My Father Gardening in Heaven

Last week in a workshop — actually more like a salon — that I was asked to lead eleven years ago, the poets brought poems in which they described their heaven. Among the many moving heavens created were several that included…

*an absence of gun violence.
*rights not labeled privileges.
*health care for all without regard to ability to pay.
*respect for and care of the natural world.
*children not separated from their parents at the border.
*religions that didn’t just welcome all, but affirmed all.

Well, you get the idea.

I could call this approach heaven on earth, but for the fact that many of us affirm that this is the way earth should be on earth.

My Father Gardening in Heaven

The flowers are no taller here.
The cosmos carry their saucers
of burgundy and white, the fuchsias
dangle their puckered blossoms
no farther down than they do on earth.
Every flower adds its promiscuity
of scent, its audacity of color
to the unencumbered hues of heaven. Here
my father imagines snow-on-the-mountain
spreading across the clouds, succulents
thriving in the fierce sunlight, bleeding
heart drooping in the perfect air. Here
there are no slugs peeling the leaves,
no aphids ravenous in a flower’s veins.
The days are bereft of drought, the nights
solicit no unwelcome frost. Once, my father,
sleeping under the apple blossoms,
began to dream of spider mites, leaf hoppers,
and lace bugs cutting across his every plant.
He woke up shaking and reaching for a spray.
Adam turned from his hoeing, smiled. Eve
waved out the window. My father nodded,
stood up, took his rake and pulled it gently
over the straight and narrow furrows
he had loosened in the soft, sweet loam.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

Please mark your calendars for the Fifth Annual “Reading at The Red Dock.”
Tuesday evening, August 14, 6:30pm. Come early, grab a seat.

This year’s guest poet is Laura Donnelly, winner of the Cider Press Review Editors’ Prize for her collection Watershed. This past year Laura was named The State University of New York/Oswego’s Outstanding Professor.

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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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12 thoughts on “My Father Gardening in Heaven

  1. Prompting me to write one about my father finally getting his ranch…with perhaps John Wayne as a ranch hand.

    • Oh my gosh, I love it!

      I can hear John Wayne–“Well, I tell ya, Audrianne,that’s just one fine idea ya have there, Kid.”


  2. Love this one, Jack. It’s on the wall in my study, framed with a picture of my Dad, signed by you.

    Thanks, Mark

  3. And I held the handles of my father’s hammer and his trowel as I put them away this Tuesday, smoothing their grips into my memory, seeing the red sandy soil of home in my purchased bags of composted garden soil, smelling the rusted nails and old pine 2×2’s we would use to “make something myself” to get things done.

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Hi Jack, hope that your father and my father might bump into one another in the garden and share some great sports stories…Blessings,bill h

  5. the promiscuity of scent…the audacity of color!!!! OMG…Jack, your words come from a place that we lowly readers can never fathom. Thank you for sharing that place with us!

    • Dear dear Susan,
      That you notice things WITHIN a poem is so meaningful to me.
      Do know how rare that is.
      My thanks are promiscuous !!! : )
      PS. I don’t know where those words come from either.

  6. My heart overflows with gratitude that you created this lovely tribute to gardening, heaven, and most especially, your dear dad. Buzz epitomizes gardening. I can picture him behind your house tending to the glads. (Inside the house, Betty and Libby, were giggling over God knows what.

    I love you, Jack. Arms around you and Julie.

    Xoxo Beth

    • And oh how I love my Beth.
      There never was and never ever will be a pair of buddies like Roy and Buzz
      and a pair of giggling ageless school girl pals like Libby and Betty.

      You remember the glads. There were hundreds. He would lug half a hundred
      here to give to Julie every year.

      Weren’t we lucky, blessed like no other kids.
      Love you so

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