Last Chores of Fall

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. After this year with 45 it’s simply too easy to be ironic, snarky in response to what is to be a time of gratitude. I’m thinking of the idea of negative space, how what’s not there can be a good and accentuates attention to that which is worthy of attention.

Certainly deserving attention–each of you. This poetry project has become much more than I could have imagined a year ago when “I just had to do something.” I have heard from you, you from everywhere in the States and abroad. You have sustained this heart and writing each week has brought an ineffable sense of connecting with you and hoping to be a tiny support to you in your days.

I send this out not to a mass, but to each of you. That’s precisely how it feels.

My thanks this Thanksgiving and every day,

Last Chores of Fall

The trace of November lingering
along the ridge behind our house,
the exhale of yellow-gold
within the stagger of oaks.
tells us it is time to move inside,
let our blood return to its quiet
wander, the year now browning
toward a sudden frost. This
afternoon I will slowly uproot
the impatiens, tossing
their gasps of pink, white,
and salmon into the dark
of the compost pile. Remembering
to bend at the knees, I’ll carry
the cracked and chipped pots
back to the garden’s shed,
stack them, letting the clay
of one pot settle into the dirt
in another. I’ll bring in
the geraniums, their twisted,
leggy stems nearly leafless
and cut them down to hopeful
nubs, then set them on the sill.
The dogs will watch as I wash
and dry the trowel my father
used for thirty years. Each
year he added another row
or two of flowers. I’ll hang
the trowel on its rusty nail.
The dogs will lift their mysterious
noses into the changing air, into
the smells of mud, moldering
leaves, the scent of approaching
snow along the stream below
the barren ridge. Then I will
turn back to the house, the sun
burning down early into its setting.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Rattapallax


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32 thoughts on “Last Chores of Fall

  1. Yes – change. A gentle change. A change that is wonderfully necessary. Not fearful change. Not change that leaves us feeling vulnerable or lost, but wholly connected to the universe and beyond. Thank you Jack.

    • Thank ye. You sent a poem. Of course you did: it’s your vision.
      “Only connect” E.M. Forester
      Thankful always for you, Friend!

  2. Thank you for another wonderful poem. I like the way you have of touching ideas and emotions while describing a fairly common scene. This poem creates very nice pictures in my head.

  3. Happy Thanksgiving Jack!
    I enjoyed the reading this morning! Actually, Dawn read it to me and we shared the joy together over our coffee.
    Your mastery of words, thoughts, ideas, and imagery are certainly a blessing for all during the first year of 45.
    Hopefully, there will not need to be another year from this charlatan, and we survive this first year.
    There is much to be grateful for, putting politics aside.
    Thanks, Nick

    • Thank you for creating this scene for me, Nick. What a joy, knowing
      the poem joined you two dear friends this morning. Thank you
      soooo much.

  4. Wonderful image and feeling as the season turns. Your work so eloquent, I am joyfully reminded of Wendell Berry ” The Farm”. I had poetry from an early age and it continues to edify. Appreciation for your craft…..Charles

    • I so appreciate, Charles, your reading the art as well as the words. It keeps this heart at it.
      I asked Wendell Berry if things are getting better and he said, “Oh yes, they are getting better all
      the time. Of course, they are getting worse a whole lot faster.”
      It’s a joy knowing that you have kept poetry with you all your life.
      Ever Thanksgiving thankful for you,

  5. Dear Jack,One of the most important things that has happened to me as I’ve grown older, is learning to recognize and feel grace. It’s a gift that I’ve cherished and inhaled as I’ve realized its importance. It’s a gift I see and value in you, and is perhaps one of the reasons I feel a kindredness to you, a person I’ve never met corporeally but know that I have spiritually. I often read your writings and tuck them away. Some are passed on to my husband who, too, enjoys what you write. And some of your words spark thought and passion and appreciation that there really are people who care about more than just what others think. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your words. And thank you for sharing a part of yourself and reminding me that wonder is my favorite emotion. With many blessings,Starr

    Sent from my Galaxy Tab® A

  6. Thank you for embarking on this project a year ago; thank you for the inspiration for me to do something similar with my visual art. I couldn’t have imagined what would come back to me, as weekly I sent a painting or a sketch out to do its work (via FB, of all things). That is what the poems and the paintings want, after all: to be blessed and released to do their own work of connecting and inspiring. I had no idea it mattered so much.
    Every Thursday morning I settle myself in the chair to open my freshly delivered poem, as nourishing as the rest of my breakfast. I am so grateful.
    Happy Thanksgiving, Jack!

