A Man I Know

Last week’s post elicited some misunderstanding, for which I am responsible. Neither Josef nor I was suggesting anything like sympathy or understanding for 45. Anything but! I’ll let it go at that.

This week’s poem — our family is struggling with a complicated sorrow. Grief for most anyone is an ambush. We’re walking along, doing pretty well, go to the grocery and lose it in front of the watermelons.

What a strange world, the Kingdom of Sorrow. And yet it is that place where so many of us join hearts.

My hunch is that 45’s response to a person caught in grief would be to label that “loser.”

After a while that’s what we all are–losers. If we carry the gift of caring, then we grow into becoming losers of much of what and whom we love.

And we’ve lost so much to 45, this thief of our loving attention.

A Man I Know

A man I know walks down the road
behind his house. All year, he wears
a scarf and stocking cap. When he
nears our place, the dogs bark.

I know there is always grape jelly
on his shelf. He told me. And he also
told me at night he thinks about birds.
Sometimes he decides to stop by.

He says he wants to visit the dogs.
They like him. Sometimes he sits
with them at our window and draws.
He loves to draw apples. He also

enjoys the gray squirrel with tan ears
that scrounges in the back yard for
what the juncos, black-caps, and
sparrows drop from the feeder. He talks

a lot about when he was in third grade.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Scintilla
Subsequently published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State U. Press)

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

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

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

And, of course, click here to visit ridl.com, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

24 thoughts on “A Man I Know

  1. From those who knows grief know we all hold you close in our hearts. It can be unspeakable and appear in some of the most unpredictable places and the most unimaginable times. Holding you all close. Brett, Mimi, all – feel the embrace.

    • Thank you. Your empathy is all through this message. We feel
      your care. Oh we sure do. Mimi and Brent will be deeply touched.

  2. Jack,

    It is hard to understand how anyone can trust, believe, value, and follow the leadership of our POTUS.

    When I hear the few people, who I talk to, speak highly of him, I am tempted to ask them what world are they living on? What has he done that is worthy of praise, and belief in his leadership?

    Then I listen carefully, to what they are saying, it is basically the mantra of 45. They are parroting his words, and they seem to have bought the whole package of lies he propagates daily.

    They really WANT his world to be the truth, and they embrace it for all they are worth. It is made of the fabric of their psyche, life force, inner soul. They have many biases and fears of the world they once knew to be true, or thought to be true.

    It never was, but they refuse to look closely into the racist, bigoted, and hate filled belief system they were unfortunately raised in, or chose to believe in. Our country was never perfect, and our values were our ideals, not our reality.

    When father Corey spoke at Berry Field, this Memorial Day, and asked those who were veterans to raise their hands, I raised mine, somewhat proudly, but also somewhat reluctantly. I was forced to join the service, drafted in 1966 to fight in a war I did not understand. A war I could not support, but had no choice to do so. I was one of the very few soldiers who was not sent to Vietnam, between ’66-’68 my time in uniform, during the build up for the tet-offensive. Some people, at the parade, were kind and thanked me for my service, and I thanked them for their support and gratitude.

    I was asked to put my life on the line, and I grudgingly got in line. Somehow, I was spared the traumatic, life enduring experience of actual war. When I came home and began to learn more about that war, it made me guilty to have been even an insignificant part of it. It should have been a learning experience but I think not.

    When I was in the Army it was mostly draftees, and not the professional, highly trained Army of today, made up of men who knowingly choose to be in the military. But, I still have much grief and sorrow for those professionals, when they are killed, maimed, scarred, and permanently damaged. And for what?

    The wars we choose to fight and put our brave men in harms way, are not the war my father fought in Germany at the end of the war in ’45. We are not changing the world for the better, and perhaps even making it worse.

    More than ever we need diplomacy and rational, informed leadership coming from the WH, and it does not live their anymore!

    It was nice to see you at the parade. I wish we had time to talk. But, starting next week I will have some time to enjoy lunch, again, with you. Please let me know if you are so inclined and what days would work for you, thanks Jack, hope we can make it happen.


    • How I remember your first telling me this story, Nick, and how moved
      I was listening, how I could feel it coming straight from you own
      soulful self. The complexity of your feelings is ever present in
      your commentary here. And yes, we gotta have lunch!!

