The Rain on the Burren

Julie and I are members of the Douglas UCC Creation Justice Team, a group that believes that the way we treat the environment is a matter of justice. We organized our own “Big Read” of Dan Egan’s extraordinarily important book The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, and Tuesday evening a large group gathered to talk about the urgency of not only protecting, but saving the Great Lakes.

It’s unsettling how few of us realize that what is happening to our water everywhere is dire, and without water becoming an issue that everyone becomes aware of, that same everyone will have their lives threatened and the lives who live after become all but unlivable.

Does 45 care? How could he? He doesn’t read. He doesn’t listen. He is the master of “I wouldn’t be around anyway.”

He’d say, “Climate change? A hoax. Damn rain.”

The Rain on the Burren

I.

The morning rain comes every day, bleak
across the grays of limestone. It falls
on the dolmen, austere and singular
since the cold people of the stone age
hoisted the great slab over their dead.
At home this rain would be a reason
to change our little plans. But here we
assume our noses will drip, our feet
will be wet as we walk the roadside
along the stone walls covered in gorse
and wild roses, our breath will warm
our hands. At home, we would be
having our breakfast on the porch,
a bowl of strawberries in cold milk.
In this day’s beginning we let our hands
wrap around a steaming cup of tea,
then find their way to each other.

II.

The rain here is a burst along the horizontal
or a languid drizzle, the light seeming to lag
behind the day’s gray crawl across the limestone.
Peat-dappled smoke rises sweet within the soft
damp, hints at a warm corner, or after the lost hours
of work, a hearth and finally sleep. The chill is mute.
Tomorrow the sun may come, glistening its light
across the subtleties of green and the blue
of the spring gentians, ellipses between the neolithic
slabs and glacial blunder of boulders. And always
this benevolence of stillness, the rain.

–Jack Ridl

Published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

Hey, I’m so delighted to announce the April 1 (perfect!) release of my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, from Wayne State University Press. Yes, preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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Congratulations to Susan Glassmeyer, recently named “Ohio Poet of the Year” for her latest collection Invisible Fish (Dos Madres Press) Dos Madres also published David James’s recent collection, if god were gentle, and will be publishing Greg Rappleye’s collection Tropical Landscape with Ten Hummingbirds.

Still a few spots for The Lost Lake Writers Retreat. It’s such a beautiful setting, almost too beautiful to be able to write anything. It’s an R and R spot. You can write when you get home after being uplifted by everyone there. Check it out!

Mary McSchmidt will read from her new book Uncharted Waters: Romance, Adventure, and Advocacy on the Great Lakes, Holland Barnes & Noble Bookstore, 10am on Saturday, September 22.

Kristin Brace will be reading from her collection Fence, Patio, Blessed Virgin from Finishing Line Press, Wednesday September 26, 6:00pm at Bricks & Mortar Bookstore, 955 Cherry Street SE, Grand Rapids.

The Hope College Visiting Writers Series will be hosting writers Matthew Baker, Anne-Marie Oomen,, Linda Nemec Foster, and painter/illustrator Meridith Ridl. Thursday, 7pm, in the concert hall of the Jack Miller Music Center.

 

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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

 

The Old Days

You may have seen it online, the photograph of a gas station sign that reads

“FREE GAS ON ANY DAY [45] DOESN’T SAY ANYTHING STUPID!”

There have been no long lines and the owner is quite sure he’ll remain in business.

I have a hunch this guy hangs out after work here in this poem.

The Old Days

In a dark corner
of the Bull’s Eye Bar

they sit, burnt out
and burned up over

wages and dreams
that turned to lies.

They live in beer
and bad jokes,

make it through
the day

by knowing
this is where

they’ll be
when the whistle blows.

Something about
the neon sign.

Something about
the elk’s head.

Something about
the floor,

the walls, the
bowling scores

taped behind
the bar.

“Wish I could
quit smoking.”

“No you don’t.”
“You’re right.”

for Nelson Oestreich

–Jack Ridl

Published in Between (Dawn Valley Press) Copies available on used book sites.

Kristin Brace will be offering a reading from her newly released collection Fence, Patio, Blessed Virgin on September 26, 6:00pm at Books & Mortar bookstore, 955 Cherry Street. SE, Grand Rapids.

