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:
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.”
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.
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.
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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