The Revolution on Ward B

When I was a kid, maybe seven, and growing up in our church, we played a game called “Bible Baseball.”

You were tossed a pitch–a question. Answer correctly, you got a home run. Wrong, and you were out.

I was up at bat and in came the question: “How many sins did Jesus commit?” I said, “One.”


As we were leaving, the minister took me aside and asked, “Why in the world, did you say Jesus committed a sin?!” I shrugged and said, “When he went to the temple, he didn’t tell his mom and dad where he was going.”

To this day, it seems a reasonable answer. What seems unreasonable is why that matters. In fact, by today’s miasma of morals, it looks to me as if the Jesus I know spent most of his time committing sins.

He didn’t want to found some religion. He was a Jew who saw his religion being misused. And he was a rebel who saw government full of corruption. And he saw the dominant values of the day in need of a revolution. Today 45 would be tweeting incessantly about this loser.

And Jesus was rather “Zen-ish.”  “The last shall be first.” Certainly as one opposed to hierarchies — be they of wealth, prestige, or evaluation — he was not reversing the order. Good heavens, that would have had everyone scrambling to be last (“Hey! I’m last. Get in FRONT of me!”).

He was clearly disordering the order.

Unlike under 45 where the “first” are always first in privilege, benefits, health, nourishment, housing, economic assurance, and-and-and, in Jesus’s unruly and un-ruled “kindom” the last shall/should be the first to be cared for.

The Revolution on Ward B

The rooms opened like gaps between a drunkard’s teeth.
In each, decaying, full of unneeded breath
crouched my cohorts in conspiracy.
We gathered like moths around our thoughts
amid the pillows, pills, and stacks of cards.
Away from those afraid to visit us,
we plotted, pricked the mind’s map,
set our pins strategically,
and prepared to charge full force
into the ambush of our past.

General Peterson led us against the sun.
He pulled the shades each morning,
never let the word get out. Joan
of Arkansas held matches with her toes,
lit them, yelling for supplies. Old
Mrs. Pinelli saved her food, sacked it
in her pillow, afraid we might run short.
Young Ben cried, said he didn’t want to die,
and hanged himself with his jump rope.
McBurney grabbed his penis and like Lancelot
charged the lobby shouting, “Viva la personalitie!”
I held the fort, a sentry watching
for a change of mind in us, a change
of heart in them. We were a ragged
mind against the mob.

We were the soldiers whose eyes cut corners.
We were the children’s crusade.
We were the catatonic Quakers.
We were the martyrs without a prayer.

With nothing to gain and less to lose
we revolted against their vision of our lives.
Our bombs rolled across our loved ones’ faces.
Our machine guns dittoed our only way out.
Our mines quivered in the commonplace: We
set them in the supermarket, underneath
the boss’s desk, under the grade book,
and on the putting green. “NUTS!”
we laughed when they’d demand surrender.
We’d never spill our brains for them.

They held with all they had:
Tiptoed down the corridor.
Smiled at our drills.
Turned the television up for Mr. Cobb.
Sent in ten cookies for the twelve of us.
Said our visitors were waiting in the hall.

We hollered, “NUTS!” till Peterson saw the moon.
Then shivering, nerves eating the air, morale
turning against us on its own, we wrapped
our feet in sheets and trudged back
across the snow without a flag.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Southern Poetry Review
Subsequently published in The Same Ghost (Dawn Valley Press)

Coming up Tuesday, August 14 at 6:30pm: “The Fifth Annual Red Dock Reading,” under the direction of Tony Amato Productions with special guest Laura Donnelly who will calm the waters. Come early. Enjoy the atmosphere and the food and beverages. To assure yourself of a seat, bring a chair.

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15 thoughts on “The Revolution on Ward B

  1. Dear Jack,

    Often, I think of you because I read the poems shared here (I also share them with a couple of my colleagues who have come to enjoy them along with me). Being a teacher, I also think of you because I learned the most about teaching from you, and I’m always grateful for having crossed paths with you at Hope, at D&W, or at the Farmer’s Market. Last night, I crossed paths with you in a dream. Usually, this is a detail I do NOT share because most of the time if I say to a friend or acquaintance, “Hey, you were in my dream last night!” they look back at me with that horrified OMG look in their eyes and slowly inch themselves with their lunch a little further away—begin to speak of the weather or the way the fluorescent light is flickering–giving them a migraine. So, I’ve come to learn sharing this information, however innocent, falls very much into that social TMI category. I assure you this dream was about creativity and wanting to talk about it– people from all over the world at a poetry reading–so…I think it’s OK in this case.

