The Poet at Seventy-Two

Our little houseboat in Key West suffered some damage so Julie is there for a week doing repairs.

So while Julie manages the repairs in heat that feels like 103, I walk the dogs. 

Perhaps a laugh or two would be good, so here’s a poem that tries to keep things afloat.

The Poet at Seventy-Two

The poems follow me, biting
my ankles as I limp my way
through Dante’s dark wood praying

the path will end where Beatrice holds
an elegant sign proclaiming, “Welcome!”
The poems gnaw and nip and jeer, “You

mixed a metaphor in mine about
the old car and the kangaroo!”
“You had four comma splices

in that last collection!” And “Why
in God’s name did you give me
that inane title!” I mumble

that I never knew what I was doing,
each synapse but a radio tube without
a wave. They shout, “No rationales”

and nibble toward my knees. I blame
Roget. They shrug. They roll their eyes.
“You’ve written your last lyric meditation

on a dog. No more dogs!” I lurch
toward Beatrice, see her wave,
her smile, her held-high sign—

“Welcome, Billy Collins!” The poems
howl, guffaw, giggle, sneer, and snicker.
“But Beatrice! I used assonance,

alliteration, made every line break
on the very perfect word. Her smirk
is luminous. I turn, and enjambing

on the poems, snarl, “You wouldn’t
even be if I could pound a nail straight,
balance a check book, change a tire,

wire a goddamn entertainment center!”

—Jack Ridl

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36 thoughts on “The Poet at Seventy-Two

  1. What a great morning blessing as we begin our trip to Montana to babysit for some poet’s children. Our pleasure and blessing for certain. We hope the repairs go smoothly.

  2. This week, vacuuming up the current accumulation of dust bunnies and dog and cat hair, I sucked up an old bookmark emblazoned with a quotation of John Dos Passos: “If there is a special hall for writers, it would be in the forced contemplation of their own works.” I can’t recall what book it might have fallen out of,—did I mean once upon a time to get back here?–but it now holds my place in Greek Buddha I’m reading currently. Best, C >

    • And back to you, Jill–Thanks for laughing~~!
      A college teacher of mine said that writing that leads to
      laughter is the most difficult.

    • Oh this is so good to hear. A college prof of mine told us that writing that
      makes another laugh is the most difficult. Glad to know I done okay!~

    • Soooo glad the poem did that for you. You certainly deserve to smile, chuckle and laugh out loud!!
      A college prof of mine told us that writing that is funny is the most difficult.

  3. Beautiful beautiful humor in the face of…. Thank you for illuminating the unnoticed moments of this precious life. Bravo for Mz Julie

    Xoxo Dale

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Yes, as a couple we have completed the full reversal of gender roles!

      Thank you, my dear Friend.
      A college prof of mine told us that his grading system was C if you made him
      think, B if you made him care/feel, A if you made his laugh. “Writing that makes
      another laugh is the most difficult.”

    • Our Dear Sara,
      Thank you. It’s words such as yours that keep me doing this, and that keep me
      feeling happy to sit down each week and come up with something.

  4. That is great Jack – I love the dialogue with previously created poems. I can imagine the dialogs with previously given lectures. But the dialogue with previous students – that can be real 🙂 – Jane

    Jane Dickie


    • Ahhhhh yes!
      So glad you got a kick out of this poem. A college prof of mine told us that
      the most difficult writing to pull off is the comic.
      PS. Saw ya at the dedication on Saturday but we scooted out before I had a panic attack! : )

  5. No matter laughter or not, what you write always comes to rest in the heart and all its many different parts. Bless you everyday and thank God for dogs and knowledgeable wives.

    Julie G

    • Julie, what you say here matters so much to me for many reasons, one of which
      is that what you describe is what I hope happens.
      Thank you so very very much.
      And amen for gratitude for dogs and knowledgeable wives!!!

    • How I always hope that the poems create what you say here.
      Thank you. And you know that your work in all its forms is
      a blessing to so very many.

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