The Days

Jack will livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  and the video saved with all of his past Livestream videos here. 

My neighbor, a black man in his 80s, will no longer leave his porch. Mostly he reads. His wife is white. She now does all the things that need to be done outside the house. During his lifetime, he has been a security guard in a hospital and at a college, where he once saved a young white woman from jumping from the roof of her dormitory. He owned a company in Detroit, lived through the riots.

He and his wife bought, and made highly successful, a rundown farm. He fell in love with the earth and with tending the produce he and his wife sold out by noon every day.

In the backyard behind our condos now he grows about a bucketful of potatoes. We had some for dinner last night.

No matter where they have lived, as soon as they moved in, he has gone to the local police station, first responder teams, and firefighters to introduce himself, give his address, and tell them that “If there is ever a need for you to come into our home, the white woman there is my wife.”

His grandfather’s family had been slaves who were given some land. Beginning around age ten my neighbor spent the summers working in his grandfather’s tobacco fields. His job: covering the plants with arsenic insecticide. Today he can barely breathe. 

Somehow through this whole long, fascinating and difficult and hardworking life he can find a way to laugh, and grow potatoes, and share them. But right now, he won’t leave his porch. Except to watch Portland and Kenosha and Minneapolis and Louisville. 

This is but one example of the consequences of 45’s bullying claim of being the “LAW & ORDER” president, protecting us from the “violence incited by the leftist, radical democrats.”

Uh huh.

Obviously it’s 45 who incites the hate that leads to violence. It’s 45 who has jailed my friend, confined him to his porch.

The Days

There’s a bit of a rustle, leaves maybe,
the wind lifting them off the dust
for a second or two. Or a deer, startled,

turning back. Overhead, the clouds go by.
Someone raises the sheets, gives them
a shake and makes the bed, fluffing the pillow

to finish things. You lie back. There
are dogs in your dreams, a garden, a daughter
picking a flower to bring to you. She’s not

supposed to pick the flowers there. No matter.
Everyone’s asleep in another room. When you
opened your eyes, the world stopped, looked

your way, went on. It’s like that. The cars go by.
Some people give speeches. Some have it all
figured out. The cardinals and sparrows feed

at the seed outside the window. You used to watch
them. You heard their song. When the big band
played “Satin Doll,” you were dancing

again, the ballroom floor glistening under
the sparkle of the spinning silver globe,
everything else a long way away.

–Jack Ridl

This poem first appeared in Controlled Burn and was subsequently published Practicing To Walk Like a Heron, Wayne State University Press

I’ve been asked how I pick the books to include here. I don’t. I simply list books by those I know who I’ve learned have books out. I know that I miss many. And for that I am sorry. Friend, if you’ve got a new book out, tell me about it!

These writers have books I know that some of you would appreciate: Laura Donnelly, Alison Luterman, Jeff Munroe, Heidi Aronson, Shea Tuttle Charlie Brice, Judith Brice, R.A. Kamin, Matthew Baker, Ginger Rankin (her husband was my dad’s first All-American player), Dan Gerber, Phyllis Klein, Linda Hillringhouse, Patricia Barnes, Lisa Lenzo, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Robert Hamblin, Faith Shearin, Nancy Esther James, Salvatore Sapienza, Kirk Westphal, Thomas Allbaugh, D.R. James.

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

17 thoughts on “The Days

  1. Oh Jack, this one has me in tears. Each of us has to continue to become what we want to see in others. Please, please, please let the planet’s inhabitants erupt in a cheer when we start turning America around on Nov. 3. We change and the world changes with us!

    Sent from my iPhone


    • I think of our Dads Jim Minor and Oran Rankin, both born on October 15, 1900. I think of all they lived through that forced limitation on their expectations but fueled their dreams, their daily lives exercising the ethic of honest work and their quiet thoughts as they settled in for the evening with the Sun Telegraph or the Pirate game on the radio.
      Thanks for opening the windows with your words.

  2. I grieve for your neighbor, and for all of us that such times have emerged – 45 has proven to be far worse than even the worst I could think he’d be – he is succeeding far below even the lowest of my expectations. I pray we vote this horror out. Thank you, Jack.

    • So so soooooo true, Linda. With you I pray we get rid of him
      before he truly takes our country away from us and hurts those
      all over the world.

  3. The story of your neighbor friend makes me so very sad. Each day and stories like this make me realize more and more the privilege I have as a white male. Thank you for sharing it. I LOVE the accompanying poem.

    • Thanks, Tony, for responding. He and I have terrific conversations. And am I ever happy to hear that you loved the poem. It’s a Julie favorite.

  4. Good morning, Jack, As always, i thank you for your healing words… poetry, and introspective thoughts, have helped me through anger and frustration these past months. I hope you are well and remember this reader in Pennsylvania who loves your work.


    If a man cannot keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears however measured or far away. -HD Thoreau

    • Oh dear Starr, your message makes me ache for dear good you. I am also glad that I’ve been of some help
      as you suffer through this horrid time.
      You are such a great good, compassionate spirit.

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