But He Loved His Dog

My concern about using the term Pro-Life is that it’s a misnomer. It would be honest to say Pro-Birth. After that I don’t see much Pro-Life among the Pro-Lifers. They stand firm for the unborn; however, they show little if any passion and care for the born.

It would be life changing if the same passion were applied to those whose lives are mere survival. Don’t we long for those who need food, need medical attention they can’t afford, housing in which they can thrive, mental health aid and support, just plain safety, rights and respect, and on and on? Don’t we want to be pro-living for them?

And don’t we long for a president who serves the people and not this cult called “his base,” one who is pro-quality-of-life, not one who is pro-death to integrity, to the caring spirit?

But He Loved His Dog

Wednesday was trash day so he pulled
the garbage can to the curb. There
was never that much in it. Sometimes
he stood there for a few minutes, looking
down when a car drove by, looking up
at the trees in the yard across the street.

No one really knew if he knew anyone.
He had a dog. It wasn’t much of a dog.
It was an old dog, a mix too mixed
to know what all might be there. He
told someone once, “Oh I suppose
there has to be some beagle, maybe
some German shepherd.” Each noon
he walked the dog down to the corner,
left on Maple Avenue, three blocks
to the park where they would stop and

he would sit on a bench under a beech
that had been hollowing out for years.
The dog lay at his feet, once in a while
lifted its head and sniffed. He never read
or talked except to say, “What do you
think of this day, boy?” and the dog
would wag its tail across the gravel path.

He would sit for most of the afternoon,
then tug on the dog’s leash and they
would walk on through the park, then
back home. He would bring in the mail,
toss it away. When the evening’s light
began drawing its shadow across his porch,
he would turn on the radio, open a window,
and sit outside, with his dog, listening
to the classical music station and the cicadas.

–Jack Ridl

From Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press)

Here’s some really good news: The poet Kathleen McGookey, that masterful composer of the prose poem, has published a new collection–Nineteen Letters, a stunning hardback, each poem printed on a different color paper. (BarCat Press and produced in cooperation with Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School.)

Upcoming Events–

June 22: Writing workshop at Ox-Bow. It might be open to more participants. 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.

July 25: The Michigan Authors Workshop sponsored by Saginaw Valley State University. Arts Center in Midland. Writing workshop in the afternoon. A reading that evening.
Contact is Helen M. Raica-Klotz klotz@svsu.edu
Go to the website for a list of all the events over the several days and for registration information.

August 13, 6-8pm: Sixth Annual Reading at The Red Dock, 219 N. Union Street, Douglas, MI, with D.L. James and Mark Hiskes. 6pm. Music mid afternoon.

August 20, 7p.m.: Reading at The Book Nook & Java Shop, 8744 Ferry Street in Montigue. The place itself is worth being in–so comfy and welcoming with fine eats and of course Java!


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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.

18 thoughts on “But He Loved His Dog

  1. I was so very struck by the tempo of this poem. I went back and read “A Few Days before Another Memorial Day Weekend” and yup, the tempo for me was completely different. Memorial Day sang like a little brook bouncing over pebbles as it skipped along. “But He Loved His Dog” lapped gently at the shore of a nearly still lake. Jack, you are a musician and a wordsmith and such a wondrous breath of fresh air. Thank you.

    • Please, PLEASE know what it means to me to have you hear the music, feel the “content”
      that is evoked when the music is seamless with the language. You have given me a
      heart-lifting. In most schools the first thing to be jettisoned from a poem is
      its musicality. For you to enter what I work on sooooo much makes me so so
      grateful. I feel that gratitude as I type this. Your ear is exquisite. And
      most certainly a gift to this old scribbler.
      My thanks dance.

  2. Dear Jack,
    This peaceful feeling of solitude and need for nothing more than an animal companion and music. Simplicity taken to its ultimate expression. I love how he doesn’t have much garbage, how he goes to the same place every day at the same time, never even reads or talks except one sentence to the dog, and throws away the mail. And it’s not sad. He’s not lonely. But I do hope there is another dog waiting for him when he needs one. (That is of course where my mind would go…)

    Thanks for you and your poetry. It’s a way I can hope not to miss our meetings too much until we meet again!
    Hugs, Phyllis

    • Phyllis, I am so glad and deeply grateful for your remarkably attentive reading.
      So often I write a poem that doesn’t look like much. (I actually like that kind
      of poem, a kind of poem that doesn’t want to even be there, but well . . .)
      You so beautifully entered the man and his life, unencumbered, not wanting to
      bother anyone, not at all bitter, just one man and his dear dog, being in
      a world neither would ever choose.
      My thanks are endless.

