Hate. Arousing and affirming hate is not a policy.

This past week 45 held a rally at an arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a mere 50 minutes from this desk, where for over an hour he roused and affirmed the hate carried by his base base.

The President, our elected officials, and all of us are to work toward helping those who are helpless when it comes to housing, food, health, economic fairness, toward combating climate change, to enhance education, to uphold freedom of loving cultures, to secure everyone’s rights and safety, to establish equal pay for equal work, to create fair taxation practices, to work on whatever problem we, our families, and friends are struggling with.

But hate. Hate is not subject to debate.

Kindness can and must withstand it.

“It is only kindness that makes sense anymore.” from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Kindness”


Last night at practice
when my man slipped by me
for a lay-up, Coach threw down
his clipboard, ran right up into my face,
slapped me behind the head,
and yelled, “What the hell
are you doing? Get in front.
Take a charge. You
on this team or not! How
are we gonna be ready if you
don’t play tough defense!”

Some mornings I wake up
wondering about wind sprints,
and tough defense, and running
up the bleachers twenty times.

Two hours every night
at practice I’m the other team.
I’ve heard it a thousand times: “You’re
necessary. You’re an integral part.
Without you, we’d never be ready.”
But I know I do what you do
when you’re never good enough.

Some day I’ll come back
and point at that place on the bench.
Some day I’m gonna sit back,
watch t.v., take a vacation
every summer, have a dog,
and never miss a game.

“You get in tonight?” my father asks
when I come in after a game.
I knock the snow from my boots, “No.”
“What?” “No.” “Close game?”
“No, we lost by twenty-three.” I listen
to the empty air, the slow shake
of my father’s head, know he’s been sitting
with a beer watching one show roll into
another, sneering at the ads and laugh tracks,
waiting for the news, sports, and weather, bed.
I go to the refrigerator, look at the line
of Budweiser cans, take out the milk,
pour a glass, go in with him
to watch the scores.

Sometimes, after practice,
I walk home
and I think about
letting the ball
bounce away. Then
I would sit down,
let my mind open up wider
and wider, so wide
the sky would
come inside,
the stars
would light it all.

Last week, on the bus for school,
my seven year old sister said,
I’m scared the sun will go out.
That’s ridiculous. Can’t happen, and I
took her hand, looked out the window, up
into the sky, watched snow clouds
cross. But it’s fire, she said.
Fire goes out.

Four wind sprints to go.
“Let’s see what you have left.
Run. Run like I’m after you.
Run. Run now, or after the next
game, I’ll run you till you drop.
Run, god dammit, run.”

Once last summer I lay in bed
wondering if somewhere hidden
in my cells was something good enough
that I could do. But
the cells were mute. The days
since then have been the same, even
their names dissolving
like the host upon my tongue.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Sanscrit.
Subsequently published in Losing Season (CavanKerry Press)

Mark Hiskes’s long-awaited collection Standing with Alyosha (Dos Madres Press) has been released. Lorna Cook, author of Outside Wonderland among other novels, says “Mark Hiskes writes with the wisdom of a teacher humbled and seasoned, yet lit by an unfailing love of literature and the incandescence of adolescence. Each poem in the lovely collection is drawn with honesty, grit, and a constant thread of grace.”

Kelly Fordon has several readings from her new collection, Goodby Toothless House, coming up in the Detroit area. See her website for dates and times.


Don Cellini’s latest collection of translation is Solar History by Jair Cortés. 

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Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore 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.

12 thoughts on “Kindness

  1. Dear Jack,
    This poem moves me in a deep way, resonating on the feeling of never being good enough that comes from multiple sources in childhood, one building on the next until a time comes when nothing seems to matter. Thank you so much for writing this and gifting it to us! As you say, we learn that kindness is the only way out, and thank goodness the powers of cruelty cannot steal kindness away hard as they may try. We need to remember that it’s up to us to keep the kindness coming, starting with the self to the self. What better way than through a poem like this?

    • Phyllis,
      I am so glad to hear this. Heaven knows that you most certainly see into this kid and
      how his own kindness seems to him not to matter. He has no idea this is what he’s sooooo
      good at. And of course you recognize that and recognize the multiple sources that go into
      his feeling as he does.
      My thanks are abundant

  2. Oh Jack, this poem won’t let me catch my breath. My chest aches–for the boy, for the man the boy is now. This poem catches my breath. I want to hold all the boys who held their ground–a coach yelling in their face or at the back of their heads. And all the boy who didn’t–I don’t ever want to let those boys go. And your comments about the cult rally, God, what have we done?

    • I know that great good heart of yours and our from it comes this heartaching message.
      You understanding and empathy heals.
      My deepest gratitude for writing this, Meg.

  3. Jack, I’m sad that your gentle, kind, inclusive spirit knew so intimately how to write “Scrub” so effectively. You deserved otherwise. XO


    • Wow. I really don’t know what to write. I love that kid. I was not born tough enough.
      Sigh and gratitude to dear you who helps, helps us all sooooooo much.

  4. Jack, such a powerful poem about such an important subject.
    I finished reading “Saint Peter and the Goldfinch” a few days ago. It is wonderful and glorious! What a gift you have! I was struck by “Thinking Again of My Daughter,” ” Suite for the Long Married,” ” Another Day in Your Life,” ” Why We Stay” and on and on. I know I will be reading this book again soon. Congratulations!

    • Jim,
      Please and I mean PLEASE know what this means to me. I do this poem stuff hoping the work
      lands in the hearts, minds, souls it’s meant for. It sure did with you and my gratitude
      is truly endless.
      Ever soooooo grateful,

  5. Jack, I love this poem; thank you so much for writing it. I haven’t been able to make myself remove it from my inbox. My heart aches for this boy, and it aches for the girl that I once was – in that very same situation. I so often wish I knew then what I know now. It becomes difficult to untangle how such experiences affect us over time and shape our thoughts, which shape our choices, which shape our lives. These experiences matter.

    • Oh Kristi, yes yes yes. It’s heartbreaking that he, probably like you then, didn’t realize
      that he was doing what he does best and what everyone should do best.
      Sending comfort and admiration. And courage to your great good heart.

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