The Materialism of Angels

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. 

Well, we thought last Thursday would be our final post. But on and on went the counting. My hope is that this ends the ordeal. I do worry that 45 will pull some scheme. In which case, we’ll be here until I see him walk or be walked out the door of our house. I’m using the plural here, because all along this has been the two of us, Julie and me. I write, she edits and posts and reminds me every week how to respond to your comments. And then pandemic-streaming on Facebook. Julie is behind the camera. I may be unlucky in my country’s leadership, but we are very lucky to have each other.

Several years ago I received a beautiful message from Germany from one Norbert Kraas. Since then, without yet meeting in person, we have become friends as deep as can be. Corinna is his most unassuming, multi-talented French wife. They have two children, Emily and Henry. And they live in a town you are sure exists only on a postcard from the 1800s. Oh how Julie and I want so to visit them in Tubingen.

Norbert has done so much to make these posts known in Europe. One of the multitude of things he has done was to introduce me to Christian Zaschke, the renowned writer of important bestsellers on the Irish troubles, and on Brexit. Each week he multiplies the editions of SZ, the German equivalent of the New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde. He writes what he wants to write. He’s that well trusted by his editors, and his audience is enormous.

Four years ago Christian came to Saugatuck/Douglas for four days to do a story on this little known poet guy who was writing a protest column along with a poem and sending it out every Thursday. He was interested because I was not so much arguing with 45, as trying to support those whose character and values were being threatened by his malicious words and actions and calling attention to other writers whose work reminds us that we exist.

The other day, I received a message from Christian. I thought it a fitting shalom, namaste to all of you who have been so kind in receiving the posts as well as writing to tell me what they meant to you. YOU kept me going. Especially since I never believed that we would have to endure such wreckage for a full four years. And 45’s likely not done. In or out of office, on the first or fifteenth tee, he will be scheming ways to cause us harm.

So now, From Christian:

Dear Jack, my friend.

It’s looking good, isnt it?

What I like about the process is that it is so slow.

So 45 was sitting in the White House, glued to the TV, and he could see the defeat on the horizon but it was crawling towards him ever so slowly (like, if you will, a snail on a straight razor).

It must have been extremely painful for this particular man to see it coming closer and closer and closer and closer and closer …

And I like the little stories hidden in this election. You know why he lost Arizona? Because 97 percent of the Navajo Nation voted for Biden, and their vote is pretty much the difference between the two men in the state. So it were Native Americans who kicked him out there, after all. For some reason this sounds right to me.

Last but not least: I have smuggled you and your beautiful work into one of our big election features. It is just a tiny paragraph and it is supposed to work like a coda in music. At least that was my idea.

It goes like this:
——————-
Since the day Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, the aged and wise poet Jack Ridl from Saugatuck, Michigan, has been fighting the man in the White House with poetry. I have the best words, Trump had said, and Ridl thought to himself: “Well. We’ll see about that.” Week after week, always on Thursdays, he posted a poem on his blog and wrote a short introduction. It was the quietest possible form of protest, and yet it was an intense one. As he wrote, he wanted to do something against this president (whom he never called by name but always referred to as “45”) by giving the only thing he had to give: his art. “Well, my friends,” he wrote this week, “I made it for the whole four years. Please, no more.” Jack Ridl hopes his work is complete.
————————-
All the very best from Hell’s Kitchen, where even the sun seems to be in a pretty good mood today. Please, give Julie a big hug from me and feel hugged yourself.

Christian

The Materialism of Angels
                         “Who would say that pleasure is not useful?”—Charles Eames

Of course the angels dance. If not
on the head of a pin, then maybe
on the boardwalk along the ocean of stars.
And they eat hot and spicy: salsa,
tabasco, red peppers. They love
mangoes. They can munch
for hours on cashews. Olives
sit in bronze bowls on the cherry
tables next to their canopy beds
where the solace of pillows swallows
their sweet heads and the quiet
of silk lies across their happy backs.
They know the altruism of material things.
They want to say to us, “We’ll sleep
next to you. Feel our soft and unimposing
flutter across your shoulders, on your
heartbroken feet.” They want us
to take, eat, to smell the wood,
run our tired fingers over the rim of
every glass, give our eyes the chance
to see the way the metal bends and
curves its way into the black oval
of the chair. They want us to feel
the holiness of scratching where it
itches, rubbing where it hurts. They
want us to take long, steamy showers
and a nap. They know how easily
we follow directions: hook the red wire
to the front of the furnace, fill in only
the top half of the life insurance form.
They have no manuals for joy.
They can’t fix anything we break.
They wonder why we never laugh
enough, why we don’t know God
is crazy for deep massage, and loves
to wail on His alto sax whenever they dance.

–Jack Ridl

from 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

Prayer for the Moral Heart

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 said to Julie, “I haven’t had my stomach in such a knot since my dad had to play North Carolina!”

Well, this is it, everyone. This is the first post for the beginning of the next four years. It’s also my last protest post. Four years ago I thought to counter this awful man and his minions by giving the only thing I have to give. I got  so much in return from you.

So, starting next week, each Thursday at 9am instead Julie and I will do our Facebook video chat-and-a-poem only, the emphasis being empathy, as we work to survive the pandemic together. You’ll find me at that link above.

Of course I have wondered all four years whether doing this was worth it to anyone out there. I’m grateful for the responses that came in each week. They were sustaining.

This week, knowing we were nearing some kind of closure, revealing the ugly underbelly that has been there all along, waking us up to how fragile a moral nation is, I received two sustaining messages. One is from an American citizen; the other from a German citizen.

