American Suite for a Lost Daughter

Christian Zaschke, the U.S. correspondent for the NYTimes of Germany, Sueddeutsche Zeitungand non-fiction writer with best selling books in Europe, visited us for four days this past week. I was going to write this week about this fascinating and laugh-filled time, but I think it best to wait till next week.

“It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.”–Stephen Hawking

Students will be walking out of their schools as I write this. We “grown-ups” are to step aside. We can watch from across the street. We caused this need. We reduced their lives to an issue.

All that money. What might it be like to see some — a lot, most of it — given to those who need to recover from their child, friend, loved one, parent, teacher, worker, bystander being gunned down, killed. “The known dead.” The dead are not known, will never be known, and if they were young will never have anything to be known for except their few days.

Evil knows no one’s name.

Here’s a poem written in the voice of a grieving father.

American Suite for a Lost Daughter

I am the last greylag on the left side of the V.

I am the amen in the prayer you never say.

I can bring some stones to you, to the place
you left as a child, the place where the wolves
came to drink and watch you. They watched
you through eyes set deep in the land.

Here you wait, while the dark moon
keeps to its path and the owl watches
the rabbit sit beneath the net of hollow stars.

Christ did not read palms; his lonely
eyes saw the way the lightning grazed
the sky and shot the mind full of questions.
His heart was the color of the center of a tangerine.
His hands lived alone.

Somewhere in any city is a late night
disc jockey looking out the window
to his left, thinking about the bills
he pays, the children he cannot raise,
the wife he tries to love because he wants
to love her and this madness we call
music as it moves out and into the dark air.

You came through a tunnel that began
in the mind’s assent to the ancient gnaw.
Your walk grew from the terrible
chance. Your voice rose and added
its being to the winds, to that of the piano
and machine gun, the cruel demand and
the long withdrawing sigh of your strange question.

I try still to dream your dreams — to let
my mind enter yours and live the intrusion
that kept you from everything you should have
had. I find the song we all sing.
I am thinking again of distances.

You were once so little you
could become an arch; bent
backwards you could walk
around our yard. You could
sit, spread your legs, lean
your forehead into the cool summer grass.

Brahms on the stereo.
You on your bicycle.

Some days I think of all the dead
you can never know.  Some days they
are a cloud moving over your own roof.

When you were seven, I suddenly
became “Dad.”  I wondered
if I should tell you then how far
I was from being a father.

In our herb garden grow thyme,
marjoram, rosemary, lemon balm,
and a weed we named white whisper.

The night, like an idiot savant, does
over and over its one miraculous task.

I wanted us to be important
for no reason at all.

Then I think of you, broken
and stunned, alone, your
life taken and the only thing left
whatever clings to your mind,
you dying wondering still
why this terrible life had to be
lived within.

I would pray for your life if I could.

Yesterday I thought of the wound
between us, how it will never heal, how
impossible it has become to sense
or gauge the pain that hurls itself
across this age of circumstances no one
can recover from.  Prayer. Prayer.

If none of this can bring a god to
end it all, then. . . .  I remember
the nights we walked and tried
to see only the stars.

–Jack Ridl
First published in Poetry

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

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8 thoughts on “American Suite for a Lost Daughter

  1. Oh, my dear, dear friend. How could you have written this without dripping salty tears. Jus beautiful and big, like your heart.

  2. The relationship between the living and the dead is not just an exorcise of the imagination. We are joined at the hip by common experiences, emotional and intellectual events. In as much as we cling to our own identities, we separate ourselves from the part of us that is from those people that no longer generate new events – common experiences. The old connections can remain vivid but most fade with time. I have memories that will never fade and will always be a part of who I am.

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