Ice Storm (…and about that party…)

Here’s a little coda to last week’s post: How many of you grew up being subjected to the well-meaning, “Just do your best”? I don’t know about you, but I was the kid who had no idea what my best was. Anxiety to the point of panic slithered within whether I was making my bed (My mother invariably smoothed out a wrinkle or four) or studying for an exam in existential philosophy.

Always I obsessed, “Did I do my best? How will I know?” They bewildered me, those people for whom the phrase brought relief, even confidence. Even after a failure — missing a layup or receiving a C — those folks heard, “That’s okay. I know you did your best.”

Man if this is 45’s best, I dread to think what his less than best looks like.

This week has lugged in quite a storm. It’s so cold that, even if properly winter-clothed, we will be frostbitten in ten minutes. The windchill here as I write has plummeted to a minus-27 F.

At least for a while we love it. Pile up the books, get out the board games, watch an old movie, curl up with the dogs.

A storm like this is a paradoxical gift, distracting us in the best of ways by forcing us to pay attention to what matters deeply in our own lives, all we would attend to if the thief-in-chief of our personal lives had never shown up in The White House.

Which brings me to today’s poem. Am I ever lucky! The blurbs/reviews for my new collection were written by Li-Young Lee, Dan Gerber, Terrance Hayes, and Billy Collins. In tune with the weather here, here’s an excerpt from Dan Gerber on the new book:

“Open the book to page 27 and read ‘Ice Storm.’ Feel how it settles in your chest, how your breath resounds with a long, deep, ‘Yes,’ how subtly you are changed by what you didn’t know you knew.”

Ice Storm

Here on the couch with my old dog I find
I’m feeling gratitude, an odd gratitude,
an old gratitude, one I thought had gone

for good down a long back road
that led away from the years when
I felt glad, felt what I believed

was an abiding gratitude: to be,
to be warm, and grateful to be
warm, to have some pillows

and a dozen books and all afternoon.
To be alone without even a sideswipe
of loneliness. To be on page 47,

or 114, or page one and there
was nothing missing. The ice
storm made things warm,

time irrelevant, made the sleeping
dog an Amen to a prayer never
needing to be said.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Third Wednesday
To be included in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)

So much news to share!

1. Jack Interview, February 22 on WMUK’s Art Beat. 12:30pm.

2. Party Time: Book Reception, April 5 for the release of Saint Peter and the Goldfinch.

When: April 5, 6:30-9:30pm
Where: The Douglass UCC church.
There will be a reading at 7pm. Then we party. Books on site for sale and signing.
Click here to Read all about it and RSVP PLEASE

3. Writing Your Personal History Workshop, April 6. Grace Episcopal Church. 9am-2pm

4.Workshop on March 30. “Poetry Trauma: The Way to Recovery.” This will offer a fresh way to be nourished by a variety of poems. It’s FREE. But you MUST reserve a seat.

When: March 30, 10am-1pm.
Where: The Douglass UCC church Friendship Hall.
Click here to reserve your seat online, or sign up at the church hall one of these Sunday mornings.

5. Reading with Lisa Lenzo (whose new book, Unblinking, will be released in May!) on May 16 at Michigan News Agency Bookstore in Kalamazoo.. 7pm

6. Wonderful news for those of you who know or want to meet the beloved Kathleen Markland.
She has been named the Honoree for the celebration of and fundraiser for The Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency  in Saugatuck, Michigan. Ox-Bow is more than 100 years old and is a part of The Art Institute of Chicago. Stay tuned for that fundraiser date!

7. Saugatuck’s D.R. James has a new chapbook coming out! Click here for a pre-order discount!

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

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.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

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.

24 thoughts on “Ice Storm (…and about that party…)

    • Ohhhh thank thee!
      And I’m grateful you overlooked the typo errors. : )
      And a huge AMEN to alllll those students whose days you affirm

  1. Love this, Jack! Made me laugh – “man, if this is 45’s “best”… – no kidding! I keep meditating on the “Be your best self” counsel popular with kids in the last mid-century – he must have been out to lunch all those days.

    • No, Naomi. He was’t out for lunch. He was out for Golf or doing disgusting things to women.
      P.S. A while ago I ordered “The Words under the Words“ and believe it or not. The page with “Kindness“ was torn out. How kind is that? I’ll order it again. Greetings from Tübingen, Germany.

      • No higher compliment for a poem! Other than it showing up magnetized
        to a refrigerator.

        I once had someone show me a copy of one of my collections she’d bought
        at a used bookstore. I had inscribed it “For . . . I am so glad that
        you told me that you wanted to keep this on your bedside table.”

    • Sooooo good hearing from you, especially knowing you have no time
      to even think of responding. And to bring a laugh to you is a joy.
      No one needs a laugh any more than you, Sister Naomi.
      Not only was he out to lunch back then, he didn’t even know
      that there was lunch. He thought they said “lust.”

  2. Jack!

    Amazing poem. Thank you, as always!

    Also, all my teams are falling apart. What is happening to the Hoosiers? My Pacers lost Oladipo with a knee injury. Butler is treading water. Even the DePauw and Hope women are ever so slightly down this year… Is it 45’s fault? I think I’ll blame him.


    • Definitely 45’s to blame, Sam. Who can concentrate at the line with him out there.

      Hey, maybe your teams are having a fake year.

      I’m soooooo glad for what you said about that poem. It means a lot, a
      whole lot. It matters.
      You are such a good man, one who has stayed in this heart after class!!!!

  3. Wow! Talk about dream blurbers!! And rightly so!

    And your “best” by the- was/is always more than we ever dared dream of! (Though fie on the anguish it brought you !)

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Oh my yes. I can’t believe it. And dear Terrance. He’s so modest that
      after his name after the blurb, he wrote only poet and professor.
      MY GAWD!

      You are soooo good to moi. There. I said it again!!!!!
      See you tomorrow!!! YAY!!!!

  4. Wonderful, Jack as always!

    Since with ‘the crud’ I missed the Writing your Personal Story Workshop in the Fall at DUCC, will you please add me to your list of attending the one in Holland on April 6?

    Along with the Book release, it looks like it’ll be a very fun writing weekend for me! If you need help with anything I’ll be there. Thank you… I appreciate you, and all you do.

    Smiles, Laughter and Happiness,

    Debra Carr.


    • Hi Debra,
      Deeeeelighted to add you to the list. And so happy that you enjoyed
      the poem. Maybe now it should be titled “Slush Storm.”
      And you are always so kind with your generous offerings to help with
      our events. Let’d simply see how it goes. You are a wonderful support of what
      I try to do. Joyful to know you will have a fun weekend, that weekend!
      Thank ye.

    • Dear Wolfgang,
      Thank you for telling me that you admired that poem. This means so
      much to me, very much helps me keep the project going.
      And I send hope for reason and kindness as you also struggle through
      such difficult times.

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