At Breakfast — 1965

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here, where the video will will be saved for later viewing. You can find all of his Livestream videos here. 

“I can’t breathe!”

This sentence will never again be spoken without an eruption of consciousness. Its connotation has been forever changed, become a sorrowful mantra. 

And the people who took advantage of the righteous anger of African Americans to wreak their own havoc just sicken me. Speaking of whom…

Indelible is the image of 45 standing before Saint John’s and hoisting the Bible — about which he is illiterate — as a weapon.

45 has decimated any progress our country has tried to make toward its ideals. He might as well pull down every symbol of the nation’s dream. He has made the Statue of Liberty a symbol of our gravest hypocrisy.

Our dream of democracy has devolved into the battle scene from a Batman film. Our beautiful cities are suddenly cartoon Gothams.

“I can’t breathe”—and I mean this with deep sorrow and respect—“I can’t breathe” will forever be our metaphor. We all woke this morning feeling that metaphor: We can’t breathe.

45 called state and local leaders weak.

I hope the weak will inherit the earth.

At Breakfast–1965

“Appalling!” said Grace. “How in the world
could you join that fraternity?” She peered over

her bowl of Granola. I wanted to admit the vow
included, “Being white and of Christian birth.”

I poured myself another cup of coffee, cut it
with cream. Then I told her. Our black friend

across the table nodded. And Grace said, “How
could you say that? It’s horrid, horrifying!” I rolled

my hard-boiled egg along the table, peeled off
its shell, dabbed the white in the salt lying on my plate.


On June 21 at 2pm I will give an online reading with charles Baxter and Laurel Blossom as part of M.L. Liebler engaging reading series on ZOOM. Write to him for details. 

Naomi Shihab Nye has a new collectionCAST AWAY (Greenwillow). She has developed a fascinatingly direct voice. Imagine, 147 pages of poems about trash! Those concerned about our environment–everyone!– will find it a companion.

Linda Hillringhouse has a personally powerful book of poems out about the things that shape her life. The Things I Didn’t Know to Wish For, from NYQ Books.

Dan Gerber’s new, beautifully reflective long poem, Landscape at Eighty, has been gorgeously printed in letterpress by Hound Dog Press.

Gayle Boss has recorded her luminous book of environmental essays, Wild Hope, Paraclete Press, available now through Audible.

Our own Pastor Sal — Salvatore Sapienza — has a new book out, encouraging us to put away our childish thinking. It’s called… wait for it… Childish Thinking: How the Church Keeps Us Stuck in Sunday School

Where are the books? 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.

See all of Jack’s Facebook Livestream Videos Here.

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

2 thoughts on “At Breakfast — 1965

  1. Good morning to you, Jack. I thank God you still send mail on Thursdays, it helps me know where I am in time, since I’m a bit off-kilter!

    Each week I plan to write you, and the list of things to talk about gets longer and longer. But not now.

    Thought for today –
    To me, George Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” feels like the climax of 100,000 people who died from Covid19, looking for relief, appropriate care, air in their lungs, and mom.

    I am not dismissing racism and power-freak authoritarians! I am not minimizing his death! I know you know that so won’t elaborate.

    I went to the store yesterday. Probably only half of the folks were wearing masks, and a third of those only covering their mouths with the mask. Guess the pandemic is over.

    Enough for now (or I will start to cry again).

    I hope that you and Julie are well! I would look forward to joining you for a safe cuppa joe at your convenience. Aw hell, make it a glass of wine!

    Love you guys,


    • I don’t go for the saying, “I know just how you feel.” No one can know that. But with this one I come close.
      I simply separate a disease from violence.

      Thanks so much for your constant affirmation. It’s a cherished gift.

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