    Having been raised a Baptist, the poem, “Bible Baseball” struck so many nerves–I’d have to write a collection of short stories about the way each line resonates with me. Since it’s summer I’m writing more, and I’m also writing through the journey of fighting breast cancer for a second time. Interestingly, my mind is processing everything as if it were a single snapshot to examine–just so much to savor right now.

    The above mentioned dream prompted me to say “Hi”, to thank you for your continued influence on my creative life, and to express my mutual disgust ( a more descriptive list could go on, but I don’t have that much time to devote to such a list) for 45. If I had to make a call–and regardless of what happens to 45, I personally believe if things do not begin to change here soon, many of his supporters are going to be surprised when their made to order Jesus starts overturning the tables of this “U.S. temple.”

    Anyway–just sayin’ “Hi, Jack!” I hope you are well!

    Deborah Trent Fisher

    • Cherished Deb, can you possibly know what this loving and lovely message
      means to me. No. No, you can’t. And oh my gosh can you write. You are
      there, right there. Your voice and vision are one and reading is a joy.
      I can still see you, that open look ready to receive, your welcoming
      smile, your gentle eruption of joy at what struck you as funny,
      your eyes that would sparkle when something arrived as a realization.
      You were that student who transformed a guy who affirmed that I
      was just me teaching, no method, just me and the stuff and you and
      the others. Your gift to me is a rare gift, one that creates
      a place for the other person to be who they are. My thanks
      span the skies.

      I have tried to email you several times, but they all bounced back. Sigh.

      I send my deep care as you go at it again with breast cancer. Damn. If only
      I could say “Fix and fix,” and you would be all better. Sigh.

      May the days bring comfort, moments of delight, the words on the page
      you hope to see, and all that can be good.
      A very grateful Jack

      • It’s so great to hear from you, and I’m sorry to have missed messages from you—how unfortunate! my personal e-mail is:
        It will be a long year–many parts of it will be ugly, but I am also anticipating joy– and that some honest writing will come from it! 🙂

  2. I was to take a poetry writing class with you and got Dirk Jellema–a frustrating at the time but rare gift to me–due to your unexpected sabbatical. Anyway, when you returned you gave a poetry reading/”lecture” and read this poem. Good to see it again. When I taught high school Language arts, I used to have my students read a different one I first heard at that same reading, The Healers. My copy of THE SAME GHOST (in which they both appear) is held together with duct-tape these days. Can it really be almost 40 years ago?

    • Duct tape is good for so many things.
      I’m fascinated that you used “The Healers.” I’m
      trying to imagine their responses. It’s a pretty
      brutal poem. Whew!

      Hold on to that copy. I’ve seen it online for sale for $4.00
      and for $4,000.00 Truly! Insane!


      • A surprising number find hope in it–someone out there knows them in here. Wouldn’t sell, might pass it down to my son. (The one who brought in Love Poem when his freshman Language Arts teacher asked kids to bring examples of love poems for them to analyze. Not sure the teacher used the “Pritchard Scale” but he was definitely taken back by John’s choice). But would never sell.

      • What could touch anyone in the arts more than “Would never sell”!
        Thank you for this gift to me.

  3. Was it in school or still in Kindergarten?, someone must have tried to convince our daughter Emma, that God knows everything. She was sceptical. She always was, still is. One of her first full sentences was: “Ich bin dagegen!” (German for: I am against it!)

    So one day at supper we spoke about very intelligent people who, from the perspective of a child, seem to know everything, Nobel Prize Winners, teachers, sometimes Mums and Dads. We probably mentioned God in that conversation. And that little girl said: “Nobody knows everything, not even God!”

    This world needs rebels of all ages who stand up against those who want to destroy democracy (in Germany as well) by trying to sell us fake bullshit as the gospel truth.

    Thanks, Jack for sharing your word with us every Thursday.

    • I suspect that if Jesus were alive today, the DSM 5 would have a diagnosis readily available. I also suspect a leveling of the playing field is and always has been at hand. The request for improvement in our world has never been more than it is right now. Perhaps the field has always been level, but only a few have modeled That. Thanks Jack for being catalyst to That.

      • Thank you. I’m just me doing one of the only things I can do. Julie does everything else.

        And oh my yes to Jesus having a DSM 5.


    • Ah, that wonderful Emma! She’s not a skeptic. She’s a truth affirming soul!

      We’ve been so concerned about what’s happening in Germany. Stay close to bees,
      poems, gardens, your own writing, haiku, photography and and and all that is
      the way it should be.

  4. “Ten cookies for the twelve of us…” -Zing!

    And wearing that Dutch perma-smile the whole time.

    Nice one, Jack. D.


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