On September 27 at 7:00pm, The Hope College Visiting Writers Series will open with readings by Matthew Baker and by Linda Nemec Foster and Anne Marie Oomen with illustrator Meridith Ridl from their book The Lake Michigan Mermaid. The readings will be held in the Concert Hall of the Jack H. Miller Music Center.

There are still a few spots left for The Lost Lake Writers Retreat. It’s a great time with good writing souls in a beautiful setting.

 

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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Christmas at My Grandfather’s

This past Monday here in the U.S. we celebrated Labor Day. My paternal grandfather was a laborer. He was also a Bohemian immigrant. Those from much of eastern Europe were denigrated in ways 45 speaks of certain immigrants today. My grandfather was a “hunky.”

When he was sixteen, he lied about his age so that he could work in a Pittsburgh factory, Westinghouse Air Brake. Each work day until he retired he stood at the assembly line.

I once asked him, “Grampa, how were you able to do that day after day, all those years?” He thought for a bit and said, “Well, I’m not sure what you mean. It was only eight hours a day.”

Christmas at My Grandfather’s

The dark stab of pre-dawn
stings my grandfather’s wrists.
He grabs his lunch pail.
The mill still burns,
one shift moving
into the next, men
held to the air
by hunger,
home, the unrelenting
threat of sudden illness,
and the nag of hope
that one kid
might get out.
At Christmas, I remember
only the gift
of the day off,
watching
my grandfather get up
at the same time,
dress, and turn
the tree lights on.
He’d sit in the dark,
stare at the tree,
drift into the branches,
let his mind take its place
among the ornaments
as behind him, over his shoulder,
the sun came up
through the window smudged
with soot and spray-on snow.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Artful Dodge.

Subsequently published in between (Dawn Valley Press, out of print).

Personal History Workshop
On Saturday September 29 from 1-3:30 at the Douglas United Church of Christ, 56 Wall Street, Jack will be offering a workshop on a variety of ways of exploring your personal history. If you want to sign up, and please be sure about it, send an email to Jack at jack@ridl.com, or use the contact link up there at the top of ridl.com.

Music and Poetry Happenings
On Friday at Uncommon Grounds in Saugatuck, David James will be reading at 7pm. Rob Kenagy and Ganges and Press Delete will be playing starting around 6pm and again after David’s reading. On Saturday, Kenagy, Ganges and Real Umami will be appearing at Virtue Cider beginning at 7pm, along with poet Peter Berghoef. These promise to be great good times for one and all!

 

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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Community Read: Death and Life of the Great Lakes

deathandlife

 

Hey, hi folks,

Jack and Julie here. We belong to a groovy progressive church in Douglas, MI, the DUCC, which works for equal rights, social and environmental justice, all the good stuff. We sit on the Creation Justice Team, and we’re both going to be facilitating at this event, which will take place September through November, with three meeting times. We would love it if you would join us, in person or online, if you like, by comment/discussion below.

Former State Senator Patty Birkholz, in the year or so before she passed away, served as a great mentor to the DUCC Creation Justice Team. During that time she pressed into our hands — as she did everyone she met — Dan Egan’s amazing and award-winning book, The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.

Patty wanted everyone in the states and provinces that border the Great Lakes to read it, to understand better the challenges our waters have faced and will face, so we can be better equipped to fight for the survival of the largest freshwater system in North America.

So we have decided to read this book together as a kind of community-wide bookclub Event.

Will you join us?

The book is divided into three parts, the Front Door, the Back Door, and the Future. We will gather at the DUCC Friendship Hall, 56 Wall Street, Douglas, MI on these dates to discuss these sections of the book. We would love it if you could commit to all three dates, but if not, join in for as many as you can.

The Front Door, September 18, 6:30p.m.

The Back Door, October 23, 6:30p.m.

The Future, November 13, 6:30p.m.

The Saugatuck-Douglas District Library has hard copies and electronic copies of the book available on loan.

Follow this link to Evite.com to join in on the read!

http://evite.me/REn7yWny9p

During the Last Two Weeks of His Life, He Wrote Only the Last Lines of Poems

In our little village the flags were lowered to half-mast immediately when we heard the news of John McCain’s passing. The flags hung there in front of the clapboard town hall and the police station. People talked of his service, his character.

During the Last Two Weeks of His Life, He Wrote Only the Last Lines of Poems

I.

the stars, lost in the half light of evening.

II.

giving us only a noun and the time to finally understand it.

