A friend of ours was in a local diner. He looked over toward the table across from his. The guy sitting there packed a handgun on his belt.

Our friend asked the server if she would ask the man to take his gun to his car. “I can’t,” she said. “Michigan has an open carry law. Nothing I can do.”

So our friends left the restaurant.

Michigan has no law that says, “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” but that sign is seen in store after store, restaurant after restaurant.

Every restaurant or small business owner can choose to post a “no weapons” sign. They cost $5-10 at Amazon.

Is it true that in America, sartorial taste is more highly valued than our customers’ sense of safety?

What has me amazed lately is that in what is now among the most violent, brutal, ignorance-doesn’t-matter nations in the world, day after day, good souls go about their good work, be it building a new home, teaching kids, running the post office, performing surgery, coaching soccer, etc. That people keep showing up and going on in this violent culture is the miracle.

For some eye-opening statistics on gun violence in America, go here.


Night comes even
with evening.

Our cat lies
purring, a supplication.

We will say a prayer
for the cold rain,

for the trees
going skeletal.

–Jack Ridl

Poetry and the Spirit, the conversation between Pastor Salvatore Sapienza and Jack Ridl on October 24 has sold out, but we are still taking names on our waiting list. For details and a link to our ticketing/wait list page, click here.

Elizabeth McBride’s Most Beautiful, a collection of prose and poetry with paintings by Connie Cronenwett, has been published by The Poetry Box, the same publisher who did D.R. James’s Surreal Expulsion.

Also look for The Weight of Bodily Touches by Joseph Zaccardi from Kelsay Books.

On October 30 at 6pm Kathleen McGookey will be reading from her two latest collections, Nineteen Letters and Instructions for My Imposter at Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo. She will be joined by Scott Bade.

On November 12 at 7pm Kathleen will be joined by Philip Sterling reading from his new book Amateur Husbandry at the Zhang Memorial Archives of Western Michigan University.

26 thoughts on “Mid-October

  1. Thank you Jack for your poem this morning. I love them every morning, but this one hit home especially. Because of your story about the guy with his gun on his belt. I have been working on GVP for several years now with Moms Demand Action / Everytown. Plus a local group called the Coalition for Common Ground. Thanks for the link to Americans Against Gun Violence. You might be interested in another organization – the Gun Violence Archive. It’s almost too much, but it certainly gives you an idea of what everyone is going through now everywhere.

    Thanks again
    Linda MacDonald

    • No, Thank YOU, Linda, for your devoted work.
      I am so pleased also that you appreciated the poem.
      It’s interesting that at times a brief piece can resonate
      for a length of time.
      On we go, and I’m so glad you continue.

  2. Jack, I love the quietness and compassion found here. And the focus on the loss nature feels, rather than us mourning our loss of nature! Thank you for sharing the news about my book here as well! You are so kind!

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Jack, there is certainly a clear Freudian interpretation for the reason many men feel the need and desire to open carry/expose their weapon. The conscious explanation is that they believe the need to protect themselves and others. The unconscious motivation is that they have deep seated insecurities about their sexuality. Any opposition to taking away their right is met with strong opposition (fear response). Of course, there is another explanation. They watched too many Westerns on television a child.

    • Oh my yes, Richard. I can imagine how often you have
      encountered this unfortunate situation. Too many westerns! Cracked me up.
      However, I was raised on Hopalong and The Cisco Kid and feel no need to
      pack anything more threatening than a book of poems. And speaking of
      Freudian, how about those Trump Towers~~1

    • Thank you, cherished pal. Interesting, isn’t it, how at times
      a short poem is actually eternal.
      The other night at DUCC we had a talk by a neuropsychologist who
      said as we age, one of the best things for our brains is dance,
      and that dancers have a much better chance of warding off severe
      memory loss.
      Jack Astaire

  4. Thank you, Jack for that wonderful poem. And what an intro.

    When I was in the US for the first time in 1985 oder 86 I saw rough looking men with Stetsons carrying guns in a loud bar somewhere in Arizona. The small town boy from Southern Germany was shocked and, I have to admit, frightened. It turned out that all these big guys I met there, where were quite curious, kind in a rough way and liked the way I shot pool. So I had a jolly good time.

    What scares me today are hate and intolerance, which spread quickly like the Spanish flu, even here in Germany. That paired with the all these weapons, of which there are also too many here, frightens me really.

    Your poems are comfort in hard times! Thank you so much!