  3. After thought, just noticed the ‘But” in the title. Causing me to rethink this guy. I love how you keep me thinking…

    • Yes, he’s likely lost all those whom he’d loved. But he has his dog and
      refuses to impose his loss on that dear dog or anyone else.
      PS. You are sooooo attentive to the “little” things that are “big.”

  4. You’ve got me looking forward to Thursdays. Thank you for sharing these pockets of small beauties. In sharing, they are multiplied to us.

    • Oh my goodness, Ben, such a lovely and uplifting message. How can I
      possibly know if any of what I’m trying to do helps at all unless told.
      You told me. And please know how your kindness sustains and brings joy.
      My thanks travel straight to your kind heart,

  5. Oh Jack, thinker and wordsmith, with heart and mind engaged, keyboard active…you nailed this one. Thank you.

    I have a book suggestion for you. Only you can judge if there is viable worth in it. Molly asked me to read it. Suggesting then maybe we could riff about it? What parent doesn’t long for that? Especially one like myself who would love a real ‘do-over’ for that job I took on fervently albeit unprepared. Anyhow.

    The book is called Running on Empty: overcome your childhood emotional neglect. It’s a game changer for this old girl. No blame. Just encouragement for those of us who need some. And a lot of clarification.

    “Thanks Sandy but not for me.” is always a proper and welcomed response. Lord knows He’s got you all wrapped up in His love with or without another book.

    I miss you and your lady and your furry kids-tangibly. We come to MI on June 24 with an open ended ticket. Have marked Red Rock on the calendar. Would love, love to come again.

    Be well. Tell Julie to continue the wellness she’s worked so hard to attain and maintain. And pet the kids. S. XO


    • Sandy, so interesting that you bring up the possibility of my writing that book.
      Several months ago I started it. It’s gotten stalled, but . . .
      Or are you saying that you are writing it? If so, I do know some people who
      work with prose writers. I would be glad to put you in touch with them. Just
      let me know. I am not at all knowledgeable about helping with prose.

      Thrilled that you all are heading this way. We will be into our new place on June 20, only
      a mile away, in Saugatuck, so you MUST come visit, spend time. We’d love love love that.
      6508 Singapore Trail is the new address. The place is larger than this house, but not
      as much grounds to take care of. My arthritis can’t keep this landscape going.

      Julie is doing great. Pains of course, but she is ever ready with her helping hands.

      Just yesterday we were once again talking about and recommending The Biggest Little Farm!!!

      Sure hope you and Dave are savoring your days.

      Can’t wait to see you guys!
      Love all the time,

  6. Nice tone poem. Sounds like the perfect four paragraphs to open a novel. Go for it!

    (And well said about pro-lifers. With them, fetuses have more rights than women. Imagine carrying, birthing then raising the child of your rapist or incestual abuser. )

    • Interesting that you also noted the tone. It’s the music of a poem
      that I work hardest and most happily on, trying always to have it
      and the meaning of the words be seamless. “You can’t tell the
      dancer from the dance”–Yeats.

      And your parenthetical statement here is anything but parenthetical.
      Knocked me over actually. Interesting that the word begins with parent.

  7. Dear Jack,
    I think it’s scrutinizing, then concentrating on what is being perceived, then phrasing it in a kalligrapher’s way, with concentration on the lines to be drawn and on the blank spaces to be left in between. The blank spaces, the non-said, are/is the other indispensable half of establishing contours. In my eyes as fastidious in composing this poem carefully and respectfully enough as the observations rendered. It is a poem you turn round for and look after when it passes you in the street. Thank you for highlighting an elderly gentleman’s Whitsun dusk.

    • Reinhard,
      Am I able to articulate how much your attentive reading of the artistry of the
      works means to me? Alas, I can’t. I can only hope you can somehow feel/intuit
      how meaningful what you wrote is. I’m one who works hard at having the artistry
      of a poem be inseparable from the diction. As Yeats said, “How can you tell the
      dancer from the dance.” That’s my hope every time, that the artistry embodies
      and evokes the experience along with the language. Oh my, thank you. Thank
      you so very very much.
      On we go!

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