III.
after the taxi, after the end of the affair.

IV.
like the slow ruin of his own small town.

V.
and God? Lost somewhere in the bread section.

VI.
wind, three medieval priests, a puppet, and a wedding dress.

VII.
the bus.

VIII.
window, pouring out the last of the anonymous gin.

IX.
not the cow, not the fence post, not even the back door.

X.
knew the rest, but kept the pile beside her desk, adding to it when it snowed.

XI.
amid the holiness of snails.

XII.
later. Then he juggled a scarf, an orange ball, and the flute.

XIII.
wondering was it the rain, was it the ontology of morning?

–Jack Ridl

 

First published in Prairie Schooner.

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

Writers’ Retreat Up North

There’s a wonderful Writers’ Retreat coming up at Lost Lake near Alpena, Michigan. Instead of the usual workshops, the retreat provides you a long-needed chance to get away, be among warm-hearted fellow writers and a staff of fiction writers, poets, and song writers with whom you can meet one on one, hear read, sing, and listen to interesting presentations. Here you will have time to write on your own in the beautiful autumn setting at Lost Lake.

October 4-7

For more details and to sign up go to inspirationalcona.org

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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Living in the 21st Century

We’re all wanting things to be normal, not utopian, not even idealistic. Just rather normal, civil. 

Years ago I heard someone say, “It’s all the Beatles’ fault.” Really? “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” “Here Comes the Sun.” “Eleanor Rigby.” “We All Live in a Yellow Submarine.” Oh, I know: the hair, the drugs, the outrageous dress, the riots, the protests. Much like the Gay Nineties and the Roaring 20s.

But–this today?

Normal for me would be going outside to fill the bird feeder without words such as “Rat,” “Dog” “Loser” battering my brain. “I disagree,” would be fine. Or “Not my taste.” Even “Not for me.”

Sigh.

Living in the 21st Century

Long before there was this day
another day came. Maybe it rained
or there was a little sunlight. People

got up and did what they always do.
Birds sang and the cats wanted out,
or in. You and I weren’t here,

but the world didn’t know. Trees
grew and nobody noticed. Someone
was cruel. Someone else

tried not to be. Maybe the weather
shifted unexpectedly and plans
had to be changed. This morning

we watched our day begin. We
wondered if it would be good,
wondered if it would rain.

–Jack Ridl

from Broken Symmetry, Wayne State University Press

There’s a wonderful Writers’ Retreat coming up at Lost Lake near Alpena., Michigan. Instead of the usual workshops, the retreat provides you a long-needed chance to get away, be among warm-hearted fellow writers and a staff of fiction writers, poets, and song writers with whom you can meet one on one, hear read, sing, and listen to interesting presentations. Here you will have time to write on your own in the beautiful autumn setting at Lost Lake.

October 4-7

For more details and to sign up go to inspirationalcona.org

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Visit Reader’s World to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

And, of course, click here to visit ridl.com, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

 

There Are No Hidden Meanings

Tuesday evening I was invited to read at The Red Dock Cafe and Bar, one of the great venues for the arts in my town. A touch of old Key West in the Midwest, it sits out in the Harbor here where we get to live in Douglas/Saugatuck, Michigan. Tony Amato and his warm-hearted staff make everyone feel at home. If you can’t lay back at The Red Dock, you wouldn’t be able to lay back in a hot tub along the beaches of the Bahamas.

Joining me was the luminous poet Laura Donnelly, the sparkle of poet/translator Rebecca Kosick, and the ever-surprising Randy Smit. The place was tidal-wave full and with us. It was what a poetry reading is supposed to be–a gift to the soulful. And the soulful were there. At least I didn’t sniff an evaluator within a mile of the place.

All four of us, along with Tony and the Red Dock staff, were there to overcome, for a couple of hours, 45 and his gang, those who daily pollute our consciousness, distracting us from what we care about, from those we love.

So thank you, soulful souls. Thank you so very much.

