Instead of Vacationing in Maine

Times such as these often leave one wondering about alternatives. How can we do anything other than be chronically absorbed by the disrespect for the office of the presidency and the course language and cruel disregard of those who so need the government to be “for the people”?

I think back to the time when our daughter, maybe seven or eight said, “I think a lot depends on where you put your but.” We, of course heard “butt” and burying our surprise, asked what she meant.

“I mean that you could say, ‘I wanted to go to the beach, but it’s raining.’ Or you could say, ‘It’s raining, but I can stay here and read on the porch.’ ”

I’m not suggesting that we abdicate paying attention to the miasma we’re in, but maybe it would help if we thought about where to put both our “butts” and our “buts.”

I hope I get to see you, and you get to see Tom Lynch at The Red Dock, 6pm, August 8. Books for sale at the reading.

Instead of Vacationing in Maine

Here on our screened in porch the hot August light falls
like a shawl over the dogs, each asleep in his bed,
the old one stretched out in his long white coat,

the pup curled into a pile of pillows, one ear flopped
over his forehead. The FM station sends “The Wasps”
into the humid afternoon. Williams composed it at nineteen.

At nineteen I was lost. Cicadas stutter in the branches bending
over the stream drying now to a meandering line of cold
spring water that rises from the bottom of Kelly Lake

then twists for three miles before losing its trail into
the maw of Lake Michigan. Deer come, drink, then
move closer, this year close enough to gnaw

the leaves from the mass of hostas surrounding
the house. One kingfisher cackles back and forth
from branch to branch pausing to peer down

for minnows, crayfish, and tadpoles. The gardens held
through July’s dragging lack of rain. We helped,
sprinkling the pots with a watering can we found years ago,

its paint peeling and leaving a patina that bends
into the quieting hues of the scramble of color:
wine-red begonias, pale pink and purple phlox,

a collage of coleus, the pastels of daisy, gazania,
the stunning burgundy of bergamot—seducer
of hummingbird and yellow jacket. Dragonflies pose

on the lilies’ leaves, the day-mortal blooms leaning into
the sunlight as if to invite the swallowtails and monarchs.
All here, all soon leaving with the soft, dark closing of the day.

–Jack Ridl
from Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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

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13 thoughts on “Instead of Vacationing in Maine

  1. The importance of reframing your thinking has never been so well explained…and by a 7-year-old. Wow. The poem is fabulous, too. I shall try to watch carefully where I put my but.

  2. Ah…, the meandering and music as in the lead–if not more so–as the sense and sensibility: “At nineteen I was lost. Cicadas stutter in the branches bending…”

    • Thaaaaaank ye!!
      We could talk about this one. I really “worked” on “Form as an extension of meaning.”
      Billy Collins in an interview said, “NO MORE CICADAS!!”

  3. Oh, Mimi. Child sage. Thanks, as always, for the post and the poem.

    I’m surrounded by rain splatter, kitten meow, sunflowers, and books on Greek goddesses, unicorns, and hallucinations. The bronze camel couple Neal brought home from Afghanistan smiles wisely at me. (Everyday life sounds pretty trippy when you write it down…)

    This is the song I’m working on on my accordion, in case you want to take a listen. I’ll be happy if I can play it half as well!

    See you next week!

    • Oh ya gotta come play for us!!!!!
      And your description here of your magical surroundings is a joy-maker!!!

      Jim Allis had a terrific time at CYC! Was blown away, very moved!
      XX

  4. Volunteering at our Recovery Center here in Idaho, I have introduced the idea of “forest bathing” and never realized how aspirational that would be for those who think they are infinitely trapped by their addiction. This poem is much like a cleansing and I can see how, if you allow me, it would open some windows for the folk I meet with.

    • Hi Ginger,
      Of course you are doing important work!!!
      And oh my gosh, yes to using the poem. To think that
      it might be helpful is such an uplifting affirmation,
      and for a poem to be useful is always what I hope and
      hope and hope for.
      Love and care always
      Jack

  5. Thank you for this nearly tangible piece! The flowers named so carefully, and with such lovely sounding names! The care in naming the colors on the watering can – with images, no less! There is so much to learn from your writing and its inviting, peace-filled ways. “At nineteen, I was lost,” was such a striking line amidst the calm. One imagines you moving through the house, seeing the life therein, and then struck by the memory of youth. But you make your reader care; not only read the words, but feel the pang of that sharp memory. And that memory gives context to the importance of the piece. Thank you, thank you!!!

    Love to you and Julie,

    Beth

    • Oh, my marvelous reader. You are so exceptional. You walk into a
      poem, take your time, take in everything with care and trust.
      And and AND—–

      I’m very very fortunate to have the poems get to be with you!
      XX

  6. Your words. Well…I love to find them in my in-box ‘but’ they are always even richer when my ears hear you read them. Perhaps Red Rock?

    • Oh my gosh, what a joy that would be, to be with you on Tuesday
      at The Red Dock!!! 6pm. Come at least a half hour or earlier so
      we can visit and so you can get a seat. If possible, bring
      chairs.
      XX

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