Selling the House

I learned something very important this week. Kind of Kierkegaardian in that I lived it forward and learned it backward: Moving into a new house is much more exhausting when you are 75. Thank heavens we had help.

45 had help moving into his place, and I doubt he lifted even one of his many little fingers.

Any more people left the White House this week? Someone did or is going to or something. I have happily lost track. We promise to treat our new place and all who visit here better than he has.

Of course there were buyers of our former home. We thought it was perfect or perfectly imperfect with its cottage garden in the front and Japanese garden in the back. I won’t go into the difference in aesthetics. Let’s just leave at “overgrown.”

Selling the House

The buyers came to measure,
and we watched, trying
to drink coffee and read.

We watched them stretch
a tape along the wall of
family photographs and

along the shelf cluttered
with shells and carved
Madonnas, and then heard

her say, “I hate this
wall. I hope we can
put in a window.” It

started to rain, and
the dog lay under
the table, and the

hummingbirds hovered
at the feeder while
the orioles pecked

at the orange halves
nailed along the porch
rail. In a week it all

would go to sleep.
Under the maples,
birches, and pines.

Under the rocks piled
every summer along
the shore. Under

the graves of the dogs.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Southern Indiana Review.
Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry, Wayne State University Press.


Kristin Brace’s collection Each Darkness Inside is now available online, from Kristin, and from Finishing Line Press. Kristin recently won the First Book Award from Michigan State University Press.

If you enjoy the annual Reading at The Red Dock, this year’s will take place on August 13 at 6pm. This year I’ll be joined by D.L. James and Mark Hiskes. Come early for music, food and drink, and a good time on the high water harbor!

On August 20 at 7pm, I’ll be reading with Greg Rappleye at The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague. Talk about a place where the atmosphere alone is a joy, let alone the food and beverages!

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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, 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.

28 thoughts on “Selling the House

  1. All the best in your new home, Jack. Cottage garden in the front and Japanese garden in the back sounds perfect to me… so i wish you “overgrown” in the new place, too!

  2. So very sad. When we ever sell our house, I will not be here for the tape measure critique!

    See you tonight. Mary


    • Yes, duck out if they come armed with tape measures and Japanese saws.
      What a grand beginning to Landscapes #12–Thank you for your part of our quilt.

  3. Ah Jack, perfect is such a relative state, isn’t it? Thank you. Sandy Schrec XO

    A Traditional Foods Enthusiast

    • Mimi taught me the difference between perfect, imperfectly imperfect, and the greatness of imperfectly perfect.
      You might get a kick out of my TEDx talk about this. It ain’t too long. Hug that lug, David!

  4. This instance of hate and hope in the same moment leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Especially when the thing hated is a thing owned and loved and lived with. I wonder if it this pairing always smacks of greed..

    The layers in this poem sing a song that makes me feel as Frodo must have felt listening to the Elves sing in Rivendell — and that is, wonder at something not understood in mind but felt in heart, the weight of years spent living in a place. The weight of the lives of dogs and wondering if the dogs all lay under the table or if they had places of their own.

    Thanks, Jack.

    • Ben,
      The rich layers of complexity that you discover and reveal so thoughtfully
      bring life to life. I feel so very fortunate to have you talking with me.
      Your connecting the poem to Frodo and company brings joy and affirmation.
      My gratitude can’t be expressed, not adequately, not in any way.

  5. Oh, moving.

    We were in our apartment for 8 1/2 years before buying our house. I mentioned to Neal how exhausting moving is – not just physically, but mentally/emotionally. How it makes you wonder how much a place defines you, how much your things are a part of you, if it’s so easy to uproot your stuff, isn’t it just as easy to uproot a life? And other existentially angsty things. And I said, “And you’re just thinking, okay, that’s finished, now on to the next task.” And he said, “Uh, yep.” Sometimes I think, Why don’t you get it?! But most of the time, I’m SO GLAD we balance each other out. 😵😂

    Thanks for the shout out! We are so bummed that we’ll miss the Red Dock reading this year. We’re heading out early that morning on a road trip.

    XO Kristin

    • In so many wonderful ways, Julie fulfilled the role Neal did. She even had
      every room and every box and piece of furniture color coded. It was remarkable.
      And there I was saying goodbye to the house finch at the feeder.
      I so so soooo appreciate this, Kristin. And seeing the difference is
      actually a balance and a wholeness is sooooo important. It’s not
      a separation, but a completion.

    • Thank you for telling me, Blaine. One writes these things, tosses ’em out there
      and unless told, never knows if they landed where they belong. This one sure
      did and I’m so grateful you told me.

    • You know how much we appreciated ALL THE WORK you did for us. But
      it was also your gentle understanding and unspoken comfort that eased
      this huge change, this paradox of loss and gain. Our thanks are ineffable.

  6. Oh yeah. You nailed that one, coach. 13 and 1/2 months and 4 days for me. Why did you leave your perfect house? Joan

    • I keep picturing your piano making its way into the Village!
      And I sure hope that you are doing okay, fine, well, whateverrrr.
      Had to move for several reasons, one being that I could no longer
      keep up with the landscaping.

  7. Sadness – the marks in the children’s furniture that once made me angry, the garden we worked so long to birth…a few more years until we make the move…but the preparations are emotion filled. Thanks Jack….On to building new memories…TD

    • Tony,
      You wrote a poem.
      Hey, you can always turn to this guy. I care about
      things like this. And I care about you.
      What a joy to see you with the group in England. I
      sure hope it’s been a great good time for ya.

  8. I loved each of your houses. Can’t wait to see the new one and to share a glass of good French red wine (they don’t like that at the White House)

  9. Dear Jack,
    When it comes to the question why this poem is not only perceived but felt in the act of reading my assumption is that it has what Aristotle called “mesotes”. It is balanced in such a way that the emotions have become preserved and transcended at the same time. The Hegelian term – just to show off ever so once in a while – would be “aufgehoben”, which, in German, has the flickering meaning of “preserved” and “overcome” at the same time, at least in the Hegelian context. In order to get there in poetry one must leave things out / behind and concentrate on a set of images that contain all that is mandatory for poetic depiction, knowing that a whit more would only distract. The brain would gain, lose would the heart. Some poets, it seems, can balance their two tongues.

    • Dear Reinhard,
      This from you is fascinating. Of course it makes me feel like all I do is talk and write in grunts; however, as I read
      your commentary, I found myself nodding yes yes yes over and over again. In my teaching I spent a lot of time helping
      my students work toward “mesotes.” And as you can tell, I try my best in most every poem to “preserve and transcend.”
      Another thing I emphasized was the “presence of absence,” to discern what happens when there is an actual presence of
      what is not there, which is different from cutting what is not necessary. I often think that the word “sentimentality”
      is misdefined, that it is actually the fusion of sentiment and mentality: brain and heart as one.

      • Dear Jack,
        I had not thought about “presence of absence” sufficiently, which comes close to a lethal sin because it is certainly one of the essentials. And I do agree to the value of sentiment. Georg Buechner, I think, the author of “Woyzeck”, once wrote: “Wenn ihr’s nicht fühlt, ihr werdet’s nicht erjagen”, which can be translated as “If you don’t feel it you won’t be able to chase it”.
        Have a nice weekend

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