There Are No Hidden Meanings
for Julie

This poem you’ll have to find.
Some hints: It’s nowhere in the house,
but can be gotten to by moving under the rugs.
It might be wise to follow where the dog has sniffed.
And watch the gulls: they have a knack for knowing.
Rain is often a talisman, and clouds can lure you.
Listen to the moon crawling across the sky,
but beware of evenings and bread dough.
Whenever a child stops suddenly, look there for a sign.
Mark any spot where you fall asleep.
If, while listening to birds, you notice
a hole in their song, walk into it.
Never underestimate the possibilities in a flea market.
And don’t overlook anything hanging from a nail.
Old ball gloves, wooden toys, weed beds, pocket watches,
cowbells, moths, musty clothes, and vinegar,
they can be signals that you’re close.
Follow any arrow on any pole.
Don’t ignore a detour sign.
Pause where there is mold.
And look especially close
at whatever it is you see every day.
You’ll find it when I won’t have to say,
“Cold, colder, warmer, warmer, hot.”

–Jack Ridl

Published in The Same Ghost (Dawn Valley Press, 1984)

Kristin Brace’s collection Fence, Patio, Blessed Virgin has been released from Finishing Line Press

Laura Donnelly’s award winning Watershed is published by Cider House Press.

As always, let me know of recent publications among your folks. I sure don’t wanna overlook anyone.

 

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Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings and Reader’s World to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

And, of course, click here to visit ridl.com, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

Innkeeper

In many places Tuesday was primary election day. We got up and went to city hall in our village.

Sitting at the table were the same welcoming faces, volunteers who year after year guide us through the same process. A father and daughter sat next to each other, greeted us and checked to make sure we were all set to vote. And vote we did.

It’s one of those times when I take a pen, fill in a little circle beside a hopeful and feel that moment mattering. I took my ballot over to the same welcoming man who has done the same exiting task for umpteen years. He made sure all was correct, and pointed me to the machine that would take my ballot. As always, I picked up a piece of candy, put on my “I voted” sticker, then went to insert my ballot.

It got stuck. A woman who, too, has been there every time said, “Take it out of the folder. I won’t look.” I took it out, inserted it, and this time the machine took it. Then with Julie we walked into the day.

Here’s a little touch of our village–

Innkeeper

The innkeeper sits by the door, elbows
resting for the day on the oak desk.

She says, “Yes, looks like a day of rain.
Coffee’s hot,” to the early risers,

most pouring two cups then heading
back to their rooms. She likes to think

they are staying here with her. She
does her best to make their pause

between here and there pleasant.
“The gulls don’t care,” she smiles

when a wife and husband say
the weather’s bad. She knows how to

listen to the rain dripping from the eaves,
watch it hit the leaves of the basswood

outside the window to her left, feel
the soft wool of the blanket on her lap.

–Jack Ridl

The time for the reading at The Red Dock on Tuesday, August 14 is 6:30. Music prior.

Time to celebrate the following:

Kristin Brace’s collection Fence, Patio, Blessed Virgin with cover by Meridith Ridl is now available from Finishing Line Press.

Katie Kalisz’s Quiet Woman will be released in January.

Former student Thomas Allbaugh has published the novel Apocalypse TV.

Tropical Landscape with Ten Hummingbirds by Greg Rappleye is coming soon from Dos Madres Press.

Again, let me know of any new works. I sure don’t want to leave out anyone.

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Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings and Reader’s World to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

And, of course, click here to visit ridl.com, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

 

The Healers

Those with the gift of empathy are all but done in, overwhelmed by entering into the suffering of others. Not too long ago I read an article that discussed the cost of empathy. We, of course, know that 45 has not a drip of empathy. Empathy is for “losers.”

What can we do who wake up helpless within the shadow of 45? Some work hard politically to change things. Some carry on serving in capacities empathic. But what of those of us who don’t have access to doing much of anything to counter “him” other than address flyers, stick stamps onto postcards that encourage electing those who want to serve, truly serve?

In the shadow of 45 and his lost souls, and his spineless cohorts, and his deceived supporters, what can we do?

Keep speaking truth to power–A patron at Tony Amato’s Red Dock Restaurant came up to him and snarled, “I bet you voted for that n____.” Tony held up two fingers, said, “Twice,” and ordered the roach to leave. We can also carry on by shifting our conversations to the lives of those in our lives who matter. We can realize that continuing dailiness, planting another flower, handing over some of our too many zucchini, saying hello to anyone, all those things that don’t change the big scene, but enrich the worlds each of us lives within.

I’m turning this into a sermon. Sorry. It’s the UCC church in me. Let’s never abandon giving our attention (a definition of love) to what and to whom we love and who love us.

When helplessness can’t be helped I recall Samuel Beckett saying, “I can’t go on, I must go on, I’ll go on.”

