In Time: While the Dog Sleeps

Friends! Some whacked-out sociologist has written that we make no more than four or five friends in our lives. How did I get so lucky? He needs to meet each of you.

I don’t need to proclaim anything more about what has happened to us. Here’s what I want to do, and do with some self-consciousness: send a poem each week.

W. H. Auden announced that poetry makes nothing happen. I have fought that notion all my life. If I don’t believe that what I’ve given my days to can matter a tiny bit for even a moment to one human heart, then at this age, I’d be looking back at one humungous waste of time. I don’t believe I have wasted my time.

So each Thursday for the next four years, I’m going post a poem of mine (that’s where the self-consciousness enters) on my blog, as a kind of protest against the anti-soul perched atop the once free world. Please don’t worry about responding to it. If the poem can be a friend for you for a bit, that’s plenty. And feel free to “pay it forward” if you know of someone who would benefit from this.

I suppose I want to do this because I am nagged by a need to do something. I hope this will be my little protest on behalf of lovingkindness, for what is good. And all the more these days I want to feel connected to all of you during a time that has darkened the days in multiple ways.

I doubt many of us want to be uplifted. Being uplifted can feel all wrong when so many are suffering. I do think many of us want to feel respected, honored, affirmed, comforted. I hope this little project will help to fill that need.

So to see the poem each week, you can click on the Subscribe link at the top of the page, enter your email, and you’re good to go. Or just visit here on Thursdays. Of course, we’ll never use this email list for anything but sending you content from the blog.

Namaste, Shalom, Amen, Whatever. Here’s the first poem:


While the Dog Sleeps

November the first: Cold.
The last gangs of geese flying
through the gray of the day.
It’s the birthday of Stephen Crane.
On this date, Michelangelo said yes
to the Pope and gathered his brushes.
At the church next door, the choir
is rehearsing. There is nothing
I want to rehearse. Recently I’ve
been realizing, “If that didn’t exist, I
would never miss it.” I say it a lot.
But not about you. We put isinglass
over the screens on the porch so we
could sit there in sweaters, take the time
to see what was in front of us. Now
“tomorrow” is a strange word, “now”
even stranger. “Yesterday” makes sense
but not much of it is true. Our dog still
keeps sleep. I imagine him dreaming
La dolce far niente. When asked
if I miss what I did for forty years
I like to say, “That never existed.”
Now here on the porch I take in the light
crossing the last leaves doing their slow
dance in the breeze, watch the chickadees
at the feeder, once in a while glance at
the sundial we set in the shade of the redbud.

–Jack Ridl

Published in  The Louisville Review, October 2015


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30 thoughts on “In Time: While the Dog Sleeps

  1. Dear Jack,

    this is such a wonderful and “menschliches” project as we say here in our little town of Tuebingen, where Friedrich Hölderlin lived and wrote and walked and suffered, most of the time in his little round yellow tower on the front of the river Neckar.
    Auden was wrong. Leonard Cohen was right! “There ain’t no cure for love”
    Thank you!
    Kindest regards

    • Norbert, Holderlin has been important to me, his poems and he himself.
      You and I, we must be cosmically connected.
      Let’s keep that bird on the wire.

  2. Thank you my beautiful friend. So proud of you and of course this makes me gloriously happy-once a week for 4 years, the 4 years will fly by! Yes, I am sad and stunned, but still filled with love and ready to make each day a gift, ready to stand guard and not give up.

    Love to you, Julie and the gang, Cath

    • We keep smiling when we think of you guys being in that place where your good selves
      can settle in and be your good selves!
      Sending love from me ‘n Julie ‘n Charlie ‘n Madcat Hattie

  3. Jack, Perfect! You take my breath away. Can’t wait for my poem a week! Yes, I will pass this on. It seems my artsy friends are expressing in art, my music friends are quietly writing music, the poets are sharing poetry, the leaves are still falling to the lawn, I’m still aching from raking, the birds are going about their bird business, the waves are still rolling in to the shore. All this, only more so. Yes, because our souls long for love and kindness and friends and caring and intimacy and creating and all the nice things that all the media’s screaming, loud, angry, stupid, mean,vile blather tried to take from our peaceful little lives. But HAHA we are back, tenfold at least, to our nice little selves. Perhaps with new visions of the importance of loving each other. Friends? To anyone who knows you, you are part of our souls and in our hearts for always! You know that. We , with whom you’ve shared poems and life, perpetuate you and pass along what we learned- in the safety of your teaching. Thank you is not enough. Love, Deborah Sent from my iPhone


    • Deborah,
      You have always been here, walking along with me for all these years. Your photographs
      embody your care. They are observant yes, artistic yes, and also a revelation of your
      care and caring.

  4. Professor Ridl,

    It has been more than ten years, but I still remember your class vividly. I’m not sure that anyone in my class could feel that their hearts were not affected by poetry, and you, if only for the short time in that classroom. I still remember you compliment me, and saying you looked forward to “another great physician-poet.” I am still in training to be a physician, and though I have not put pen to paper much, my life and work have become my poetry. My internal narrative and reflections of each day still sound a lot like Jack Ridl. Thank you for that.

    • Oh man, Greg, am I so happy that you are on the way to being a physician. Don’t heal
      diseases. Heal people. And you will in physical ways and in the soulful ways. Hey,
      you can be my William Carlos Williams as former student. However, best not to
      “channel” your old prof. He screws up–a lot! : } Your message took me back
      to those enriching times with one another.
      Here’s to goodness in your every day!

  5. Thank you Jack! I look forward to receiving your poems and appreciate your initiative. This will help more than you know.

    All the best to you and Julie….pooch too!

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    Jack, Very nice and I have shared with several of my friends. All the best, Herb Niles + Associates, Inc.714.536.3224hniles@nilesrecruiting.comwww.nilesrecruiting.com

    • Herb,
      Thanks for passing it on, and passing on the project if your friends wanna sign up. I’m tryin’ Of course if I could find some of Bat’s
      work, I’d get that up online!! Thanks for your kind note on the program for your literacy event. I hope it went well, that all
      your very important work is bringing you satisfactions. I’m ready to be the keynoter next year. For nothing. Then we four get
      to hang out!!! Hugs to Karen and from her back to you.

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