During the Last Two Weeks of His Life, He Wrote Only the Last Lines of Poems

In our little village the flags were lowered to half-mast immediately when we heard the news of John McCain’s passing. The flags hung there in front of the clapboard town hall and the police station. People talked of his service, his character.

During the Last Two Weeks of His Life, He Wrote Only the Last Lines of Poems


the stars, lost in the half light of evening.


giving us only a noun and the time to finally understand it.

after the taxi, after the end of the affair.

like the slow ruin of his own small town.

and God? Lost somewhere in the bread section.

wind, three medieval priests, a puppet, and a wedding dress.

the bus.

window, pouring out the last of the anonymous gin.

not the cow, not the fence post, not even the back door.

knew the rest, but kept the pile beside her desk, adding to it when it snowed.

amid the holiness of snails.

later. Then he juggled a scarf, an orange ball, and the flute.

wondering was it the rain, was it the ontology of morning?

–Jack Ridl


First published in Prairie Schooner.

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

Writers’ Retreat Up North

There’s a wonderful Writers’ Retreat coming up at Lost Lake near Alpena, Michigan. Instead of the usual workshops, the retreat provides you a long-needed chance to get away, be among warm-hearted fellow writers and a staff of fiction writers, poets, and song writers with whom you can meet one on one, hear read, sing, and listen to interesting presentations. Here you will have time to write on your own in the beautiful autumn setting at Lost Lake.

October 4-7

For more details and to sign up go to inspirationalcona.org

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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague 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.

8 thoughts on “During the Last Two Weeks of His Life, He Wrote Only the Last Lines of Poems

  1. What an amazing poem! What an amazing premise for its construction! I’m imagining you all taking a stroll down to the river this cool morning to watch it greet the day. With coffee… Blessings to you both!

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Thank you, Jack. Sitting here in the Old Pueblo, flags at half mast, tearful yet joyful conversations about Senator McCain , and angry conversations about the Orange menace in DC, I find the “Last Line of poems” soothing. From all of us in the AZ Desert, thank you. Jim

    • I was wondering about what it’s like for you, to be “there.”
      And I know that the Orange Crush is affecting you in all the undeserved ways.

      How are you doing health wise? Shoot me an email. Sending care and gratitude always

  3. Jack,

    Great tribute to a great American, and Politician who was not afraid to step across the isle, whenever needed, to try to solve our problems.

    I didn’t always agree with him, that was a certainty. But, I always had to admire his passion, & courage to do what he felt was needed, to bring us together, and not push us apart.

    Bipartisanship has been injured, if not crippled, with our loss of John McCain. We can only hope that all of those in Congress who so eloquently praised him, will now make an effort to personate him. Hint, Lindsey Graham!

    Thanks as always for your newest post.


    • Nick, I could sure feel your passionate care in your eloquent comment.

      Thank YOU for your abiding care and concern and kindness

  4. Jack,
    It wa almost painful to read your tender and perceptive lines about Senator McClain. Once again you have captured a moment and a feeling and put them into beautiful words for your readers to absorb and think about.
    Tom from Pittsburgh

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