  7. Oh Jack! That poem is exquisite in so many ways! The gasps of the impatiens, the year browning toward the frost, our blood return to its quiet wander… There is one beautiful and expressive image after another. Thank you for gracing this day with your wonderful warm soul shared in your inimitable comfortable and comforting style. Happy Thanksgiving to you and the family. My love to all,


    Sent from my iPhone


    • And our Thanksgiving is endless for you and the great strength you have and have given
      to this little family. Your response to the poems comes from your understanding and
      devotion to the lyrical world.
      Peace and gratitude all the time

  8. Every Thursday I look forward to quietly sitting and reading your weekly poem. This morning as I sat outside watching the deer, turkeys, squirrels and birds I realized that my peace and grounding comes from this time spent in nature daily. I wish everyone could start their day this way. The world would be much better off. Thank you for your wonderful poem of life.

    • Oh Cheryl, yes yes yes. Your wish is mine, too. I am bewildered by the multitude that searches for something other
      than the gift that is always there. Once wonder enters, how can any thought of cruelty even pass by? I am so very
      grateful for knowing that you are out there bringing goodness into each day and all that truly lives.

  9. Hey Mr. Ridl,

    I really enjoy your work and have for a long time. Sad I missed out on seeing you read at Spring Arbor while I was there and in the English program. Thanks for your wisdom and I still carry your words with me often.

    I’m looking at getting back into reading and was wondering if there were some poets you would recommend to me? Maybe more of the little-knowns, as I’ve explored a fair amount of the popular ones. Keep writing, lots of people enjoy your silent wisdom.

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Ryan,
      How good to know that the poems have found your great good heart. That’s where they belong, where they
      always hope to be. I hope that you will keep poetry close by. It can be the most loyal and helpful
      of friends.
      I loved that visit to Spring Arbor, loved it!
      Wishing you all that can be good in your every day

    • Vicki, to have someone respond to an image, to images in this way is what one hopes for, that the image
      can bring a gift of experience that enriches. Thank you sooooo much for telling me this. It matters very much
      and sustains the project.
      Here’s to wonder!

  10. This seems to be my time of leaving….your poem helped me to “leave” summer one more time, fall in love with the fall preparations for the coming snow, arguments with the oak leaves that cling tenaciously and refuse to surrender to the leaf dump, for one thing. Just vaguely irritating this year, as I, too, need to cling and not let go any sooner than necessary. Not sure how fond I am of endings. Hi, dear friend. jg

    • Oh do I love this message! I kept smiling, knowing how warm-hearted this marvelous grumble actually is–it’s from YOU, after all !!!

      Hi back to you, dear friend!

  11. Dear Jack,

    I will be forever grateful to Garrison Keillor since it was Mr. Keillor in his Writer’s Almanac who introduced to your wonderful magical poetry. Your poems are like a warm soup in November. Thank you!!!

    With love from Germany


    • I’m not sure I realized it was there that you discovered the poems. We are certainly both
      grateful. Such a lovely, loving friendship has evolved. I am so so grateful.

  12. There’s something satisfying about putting the yard to sleep for the winter. I waited until after I finished the last of the chores yesterday to read your poem. I don’t really like the shorter days, but the image of the “sun burning down early into its setting” (as it did yesterday) brings me a sense of calm. Thank you for being here! Peace to you!

    • Jill, When I read your word “calm” I was sooooo happy. One of the challenges of composing
      a poem is to have the language create rather than state the affective content. Thank you
      so much for telling me this. And oh do I connect with you on not liking shorter days,
      waking in the dark, staying awake in the late day’s dark!!!!

  13. I greatly appreciate this poem!! Thank you! Kathleen

    *” No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books.”*

    *Elizabeth Barrett Browning*

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