford England

Laura Donnelly’s Midwest Gothic, winner of the Richard Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press is now available. Donnelly’s first collection, Watershed, won the 213 Cider Press Review Editors’ Prize.

Eco-poet Alison Swan’s new collection, A Fine Canopy has been released by Wayne State University Press.

Both of these collections reveal writers who care deeply about their subjects and the use of artistry that serves their subjects with evidence of mastery, purpose, and integrity.

All of these writers have new books that deserve our attention: Robert Fanning, Alison Luterman, Jeff Munroe, Heidi Aronson, Shea Tuttle Charlie Brice, Judith Brice, R.A. Kamin, Matthew Baker, Ginger Rankin (her husband was my dad’s first All-American player), Dan Gerber, Phyllis Klein, Linda Hillringhouse, Patricia Barnes, Lisa Lenzo, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Robert Hamblin, Faith Shearin, Nancy Esther James, Salvatore Sapienza, Kirk Westphal, Thomas Allbaugh, D.R. James.

Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

The Days

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

My neighbor, a black man in his 80s, will no longer leave his porch. Mostly he reads. His wife is white. She now does all the things that need to be done outside the house. During his lifetime, he has been a security guard in a hospital and at a college, where he once saved a young white woman from jumping from the roof of her dormitory. He owned a company in Detroit, lived through the riots.

He and his wife bought, and made highly successful, a rundown farm. He fell in love with the earth and with tending the produce he and his wife sold out by noon every day.

In the backyard behind our condos now he grows about a bucketful of potatoes. We had some for dinner last night.

No matter where they have lived, as soon as they moved in, he has gone to the local police station, first responder teams, and firefighters to introduce himself, give his address, and tell them that “If there is ever a need for you to come into our home, the white woman there is my wife.”

His grandfather’s family had been slaves who were given some land. Beginning around age ten my neighbor spent the summers working in his grandfather’s tobacco fields. His job: covering the plants with arsenic insecticide. Today he can barely breathe. 

Somehow through this whole long, fascinating and difficult and hardworking life he can find a way to laugh, and grow potatoes, and share them. But right now, he won’t leave his porch. Except to watch Portland and Kenosha and Minneapolis and Louisville. 

This is but one example of the consequences of 45’s bullying claim of being the “LAW & ORDER” president, protecting us from the “violence incited by the leftist, radical democrats.”

Uh huh.

Obviously it’s 45 who incites the hate that leads to violence. It’s 45 who has jailed my friend, confined him to his porch.

The Days

There’s a bit of a rustle, leaves maybe,
the wind lifting them off the dust
for a second or two. Or a deer, startled,

turning back. Overhead, the clouds go by.
Someone raises the sheets, gives them
a shake and makes the bed, fluffing the pillow

to finish things. You lie back. There
are dogs in your dreams, a garden, a daughter
picking a flower to bring to you. She’s not

supposed to pick the flowers there. No matter.
Everyone’s asleep in another room. When you
opened your eyes, the world stopped, looked

your way, went on. It’s like that. The cars go by.
Some people give speeches. Some have it all
figured out. The cardinals and sparrows feed

at the seed outside the window. You used to watch
them. You heard their song. When the big band
played “Satin Doll,” you were dancing

again, the ballroom floor glistening under
the sparkle of the spinning silver globe,
everything else a long way away.

–Jack Ridl

This poem first appeared in Controlled Burn and was subsequently published Practicing To Walk Like a Heron, Wayne State University Press

I’ve been asked how I pick the books to include here. I don’t. I simply list books by those I know who I’ve learned have books out. I know that I miss many. And for that I am sorry. Friend, if you’ve got a new book out, tell me about it!

These writers have books I know that some of you would appreciate: Laura Donnelly, Alison Luterman, Jeff Munroe, Heidi Aronson, Shea Tuttle Charlie Brice, Judith Brice, R.A. Kamin, Matthew Baker, Ginger Rankin (her husband was my dad’s first All-American player), Dan Gerber, Phyllis Klein, Linda Hillringhouse, Patricia Barnes, Lisa Lenzo, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Robert Hamblin, Faith Shearin, Nancy Esther James, Salvatore Sapienza, Kirk Westphal, Thomas Allbaugh, D.R. James.

Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

The Man Who Wanted To Change the World

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

I am stymied. I’m just no good at this divisive stuff, especially when someone keeps arguing by saying things like “Well, that’s what I believe,” or “It’s my opinion,” or “God’s word says.”

And yet a wonderful thing happened here in the nearby city. After more than nine years of fierce argument, and six more hours of the public standing at the mike and either offering scripted, unsupportable, cruel ideas and descriptions or reasoned and supportive explanations, the city ordinance against discrimination of any kind, especially against the LGBTQ community, passed 8-1.

I recall how difficult it was as a teacher working in that town to help certain students get past ‘ “It’s my opinion” as a basis for what they were enduring. I heard “I have a right to my opinion.” “It’s a free country, “ and I’d try to show that “you have a right to your opinion. It’s simply that I am trying to help you see how much more powerful it is when you also tell us the two or five facts your opinion is supported by.”

Sometimes the light came on. Often it didn’t.

I always felt a success in presenting the point and a failure at enabling the student to realize the importance of that point. And every morning as Julie reads aloud the wonderful nearly-daily column by the brilliant historian Hearther Cox Richardson, I feel again the overwhelming need for the world of opinion sitting alone to be extinct and the world of point-of-view emboldened by facts and history be what we waken to.

