One Childhood

I have wasted a lot of time trying to figure out a way to say what it feels like to live under the reign of 45. This is as close as I have come.

One Childhood

Maybe that hesitation
just before I crossed
the street brought
the old woman to
the window. She
looked out, the way
a monk looks into
a prayer, then turned
and disappeared
into the dark of her
living room. That’s
when I crept into
her yard, touched
the gray-green bark
on the old elm draping
itself across her porch,
then ran down into
the ravine behind her
gardens, knowing she
could rise up through
the chimney, float
down, point, and
turn me into a yellow
cat sitting on the front
porch rail, or into
a star hanging in
the night. The door
opened, and I heard
her call for her father.
I felt anonymous as
any stone, and knew
that even she
carries what we carry.

–Jack Ridl

Published in Waymark — Voices of the Valley, June 2019

Really, really, really honored: The City of Douglas is naming me their Poet Laureate. I love this place and these people, and will love representing the community in this way. A proclamation will be read at the August 19th city council meeting, in the Douglas City Hall on Center Street, downtown, where I will also read a poem, at  7:00 pm. Join us if you can. Then go enjoy a beverage and a snack at the Respite Cappucino Court, or dine or grab a cocktail at one of Douglas’ great restaurants, or go gaze at the Bayou from the park, or just promenade on Center Street. Or, or, or! Head to the free Douglas Beach to watch the sun set. And you’ll see why I love this place. So. Much. Special thanks to Respite’s Renee, former mayor and instigator.

Here’s some really good news that I neglected to include a bit ago: 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.


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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.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Kindness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Everyday Forgiveness.

Jack at Fetzer Institute on Empathy.

Jack Ridl at Fetzer Institute on Suffering and Love.

Beyond Meaning with Jack Ridl, C3: West Michigan’s Spiritual Connection

24 thoughts on “One Childhood

  1. Oh Jack…Douglas feels much like da Schrecs do…congratulations! See, sometimes nice, kind, love-giving, fun, gracious, precious, gifted, spirited, beautiful guys DO NOT finish last! No. No. Their light lifts them to the pinnacle of joy and recognition.

    Well done Buddyroe! XO

    A Traditional Foods Enthusiast

    • Sandy, You’ve made me blush and offer the ole “aw shucks.” : )

      Thank you for such overwhelming exuberance. I think, however, that
      you are describing Dave!

  2. Congrats on Poet Laureate of Douglas, Sensei! You deserve it. Wish I could be there for the celebration.

    Steve Ralph freelance writer/editor freelance voiceover artist freelance wedding officiant Complete Music mobile DJ Team Trivia host 616.405.5919

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Wow! Congratulations on being named Poet Laureate for Douglas! That is so cool. Looking forward to tonight, too. And thanks for the comment about my blog on learning from our history. If we forget it, we will relive it. We already are . . . Mary


    • Oh my! Such words make me wonder how I got so so lucky. And
      there you two were, at the event. That means sooooo much to me.
      So so grateful we’re friends!

  4. I think I just might have to move to Douglas because I love the fact that the town has a poet laureate and that it is you. Marsha

    • I can only hope that I do!
      Thank you for your congratulations! This certainly
      arrived as a surprise and is already a joy!!

    • Thank you, Linda! And thank you for being there. It was such a
      joy-filled occasion, and do we ever need such.
      AND thank you sooooo much for coming up afterwards. I hope you
      could tell how happy that made me.

  5. Dear Jack,
    good to know you’re back (the rhyme is unintended, I swear). You’re the first Poet Laureate I have ever written to (I swear again) and doing so does uplift me, too. Miraculous feeling. Apart from that, I hope you’re doing well and I thank you for your poem which immediately reminded me of a situation in my own childhood and that one went into print as well. It probably has to do with what they call “the magic universe” with respect to that age. And that “magic universe” comes through in your poem, and the astounding thing is that you make your reader feel it comes into existence as if an infant were moving through it like through a second sphere which is there, like the other one, and can be trespassed any time. What you essentially give us, however, is (“just”) words arranged along a poetic line. And they make “the magic universe” come back instantaneously. A Poet Laureate’s spell, I presume.
    Have a nice celebration and when the hangover is over wish me luck for a second. I’ll be 66 on the 21st.
    Wishes assembled and carefully arranged

    • Dear Reinhard,
      You youngster!!
      Thank you for
      your well wishes:I’m still in a brace and pain in
      my arms and hands. I can be at the computer for only
      a few minutes at a time, thus my late reply
      for your celebrating our little village making me poet laureate
      for your, as always, astute and insightful reading of the poem.
      AND how good to know that we connect with this poem. I would
      so appreciate seeing yours. You could send it to me at
      as always, my thanks are huge

  6. Congratulations Jack! What great news, and a well-deserved award! Douglas has a fine appreciation for what is important! Your awareness and appreciation for the sacredness of ordinary moments and activities is a gift to your readers and listeners; their own lives will look and feel better to them as well. Fireworks over the river at the Red Dock in celebration!!!

    • You’re always so gently kind, Beth. Thank you. And thank you for
      celebrating Douglas. It says so much about what the village
      cares about, their doing this. And if anyone brings out what
      is sacred all around us, it’s you.

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