  3. Dear dear Jack, For whatever your sorrows may be….sending you comfort as needed….the uplift of wings to carry your day with moments of lightness. Love, Ginny

    • Thank ye, my Pal over all our experiences. Your care touches us all
      and does that mysterious act of comforting our hearts.

  4. Dear Jack and all those dear to you,
    Nouwen had a lot to say about our woundedness and grief. It is one of the things that makes us one. Whatever the source of this season of grief, know we stand in thought and prayer with you. Thank you for the poems you share.

    • Dear Friends,
      We always feel and know your care. Thank you for the thoughtfulness
      of your message, for your abiding interest and support, and for you.

  5. Important wisdom here…..heading back to Holland MI via car starting today. Somehow now the place I left is a place I crave. All about people.


    Sent from my iPhone


    • Jim, thank you! And isn’t that a strange and wonderful truth, what you
      say about coming back here.
      And keep contrasting Jack N in sartorial splendor!!!

  6. Hi Jack, appreciate your poem as always, also wanted to offer my condolences for whatever grief you are experiencing…

    • Thanks, Bill. Meridith’s mother-in-law. Hadn’t heard from you for awhile.
      Hoping you two are wandering into many a good summer time.

  7. I’m sorry for your family’s grief, Jack. Whatever it’s source, the process of grieving can be a fierce thief of so many good things. Yet, it cannot steal the love so many of us have for the Ridl folk. Nope. Count on this Buddyroe.

    • I/we DO count on it for sure, dear Friend. Merdith’s mother-in-law.
      We’re all pretty good at this stuff, so on we go with one another, and you two!

  8. my dear friend…grief is like a little butterfly. When you least expect it, there it is – landing on your fingertips, your shoulder. Over this past year, I have learned to embrace my grief in a way that I never expected. We grieve because we love and have been loved. But, we can embrace that grief knowing that the body made fade, but the love remains.

  9. Grief has its way with us, doesn’t it. Not a thing we can do but bear it. I can remember thinking “but they don’t understand…this is different.” But everyone really does understand, and I believe the only thing we know is we cannot fix it. But I sure wish I could for you, Jack. Love you dearly.

  10. I’m watching an 8-year-old labrador die of cancer. I’ve watched parents die. We’ve watched so much die in the past year. I cry in front of watermelons too. And library shelves. And while breathing in the scent of lilacs, which also brings joy. Life is complicated, as is death.

    • Oh my yes, to you, Cindy. You have carried way more than anyone can.
      And then you send this kind and loving message. Thanks, dear soul.
      Complicated in such a mess of a way.
      Love all the time,

  11. Sir,


    I remember a movie called "Modern Times", a silent film by Charles Chaplin, made in the Thirties of the last Century. The Modern Times we are facing are different. Some Leaders of some Countries (surely including the one you are calling 45) are acting in a way that leaves us silent.


    We did not expect this in the years before.


    We did not expect that democratic progress could be turned around. But it happened.


    We have Putin, a well known anti-democratic-Leader, Erdogan, Orban, the Phippine Killer-Leader, the chinese President and a growing and upcoming Group of populists all over the world, including Europe. We have Marine Le Pen, the Polish PIS Party, the German AFD, a national-leaded Austrian Government, and a lot more.


    My hope is that the brain of the people will lead them to a better direction, maybe in the next election, maybe later.


    In the meantime I enjoy your poems. These are an outpost of this better direction.


    If you happen to visit Germany please send an E-Mail. I would appreciate to meet you.




    Cedric Mayer




    Gesendet: Donnerstag, 31. Mai 2018 um 12:33 Uhr Von: "RIDL.COM" <comment-reply@wordpress.com> An: cedricmayer@gmx.de Betreff: [New post] A Man I Know

    Jack posted: "Last week's post elicited some misunderstanding, for which I am responsible. Neither Josef nor I was suggesting anything like sympathy or understanding for 45. Anything but! I'll let it go at that. This week's poem — our family is struggling with a comp"

    • Cedric,
      Your list of soul-less leaders is terrifying. We are all living within this
      frightening threat to all that is good, humane, enriching. I so appreciate
      your “My hope is that the brain of the people will lead them to a better direction.”
      My wife, Julie, is working tirelessly to bring rightful change in the next election.
      We who care for justice, truth, equal rights and more are doing all we can to bring
      about that change, and worried that doing all we can may not be enough.
      Thank you for your affirmation of my project. It helps sustain me as I go on.
      With hope,
      Douglas, Michigan, USA

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s