If you take in the Republican convention, have a good time noting how often this misguided way of thinking takes place. Watch for false comparisons based on… what? Watch for judgments supported by… what? Watch for promises backed by… what, exactly?

Or listen to jazz instead. Here’s a repeat that seems to fit—

The Man Who Wanted to Change the World

He thought exchanging the nouns
might help. No one could say
“gun” in the same old way. You
would have to pause, say,
“What’s the name again? Oh, yes,
sassafras.” You would hear
“Give me the wisteria to the car,”
or find yourself asking, “Why
don’t we add some whispers
to the bottom line?” He realized
this one long, hazy afternoon

while staring up into the trees,
into the wild acceptance
of their branches’ tangle. He
watched light settle on
the leaves. He believed
the robins, vireos, and
nuthatches could see it.
Later that evening, drying
his dinner plate, he felt everything
around him leaving, felt himself
alone amid the sparkles of dust.
Before bed, he addressed, sealed
and stamped a stack of empty
envelopes, one for everyone
he loved. The next morning
he made his first list: bread dough,
lightning, salt, candle, mourning dove,
while he thought of last
laugh, coffin, profit margin,
proliferation, highway, fake.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Scintilla
Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

A Father

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

Almost four years ago when I started writing this protest blog, I figured I’d be done in about four months. I mean how long can responsible people who represent us let us be led by a bully?

Well, here I sit once again trying to do what I’m not cut out to do: write another weekly, tangent composed “post.”

It’s maddening. I write on Tuesday, giving Julie time to show me what makes no sense whatsoever. Also I can’t spell. I was the first to go down in the state spelling bee. I was in seventh grade.

I sure hope the selection of Kamala Harris helps end this ordeal come November.

All this loss. All these people living in grief.

It’s been 25 years since I lost my dad. I still miss him. I mean I miss him in his garden. Someone’s passing upsets me because they don’t still get to be around. I cringe when someone says, “You’ll have such good memories.” Remembering is anything but a pleasant experience for me. “Remember your father and his gardens?” It’s meant well, but I want to say,“YEAH! I’m really upset that he can’t be back growing his vegetables and hundreds of gladioli.”

“45, YOU could have prevented hundreds of thousands of people being left with “good memories.”

And speaking of, now, it’s the precarious back to school time. Everyone must be worried if their children are among those going back into a building. I am scared as can be for our daughter, an overloaded art teacher.

A Father

I remember how he’d wait; he’d
make a mound of peace and surround
himself with nothing
I could know. His mind
seemed alone at the taut end
of a kite string. I would wait,
hoping for the air to open dipping
him back to us. His eyes were empty

sockets of morning light. I was on
my own, trying to learn at the end
of his fingers what it was he knew.

–Jack Ridl

First published in New Collage.
Subsequently published in The Same Ghost (Dawn Valley Press)

I’ve been asked how I pick the books to include here. I don’t. I simply list books by those I know who I’ve learned have books out. I know that I miss many. And for that I am sorry.

These writers have books I know that some of you would appreciate: Heidi Aronson, Shea Tuttle Charlie Brice, Judith Brice, R.A. Kamin, Ginger Rankin (her husband was my dad’s first All-American player), Dan Gerber, Phyllis Klein, Linda Hillringhouse, Patricia Barnes, Lisa Lenzo, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Robert Hamblin, Faith Shearin, Nancy Esther James, Salvatore Sapienza, Kirk Westphal, Thomas Allbaugh, D.R. James.

I do want to add that R.A. Kamin’s book is a suspense novel, her first, that keeps the pages turning. She wrote much of it here at our house after a full day as a therapist and mom who owns a large practice in Grand Rapids. Her practice is known as the first in her city to openly accept LGBTQ clients. She is good people.

Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

The Cat and I Watch the Morning

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

Let’s see: 45 on Mt. Rushmore? Hmmm…

How about if next he demands to be inserted into some of history’s most memorable artworks?

“Wouldn’t that be terrific! Think how many more people would come to see these and how much more they would appreciate them. Terrific idea. Terrific.”

For starters:

American Gothic
The Last Supper
Whistler’s Mother
The Peaceable Kingdom
The Bathers
The Ascension of Christ
At the Moulin Rouge
Young Woman Powdering Herself
Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jutte
Nude Woman in the Sunlight
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel
Still Life with Plaster Cast
The Gleaners
(The) David
Birth of Venus

Your list?

The Cat and I Watch the Morning

It’s what we do. Each morning.
The cat still sleeping on the sill, tail

twitching. Standing at the window,
I sip my coffee, new-brewed and

caramel-creamed. Within the sprawl
of this light, I want to turn and say,

“Watch how the light moves across
the liriope, sharp-cutting in shafts

through the winter leftovers of
browns and yellows, how it lies

on the platter-leaved butterbur,
drips down the fragile dangle

of coral bells and columbine, settles
into the full dark of the hemlock.”

–Jack Ridl

First published in the Chariton Review.
Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch, Wayne State University Press.

The best medicine for this time has come from the great Detroit Poet and merry prankster, M. L. Liebler, and his poetry happenings online. Do follow him, show up for his Zoom readings. Feel better.

Kirk Westphal’s’s new collection Arts and Science is available through Dos Madres Press. The poems explore in unexpected ways how the arts and the sciences blend, even fuse, can’t be simply separated. Westphal’s knowledge of philosophy infuses his work as he moves the reader to reflect on one’s encounters with both disciplines, enabling us to recognize we are encountering both at once.

Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection