A Few Days before Another Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day in our village consisted of a parade: A police car, seven veterans (two were vets of WWII), a bugler, a color guard, the school’s band, and two fire trucks. We all then gathered at the war memorial in the little park.

The Sargent at Arms presented each of the veterans and gently reminded us of the day’s importance.

There was a prayer, and then Father Stoppel offered words that deserved to be given from the capitol steps. He said that we should honor those who fought for freedom — not for independent freedoms but for the freedom to bring goodness to one another.

A veteran laid a wreath at the memorial. Three volleys fired. The band played the themes associated with each armed force. I handed my handkerchief to Julie. It all closed quietly with a benediction and an invitation to have photographs taken with the veterans.

Just one little village. People together. Dogs together. All together. And then we slowly dispersed to whatever ways we would spend the rest of this “day off.”

It was the best of contradictions to the damage being done, one harmful lie and policy, one vile tweet after another, one more day of indifference to all who need our goodness.

Again this year I send the following poem. Memorial Day for many of us opens the door to Summer. I bet we make more “resolutions” than we do at New Year’s.

And so—-

A Few Days before Another Memorial Day Weekend

You think maybe if you screened in the porch.
You think fly fishing. You think re-reading
Middlemarch or your grandmother’s recipes.
There’s summer ahead, lots of days, plenty
of pots to make a container garden: mounds
of begonias, asters, foxglove, cosmos, and coleus.
There’s your sister’s wedding, her third you think.
It will be small, huge, both; it doesn’t matter.
And it does. It’s not at all the same. What is
the same is your penmanship, no matter how many
calligraphy lessons or how hard you’ve tried
to change the way you cross your tees. What’s
the same is birdsong and the taste of pepper. You
switch cereals, you turn off the television, the
back burner, the boss, the highway. There’s a little
restaurant where you can order garlic mashed
potatoes and switch to blueberry pie. You think
if you throw away your shoes, buy a little car, a little
place in the country, make little sense. You say yes
to four in the morning, yes to the dust on the table,
no to the days of the week, to wind chimes, number
two lead pencils, Louisiana. You know there’s wax
in your ears, there’s time enough to tell, there’s room
for it here–or even there. It’s just that the dog is asleep
and the cats are asleep and the water is running, running
where your mother said it would run, running while
the welcome mat stays out. You wonder if you thought
of Buddha, but no one can think of Buddha. So you
think of Jesus thinking of Buddha, Jesus thinking of
Krishna thinking of Buddha who is not thinking, who is
letting the dream of a better kitchen wander off with the end
of a novel. No, you think of the nuthatch climbing down
the dead maple outside your bedroom window, you
think of the kid on the yellow bicycle, peddling like
mad, like crazy, like wildfire down the street.

–Jack Ridl

Published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

Well, the Ox-Bow class filled. But we opened it to two more folks. And they may build a waiting list, so contact them and add your name in case someone drops. Be sure to check out all the classes at Ox-Bow here. They are a delight, especially because you learn without any pressure to achieve.

Ginger Rankin’s Spice Island (Rebel Magic Books) is a novel in 92 pages you won’t want to miss. The story of Paca and Jerold, two boys on the isolated island in Grenada in the soft Caribbean Sea, is a lyrical weaving of luminous moments, every moment evocative, indelible. Order your copy here.

Summer means it’s time to mark your calendars for the annual Reading at The Red Dock in Douglas: August 13, 6pm.



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Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, The Book Nook in Saugatuck, 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 “A Few Days before Another Memorial Day Weekend

  1. This title is BRILLIANT! And the poem is great fun. Bravo!

    Quick question . . . Can a persona poem be written in the third person? Mary


    • Hi Mary,
      So glad that you liked the title and the poem!!!
      It was really fun to compose.

      A persona poem could be in third person if we know who the speaker
      is who is talking about someone else.

  2. Good Morning Jack, Our town, small town America always reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting. Just the Good in people and Memorial Day is a perfect example of that. Frank


    • So true, Frank, so true. It makes me wonder if Memorial Day, then
      called Decoration Day in Rockwell’s time, would be at least among
      his favorite holidays. Seems as if it would be.
      What an insightful observation, this from you.

  3. This is an incredible piece. Thank you, Sensei.

    Steve Ralph freelance writer/editor freelance voiceover artist freelance wedding officiant Complete Music mobile DJ Team Trivia host parsonite@yahoo.com 616.405.5919

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Jack, I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed “St. Peter and the Goldfinch.” I finished it as our train made its way through the green Czech countryside between Prague and Munich today. I read somewhere during our trip that the Czechs, long under the control of the Habsburgs and The Soviets, believed if they couldn’t have great military power, they needed education for self determination. Bookstores are everywhere! Thank you for promoting and celebrating the written word with such elegance.

    • Oh my Linda. How can I express my joy that the collection meant this much to you.
      Obviously it landed in the heart it’s meant for!
      And do you know that I am Czech, Bohemian actually. My family always made sure
      to hold to the Bohemia they came from, the town of Pilsen. So your description
      of the Czechs certainly has been within this bloodstream all my life.
      My thanks are inexpressible.

  5. Oh Jack….I imagined myself settling into a comfortable wicker chair on my deck over flowing with sunshine watching the eider ducks choosing their mates for 2019 as I read this cozy poem. As I read it, I began expecting a gruesome Stephen King ending…Or, an ending much like Shirley Jackson’s story, “The Lottery.” Thanks to you, I actually came to the end of your poem with a feeling of relief. (I absolutely MUST stop watching CNN!)

    • Yes, STOP!!!!!!
      We are here to do exactly what you describe. We are the ones
      who are given the gift of seeing what you were watching and
      we MUST learn to receive. Why do we keep thinking we must
      DO something. Only when we stop the doing, does the world
      of wonder get its unimposing opportunity to give us its gifts.

      And I laughed out loud at your expectation of the ending.
      I work hard to have an ending that is neither happy nor sad, but simply is.

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