From our American friend Joe MacDoniels: “Here is hoping that you will be able to present a ‘last in the series’ poem on Thursday! That said, I hope you will also announce a new ‘Julie and Jack’ series that will shine a light on redemption, resolution and, dare I say ‘resurrection’ for America and a democratic vision of fairness, equality and hope. With appreciation for four years of starting my Thursdays with glimmers of light, memories and the joy of just falling into the wonderful implications of your words! –Joe

And from German friend Josef Hien: “Dear Jack, I just read a book by Terry Pratchett, from the Discworld series, and I stumbled upon something that made me think of you and what you did the last four years.  In it, a good witch has to fight a daemon called the Cunning Man. He is responsible for spreading fear and hate among people—and when she finally has to face him she says, ‘Your power is only rumor and lies. You bore your way into people when they are uncertain and weak and worried and frightened, and they think their enemy is other people when their enemy is, and always will be, you—the master of lies. Outside you are fearsome; inside, you are nothing but weakness. Inside, I am flint.’ A line a little earlier says, ‘Poison goes where poison’s welcome.’ I really hope that next week there will be not enough hearts and places to be found where poison is welcome. All my best wishes for you—and thank you for being flint!”

And thank YOU all for being flint! All this time, every Thursday and every day.

Prayer for the Moral Heart

There are those who know
the world without words,

not even a murmur or
a breath. Within the modesty

of presence, a prayer
could be green, tattered,

cold, alone as a possum
crossing a back road. It’s

the touch of the still. It’s
where we are Amen,

Shalom, Namaste—it’s our
there, here, our forgotten

habitat of yes. We become
sigh, our “I” the wet dog,

the sparrow nesting
in the anonymity of brown.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Southern Poetry Review
Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University

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

Blue Sky Over Key West

Jack will NOT be reading this poem over livestream on Facebook today. He’s having trouble with a lot of nerve pain again, and he will be taking a little break while we work to get it under control. Prayers and incantations for him, if you are into that sort of thing, please.

Well, Never did I think I would be sitting here four years later.
I certainly don’t need to ask you to VOTE!
And HOPE!

Blue Sky Over Key West

Sometimes when we stand in the loss
of it all, surrounded by what we will never

be, the sky seems to be just fine. It’s blue.
It’s many shades of blue. And it’s there

and will be when we join the landscape
of the invisible. Clouds cross, none ever

the same. And that’s when we realize again
that there actually is no sky, just another

anonymous unknown we are sure we see.
When our dog steps out onto the deck of

our little houseboat bobbing on the nameless
blue-green of this bight and lifts his nose into

the gull-crossed and sea-soaked breeze,
does he see our sky? I like to suppose

he does. Though most likely it’s something
his gentle nose has brought for only him.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press

The remarkably prolific and playfully serious poet J.R. Solonche has just come out with two collections: The Moon Is the Capital of the World and A Guide of the Perplexed.

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

On the Last Day of the World

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. Two weeks away.

I was raised to be very careful about using the word “Evil.”

It was never to be applied haphazardly. Hitler was evil. 45’s way of responding to Gretchen Whitmer, who bravely extended the lockdown here in Michigan and saved who knows how many lives, along with his vicious attacks on Dr. Fauci who has devoted his life to saving lives long after he could have retired, and the heinous accusations placed on Hunter Biden and promoted by that Cheshire Cat Guiliani and the ethically mangled Murdoch’s false journalists led me to brand the word on the protruding foreheads of 45 and his band of conscienceless pranksters.

45 and his henchmen are most certainly evil.

Good soul after good soul have told me that it’s reached the point where they are having physical reactions: stomach pains, increased pressure in the heart, headaches, surge depletion, ambivalent loss, increased anxiety, depression either mild or severe.

G. F. Korreck is one of those people whose interests are so eclectic, a man so humbly knowledgeable and intelligent that awe comes my way in our every conversation. And he’s an exceptional poet with an uncommon imagination. Today he sent to me the following piece of light verse he composed, which if you tilt your head, ain’t light, or is. Both. I secured his permission to include it in today’s post.

“My Favorite President”

serves me
french toast
every morning
and fresh squeezed orange
juice my napkin
has the constitution printed
in script every day
he sings the hallelujah
chorus he rescues a puppy
each afternoon he takes
my mom for a walk
and then shopping and
then to Taco Bell for lunch
he lets me watch old
videos of football
games my favorite
team won and gives
me a dollar
to spend wastefully

my favorite president
has Jimmy John’s cater dinner topped off
by a carton of blue
moon ice cream
and then we watch
tombstone
for the 80th time
my bed gets turned down
the sheets always
fresh the blankets
new and warm
the night light
is a star that sings
lullabies and
then
when it gets real dark
my favorite president
leaves as quietly as
a whisper never heard

–G. F. Korreck

Tonight is the workshop of outstanding poets, ten of ‘em. I think this is our 12th year. Not one emailed me, “But what about the debate?”

On the Last Day of the World

Maybe the sky will be clear,
and we’ll take a walk down
the road behind our house,
just walk along, going nowhere,
somewhere. Birds will fly branch
to branch, a rabbit or chipmunk
may cross in front of us, disappear
into the brush. We’ll try
not to look at the sun.
We’ll keep our eyes off
to the side. When we come
to the bend, we’ll look for
the deer path, take it, and
see where it leads, see if
it opens to a clearing where
each night the deer sleep
deep within the star-distant light.

–Jack Ridl
Published in Third Wednesday

Laura Donnelly’s Midwest Gothic, recipient of the Richard Snyder Memorial Prize and published by Ashland Poetry Press, is one mesmerizing collection. How can you not read poems with tales such as “Miss Missaukee,1966” and “Boat Song in F-sharp Minor”? On sale from the press, or wherever fine books are sold.

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

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