    • My Friend,
      What a great story, one that leads us to go behind the weapon to
      the heart and why it becomes violent. I worry each day as our daughter
      enters her school. I can’t imagine how students can learn within their

      So grateful for your abiding understanding of what I’m trying to do.
      Hugs to the beautiful Kraas Family. If I weren’t in so much pain, I’d
      be trying so hard to get us to your front door.

  5. Jack, and the amazing Juli as well. My heart is full of such love for you. Your words and intellect and empathy and soul-musings fill me up every week.
    I am overflowing with gratitude. Kristen

    • Oh Kristen,
      Please please PLEASE know how much your precisely loving response lifts these
      spirits, buoys me/us. enables me to believe what I’m trying to do is
      worth it after all.
      And you sure better know that my admiration for what you so courageously
      face every day at the college is infinite.

  6. my daughter, Julie, teaches at the University of Georgia….Georgia has an open carry policy! The students on her campus are allowed to carry guns. Last week, a student’s gun “accidentally” went off during a class, shooting the kid in the leg! And yet we continue to allow this to happen!!!

    • I have no words for this horror, horror on so many levels, Susan.
      Please give your Julie my deep care and concern and admiration for her courage.
      And give yourself my admiration for Julie’s cherished mom for what you are
      required to cope with every single day as you think of her under such
      horrid conditions.
      And thanks as always for taking such loving care of my sister.

  7. This short poem says so much and does so with such beauty. 24 Mid-Octobers are in me and this poem brings their conglomerate feel rushing to the heart. Your poem says so much because Mid-October is in us, wordless, eager and waiting to grab hold of something.

    Thanks for throwing down the rope ladder. Ben

    • Oh Ben, You went right into this heart. For you to realize that this
      brief poem is actually never ending touched me and gave me renewal
      to keep at it. So often I sit down and wonder and wonder . . .
      My gratitude spans the stars.
      And I send care to your profoundly caring heart.

  8. “…in what is now among the most violent, brutal, ignorance-doesn’t-matter nations in the world…” Jack, you’ve captured this country in its moment! Thank you for the insight. Thank you also for the poem.

    • Please know how much your singling out that description helps me. I
      spent hours trying to get that right. To know this from you means so much!

      And so glad that you appreciate that poem. It’s interesting how at times
      a brief poem can actually be eternal.

  9. Jack, Thank you for this poem. It reminds me to live in the moment of this changing season and live a life of gratitude.

    Your message reminded me of a comment that an Aussie friend who moved to Nashville made. She is having culture shock. She wondered why she is not allowed to hang her laundry in the backyard but is allowed to open carry. It’s been very eye opening for me to have international friends who simply cannot understand American violence and love of guns.

    See you Thursday! Nancy

    • Ohhhh do I appreciate this story, Nancy.
      I’m going to use it sometime in a post.
      And thanks so much for appreciating the
      little poem that is actually very big!

  10. Dogs aren’t allowed in restaurants because, I presume, some threat to hygiene or safety, but guns are! And the poem, so perfect for this cold, wet, and darkening October.

  11. Dear Jack,
    I’m late again because it took me a while. First reading was a little reserved, a little in between. So I decided to postpone the second reading. The days in between were interesting since from time to time a little reminder kept popping up: You mustn’t forget the second reading. Second reading was a bit like having to succumb, without knowing why exactly. And then something interesting happened. It was not that my mind got hold of the poem, but that the poem got hold of my mind. This morning I tried to figure out why. I have at least one poem on autumn mood myself (who hasn’t). I was quite happy with mine, but yours taught me a lesson. The difference, I take it, is the following: Yours, like in Zen, aims at the essence of what autumn (mood) conveys. What must be marked and how, to render that. And what should be omitted not to blur the essence and to find the fastidious but indispensable momentous flow between the mind and the other. Mine, by the way, was happy with beautiful metaphors.
    Sensei, I bow in reverence.

    • Please send yours to me. Please do.

      And once again your insight is a much needed and
      much appreciated affirmation of my “vision” after
      much Zen study and much work at shifting the western
      emphasis on meaning to one on being itself.
      Julie just opened the door to let our dog out
      into her own being in the autumn air.
      Do send!

  12. Dear Jack,
    I give it a try, but it is in German.


    Mein leises Leben ist wiedergekommen
    Ganz langsam
    Im Zuge der Zeit

    Ich weiß noch die Allee im September
    Das Blau hinter den Birken
    Wir beide
    Ineinander verwoben
    Wie die Muster am Mantelsaum eines Gottes

    Dann kam der Riss
    Regen in den Zweigen
    Und die Erlen stehen drohend am Bach
    Gesten der Toten


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