Love Poem

Witnessing cruelty as accepted, supported, justified, encouraged can become an ironic weapon turning inward on ourselves, wounding our own fortitude, subtly eroding our resistance. At times, while standing firm against the inhumane, it’s our loyalty to the easily set aside that can hold us together. What can seem inconsequential can actually be what very often keeps us connected, seamless in our humanity. This love poem, I hope, reaches beyond the singular situation and suggests that whatever creates a common care is anything but trivial.

 Love Poem
“[He] makes the smallest talk I’ve ever heard.”
                                         –John Woods

The smaller the talk the better.
I want to sit with you and have us
Solemnly delight in dust; and one violet;
And our fourth night out;
And buttonholes.  I want us
To spend hours counting dog hairs,
And looking up who hit .240
in each of the last ten years.
I want to talk about the weather;
And detergents; and carburetors;
And debate which pie our mothers made
The best.  I want us to shrivel
Into nuthatches, realize the metaphysics
Of crossword puzzles, wait for the next
Sports season, and turn into sleep
Holding each others favorite flower,
Day, color, record, playing card.
When we wake, I want us to begin again
Never saying anything more lovely than garage door.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Georgia Review
Collected in The Same Ghost
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33 thoughts on “Love Poem

  1. Jack,

    Perhaps you don’t recall, but we were classmates at Westminster. We ran in different circles… in sports and me in music. I’m now retired, following a long career in church music and teaching. I’m enjoying my “2nd life” as a potter and Buddhist! I appreciate your posts so much. Keep up the good work!

    Jerry McGee Also on Facebook

    • Jerry, my fellow Buddhist.
      We are both potters.
      We ran in different circles, me mostly running in circles period. How I wished then I could have been where I belonged. We should
      have been hanging out together in each and every art. Thank you for connecting with me and with this whole valuable life of yours and
      to do so with such kindness.
      “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “Kind.”

  2. You’re in my classroom today, Jack. We are discussing “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Marigolds,” and after we struggle with the emotional violence and cruelty, when we come to the end and Tillie’s love of the word “atom,” I will read “Love Poem” to my students. Balance. Simplicity. Love.
    Thank you!

    • Eric,
      Can you know what this means to me? To learn that this poem has landed where it deeply matters is a gift
      beyond gifts.
      What scribbler could hope for such loving attentiveness. My thanks cross the sky.
      And those students are so lucky to get to be with you. So very lucky.

  3. Since first hearing, then reading, I have loved this poem and the hands that put words to paper.

    Sent from my iPad

  4. Ah Jack–this has long been a favorite. When I had the privilege of “teaching” Language Arts it was always included. My very sports oriented son was once assigned the task of bringing in and writing an essay in defense of their choice. He picked your Love Poem. Same child when assigned the word: boisterous for a word poster used a picture of Grant Wood’s, American Gothic as an antonym and wrote about Thumper from Bambi when assigned an essay on a hero. Each of these assignments were in his freshman year of high school, his first school experience outside our home. I can never think of one without thinking of the other two, and you.

    • Meg,
      This astonishing story goes right into this heart. So beautifully says
      everything about you as mom, wonder-full, brave, loving mom.

  5. Jack,

    I have always loved this poem. Elizabeth and I have used lines from it over the years as part of our common language with each other. I ran across this online today when I was wanting to share the poem with a friend.

    I noticed it’s different from the version I have in The Same Ghost: as presented here it omits the 2nd line (midgets). I’ve always loved those midgets, and I was curious if that was an intentional change. (Or maybe the midgets just snuck themselves in all those years ago, those rascals.) Thank you!

    -Weston (Hope ’92)

    • Talk about joy: hearing this from you, Weston. To know that the poem
      has been such a part of Elizabeth’s and your lives becomes a gift.
      One writes a poem and tosses it out there and unless told, can never
      know if it mattered at all. Thank you so so much for telling me.

      That poem has had a wonderful life: been framed above beds, used
      in weddings, given as a gift . . .

      Ahhhh yes, the midget line, which is/was one of my favorites. It
      turns out that the word has, like many, a word of denigration.
      Thus it had to go. Kicking and screaming on its part, understandably
      on mine.

      Here’s to you and Elizabeth holding each other’s favorite . . . .
      As in the poem, those are kept secret.

      • Jack: When I mentioned this to Elizabeth yesterday, she quickly saw the likely source and she guessed right. Smart lady! I had a bit of a dope-slap moment. Great reminder of the power of perspectives and how easy it is to get lost in my own. Thank you.

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