Broken Symmetry

This week’s New Yorker cover: 45 is wearing a coronavirus mask, but it’s covering his eyes.

This morning I said to Julie, I can’t think of a thing to write this week.
So off I went into the day, thinking maybe something will come to me.

I washed Vivi-the-dog’s water dish and filled it with fresh water, nice and cold.
I put some of our favorite clothes into the washer.
Patted Vivi. Scratched her butt. She loves that.
Scratched cat Hattie behind her ears.
During the night I awoke to discover Vivi between Julie and me, and Hattie snuggled up beside me.
I made the bed. I usually trip over the three or four pillows Julie has dropped on her side.
I laughed at the Laurel and Hardy bed-making bit: “Now we’re getting somewhere!” We have some beautiful pillows that dance off the colorscape by Del Michel. Every morning they cheer me.
I “turned on” both fireplaces, watched the flames flicker.
In the room we call the cottage, I watched the zany squirrels and the
wonderful variety of birds come to the feeder.
Looking out that window and into the woods I thought of two dear friends who were having surgery that day.
I made the coffee, waiting for the little whistle telling me the water was ready to pour over the beans I’d ground.
Then Julie and I sat before the “fire” and sipped and savored. Vivi curled up with us, Hattie somewhere.
Julie checked her phone for any news I needed to know. I checked mine for any poems that her heart might need.
After an hour, a friend came. We meet once each week for a couple hours for conversations that you would enjoy, and to explore the poem he wrote that week…
As we sat there in the “cottage,” a goldfinch flew against the large window that looks out to the feeders and into the woods. That majestic patch of color landed on the ground and didn’t move.
We went out to carry the finch into the woods to bury her.
I turned her over, lifted a wing that was tucked beneath her stomach. Her head moved. Moved again. And then she flew off into the woods, stopped on a branch and seemed to look back.

Again I was reminded that what matters is every day that is, was, and will be.

Broken Symmetry

Angels never have to worry
about their wings: lose a feather here
or there, a new perfection floats down

across the landscape, catching itself
on its cousin the tree branch, landing
on its second cousin the leaf, or even

along its third cousin twice removed,
the blacktop highway. There is so much
symmetry that in the mirror your left

side resembles your left side even though
it’s never quite the same as your
right. Go deeper. All the cells split

into identical ice dancers, all
the electrons spin the same bacchanal.
Only the broken reveals, gives

the universe its chance at being
interesting, says a door is not
an elephant, the moon is not a

salad fork. So, break the bread
in two, drink half the glass of wine,
slice the baby down the middle, cut

the corner, divide the time. Tonight
the moon will once again reflect the sun’s
monotonous dazzle, and the old light

making its dumb way to us, will break
our symmetry of coming home,
of passing on the street.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Field.
Subsequently Published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

Don’t forget to check out D.R. James’Flip Requiem with cover by Meridith Ridl. Find it at your bookstore, or order from the publisher Dos Madres Press, Inc.

At last, the reading at The BookNook & Java Shop in Montague has been set for 7pm on April 28, when I’ll be joined by friend and poet Mark Hiskes. I guarantee you will love the place along with its good food and beverages. Many thanks to owner and arts promoter Bryan Uecker.

Jack’s Homily, “The Devil Went Down to Douglas” is here for those of you interested in marking the occasion.

Don’t miss subscribing to this podcast.  And Then Suddenly is the brainchild of the kind and brilliant Angela Santillo, whose path I’ve crossed once before while working with CavanKerry Press. Her podcast has a brilliant premise…  Describe a moment in your life that changed… everything. She’s had that moment, and from it she has made this podcast. Here’s the conversation we had recently.  I hope you explore many of the episodes. Because they will change you. In a good way.

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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.

Jack on And Then Suddenly podcast by Angela Santillo.

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 “Broken Symmetry

    • Does this ever make ME fell good, Morgan.
      It’s so easy to forget in these awful times
      how important and healing it can be to pet a
      dog or even do the dishes!

    • Oh my gosh Helen even tried to spray the carburetor when I was trying
      to change it. I’m a new Super Hero0–LysolMan
      Hugs and peace

  1. Jack and Julie, Thank you for sending this video to us. It gave me such mixed feelings. Such happiness at Jack’s speaking and writing and “performing.” Flashback/memories to things Elaine and I did with you two and with Jack and Lance and with Jack and/or Buzz and Betty and/or Betsy. So many combinations! Happiness at what is happening now but remembering what had happened in the past. Not living in the past but remembering it and enjoying those thoughts. Jack, your growth is wonderful and I am happy that Elaine and I have been around to enjoy it! Tom

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Well nice going, Tom, making me tear up.
      What a remarkable list of evocative memories you conjured.
      I needed to sit back and then take a walk.
      Your dear words went straight into this heart.
      In the midst of it all, I don’t understand why I feel so glad and grateful. Of
      course you and Elaine are a central part of this heart’s days and I’m forever grateful.
      “The past, when we remember it, is now.”–Samuel Hazo
      Your kind words about this guy are hard to grasp. I just do what I do.
      We love you two and sure hope you can make your way up here.We now
      have an entire separate floor with a full suite and two full baths.

  2. Thank you Jack – I needed this today.

    Wish I could be looking at the window with you today. It feels like everyone is that finch right now, flying into what they think is good and safe…I just pray we all wake back up after that crash to fly again.

    I’m about to sit down with a cup of coffee, look out from my bedroom window over our street as my kids are tuned into all the screens (because school is cancelled, because fear is high), and do the work of breathing.

    A CS Lewis quote from “On Living in the Atomic Age,” and let’s replace bomb with virus…

    “Let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts – not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

    Here’s to being human and patting Vivi while we sit with our Julies.

    Lots of Love, Allison

  3. Only you, dear Jack, could make the simple act of scratching a dog’s butt, making a bed and drinking a cup of coffee lyrical!!!! Thank you..for you! Love to you & Julie.

  4. Sounds like a very “productive” time to me. None ruined by thoughts out of your control. Enjoy more days like this my friend.

  5. You know – meant to respond to this…and say it reminded me of Stafford (was it Stafford?) that you told me said poetry was a reckless encounter with whatever came along…this list of this day – is such a “poem”


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