The Healers

My father guessed at work.
He gave me things to do.
We strangled weeds from the flower bed.
Washed the car.
Walked the dog.

My mother guessed at a mother’s love.
She went back to tucking sheets
Around me as I lay awake.
She pulled her fingers through my hair.
She turned away. She held me.

My good friend guessed at leaving town.
Se we lugged gravel, grinding gears
Up and down the western Pennsylvania hills.
We’d raise the bed and listen
To the gravel rush into a silent pile.

My preacher guessed at God.
He knew the answer, spread my sin.
Prayed, asked me to pray.
Sprinkled oil on my head.
Pronounced me of this world.

My doctor guessed at shock.
Strapped me down.
Hooked electrodes to my head.
Baptized me with volts.

I guessed at empty space
And all the breath
that I could spill to fill it up.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Three Rivers Poetry Journal
Subsequently published in The Same Ghost (Dawn Valley Press)

Good Reads
Here’s another fine, recently published collection: Invisible Fish by Susan F. Glassmeyer (Dos Madres Press). Many of you know of her project of sending out a poem and commentary each day during National Poetry Month.

And a bit ago, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer published Naked for Tea, from Able Muse Press. So many benefit from her astonishing project of sending out a new draft of a poem every single day. She’s been doing this for some ten or more years.

Again, I don’t mean to overlook any recent collections. So please let me know of any you would recommend. Lots of you have work published several months or years ago. I simply thought of this recently and had to start somewhere, so I decided to start with the past few weeks.

Fifth Annual Red Dock Reading
And now I’m nagging when YET AGAIN I say how good it would be to see you at The Red Dock on August 14 for the reading starting at 6:30 with the soul-warming presence of poet Laura Donnelly. Come early for the music that will begin a bit after 3pm. Bring your own comfortable chair. I promise that Laura’s work will settle into your heart.

And as Tony Amato, impresario of The Red Dock always says, “Peace, ta.”

 

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Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings and Reader’s World to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

And, of course, click here to visit ridl.com, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

 

 

Our Child

Over these many weeks time and again I have listened to parents talk about
the fear they have for their child or children. This fear is not one of the usual fears carried by any caring parent. This is a fear they not only never expected, but one they have no way of offering assurance should the child, too, be abused by the language and recklessness of 45.

I remember feeling helpless in the face of all the inevitable sufferings our daughter would face, staring at her asleep, wishing somehow I could give her the life and world she deserved. That wish has remained–and has amplified.

This past week poet Christine Rhein composed a poem in which she gathered notes written from the immigrants to their caged children. You can find it at Vox Populi.

Not meaning to lighten things inappropriately, but I just recalled that scene from Batman where The Joker laments the attention Batman receives in the Press. Here’s a paraphrase: “What kind of a world is it when a man dressed as the President of the United States gets all my press.”

Yes, what kind of a world is it, now?

Last evening, we were out to dinner. Once again we heard, “Each day I wake up wondering what he’s going to do now.”

Yesterday afternoon I worked with a mother who is putting together a collection of her mother’s poems. Her five-year-old played with our puppy, colored, looked for our shy cat, searched for the frogs around our little pond. We were all in a world we deserved to dwell in. And yet . . .

Our Child
You’re at school learning numbers
and the locations of various geographical
necessities. It’s what you do not know
that takes me to our window where
my sight attempts to rest along
the path our dog follows into the woods.

–Jack Ridl

From be tween (Dawn Valley Press)

Last week I typoed! A new and fascinating collection is Jennifer Clark’s Johnny Appleseed: The Slice and Times of John Chapman. You’ll be surprised.

Three other fine new collections: Kirk Wesphal’s Bodies of Wood and Water, Charlie Brice’s Mnemosyne’s Hand, and Richard Jones’s Stranger on Earth.

Please let me know of recent poetry collections that you would recommend. I don’t want to leave anyone out.

Annual Red Dock Reading
And once again! Please mark your calendars for August 14, 6:30 for The Fifth Annual Red Dock Reading created and sustained by the one and only Tony Amato. I can’t thank him sufficiently. The gently arresting Laura Donnelly will read from her award winning collection Watershed along with new poems. If the occasion echos the past, the dock fills quickly. So come early, bring a chair, enjoy the wonderful view, savor the food and drink, and be kind to Laura and me. It’s among the scariest times of the year for me/us.

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Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings and Reader’s World to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

And, of course, click here to visit ridl.com, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!