Reasons Enough

Way back in 1971, I began teaching in a small liberal arts college where I ended up staying for 37 years. Soon after arriving, I spent an hour or so with an influential member of the English department who told me, “They work for us” (meaning the administration). We do NOT work for them. Hold to that.”

I thought again about that the other night when I was wondering if the U.S. is still a democracy.  Doesn’t often seem so. A representative democracy is fragile. Its very existence depends on if “they are working for us.”

I like the idea of eliminating parties. No more “loyal Democrats.” No more “loyal Republicans.”

A little more than a week ago Michigan lost former State Senator Patty Birkholz. She always wore purple, nothing but purple. Purple when she walked into the legislature. Purple when she walked around town. When she went out to dinner, to a social gathering, to a friend’s house for a chat: Purple. Why? She firmly opposed partisan politics. Blue and red make purple.

Even the following reasons for 45’s policies could be paradoxically more thoughtful than the obfuscations he keeps tossing at us.

Reasons Enough

Because the shotgun was always in the attic

Because the afternoon sun shines through the window and settles on the pillows

And because the last of the summer sausage was stuck in the back of the fridge

That’s why. And—

The way the car starts like a bad joke

The way yesterday’s mail sits on the desk

The way the priest holds the host and carries the crucifix

Oh, and

Because of the Hopper print in the bedroom

Because of the maps of the Florida Keys in the glove compartment

Because of the burro’s tail drooping down across the open kitchen shelves

And the rosary beads on the mantle, the dog dish in the garage, the garden rake leaning against the side of the house

Also, when it rains at night, Sarah Vaughan, the radio

And the end of the driveway, that big rock with the hostas around it, and the light on the back porch

–Jack Ridl


First published in The Journal (Ohio State University Press)

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

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17 thoughts on “Reasons Enough

  1. Jack,

    Patty Birkholz was a dear friend. We started working together on the first Beach Sweep in the late 80s. She spoke for my EIG Club later. We last met at a talk she gave for Century Club about a year ago. What a great Lady! Thanks for your tribute.


    Thu, May 17, 2018

    • And Brent’s mom.
      Thanks, Stephen. You are at her side
      when it comes to working on what matters.
      I didn’t know you were friends. That makes
      me very happy.

  2. You’re so right, Jack, about “They work for us.” In the literature, it’s called “servant leadership.” But we see so few leaders these days who work to serve the people. They serve donors, themselves, ideologies, etc., anything but the majority of people. College administrators where I work now dictate to the faculty to the point where THEY decide what courses to offer, which semester, and at what times. And they’re wrong 75% of the time! So we keep working for the good, writing our poems, and supporting people who seem to give a crap about the average Joe. Thanks, Jack, again.

    • Dave,
      You ‘n me, brother. You ‘n me.
      it’s all gone. And the students never
      get to be with the eccentricity for good
      of a real teacher. Hold the fort, hold the
      line, keep being you.

  3. Hello Jack,

    I just realized, from my three short social interactions with Patty Birkholz, that she did wear purple on every occasion.

    I first met her at Belva Balls Memorial Service. I was seated next to her in the pew, and struck up a casual conversation with her, prior to the beginning of the service. Dawn, unfortunately, could not attend since she had to attend to business at the Peachbelt.

    The following two summers I talked with her briefly at the Ox Bow fund drives and art actions, and we enjoyed brief but pleasant conversation. She wore purple, and very tastefully at that. I do remember telling her, on my last conversation with her, the following year at Ox Bow, that I wished more Republicans could have her point of view, and a willingness to compromise, when needed, for the greater good. She was very delightful and intelligent. I was impressed with her comprehension of state government, and how we had to compromise to get things done. As you stated she embodied the Color Purple!

    She did seem to live the example of red & blue mixing together, to create an inclusive and better form of democracy.

    Thanks for the article, Jack, and using Patty as an example of how things need to be done to best represent who we are, and what needs to be done to make it work. She will be missed.


    • And I bet you know that it was Dirk who said that to me.
      And “just because” is most certainly the finest of reasons.
      I mean it.

  4. Dear Jack,

    fond greetings from one of your new German readers! Reading your poems, there is something that gives me comfort: I believe that demagogues, dictators and war criminals after their days will (and shall) remain a bad memory for us – not less, but also not more. But brave resistors and their work, fearless artists and their words really stay alive. And how wonderfully many of them serve as examples, if the words of Martin Luther King, if the courage of Sophie Scholl, if all those writers they wanted to make us forget by burning their books, still read today with love and respect. Fifty years from now, people will still see the meaning of Lincoln, not of 45.

    I don’t have your way with the words. All I can do is sing – but I believe that these days, all we can do, we should do! So what 45 made me think (and sing) about, is the question where all that frightening aggression comes from. Of what kind is all that mad energy – in supposedly good qualities like ambition, strength and leadership skills? That’s what I wanted to sing about in my way – perhaps you like it.

    All my best wishes, and
    thank you!

    Josef Hien

    • Josef, you are an “instant friend.” Your voice went straight into my heart.
      And your song says what I have spent days and days wondering. Thank you.
      Thank you so so very much. And I have to say that you most certainly DO
      have a “way with words,” transforming them into song. What you wrote
      to me is also poetry: lyrical, moving, insightful and more. I shall
      save your message and your song and singing always. And you will
      be in my heart and mind each Wednesday when I sit down here and
      hope I can continue to scribble out comfort.
      May all that can be good dapple your every day, and again,
      deepest thanks.

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