The Materialism of Angels

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

Well, we thought last Thursday would be our final post. But on and on went the counting. My hope is that this ends the ordeal. I do worry that 45 will pull some scheme. In which case, we’ll be here until I see him walk or be walked out the door of our house. I’m using the plural here, because all along this has been the two of us, Julie and me. I write, she edits and posts and reminds me every week how to respond to your comments. And then pandemic-streaming on Facebook. Julie is behind the camera. I may be unlucky in my country’s leadership, but we are very lucky to have each other.

Several years ago I received a beautiful message from Germany from one Norbert Kraas. Since then, without yet meeting in person, we have become friends as deep as can be. Corinna is his most unassuming, multi-talented French wife. They have two children, Emily and Henry. And they live in a town you are sure exists only on a postcard from the 1800s. Oh how Julie and I want so to visit them in Tubingen.

Norbert has done so much to make these posts known in Europe. One of the multitude of things he has done was to introduce me to Christian Zaschke, the renowned writer of important bestsellers on the Irish troubles, and on Brexit. Each week he multiplies the editions of SZ, the German equivalent of the New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde. He writes what he wants to write. He’s that well trusted by his editors, and his audience is enormous.

Four years ago Christian came to Saugatuck/Douglas for four days to do a story on this little known poet guy who was writing a protest column along with a poem and sending it out every Thursday. He was interested because I was not so much arguing with 45, as trying to support those whose character and values were being threatened by his malicious words and actions and calling attention to other writers whose work reminds us that we exist.

The other day, I received a message from Christian. I thought it a fitting shalom, namaste to all of you who have been so kind in receiving the posts as well as writing to tell me what they meant to you. YOU kept me going. Especially since I never believed that we would have to endure such wreckage for a full four years. And 45’s likely not done. In or out of office, on the first or fifteenth tee, he will be scheming ways to cause us harm.

So now, From Christian:

Dear Jack, my friend.

It’s looking good, isnt it?

What I like about the process is that it is so slow.

So 45 was sitting in the White House, glued to the TV, and he could see the defeat on the horizon but it was crawling towards him ever so slowly (like, if you will, a snail on a straight razor).

It must have been extremely painful for this particular man to see it coming closer and closer and closer and closer and closer …

And I like the little stories hidden in this election. You know why he lost Arizona? Because 97 percent of the Navajo Nation voted for Biden, and their vote is pretty much the difference between the two men in the state. So it were Native Americans who kicked him out there, after all. For some reason this sounds right to me.

Last but not least: I have smuggled you and your beautiful work into one of our big election features. It is just a tiny paragraph and it is supposed to work like a coda in music. At least that was my idea.

It goes like this:
Since the day Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, the aged and wise poet Jack Ridl from Saugatuck, Michigan, has been fighting the man in the White House with poetry. I have the best words, Trump had said, and Ridl thought to himself: “Well. We’ll see about that.” Week after week, always on Thursdays, he posted a poem on his blog and wrote a short introduction. It was the quietest possible form of protest, and yet it was an intense one. As he wrote, he wanted to do something against this president (whom he never called by name but always referred to as “45”) by giving the only thing he had to give: his art. “Well, my friends,” he wrote this week, “I made it for the whole four years. Please, no more.” Jack Ridl hopes his work is complete.
All the very best from Hell’s Kitchen, where even the sun seems to be in a pretty good mood today. Please, give Julie a big hug from me and feel hugged yourself.


The Materialism of Angels
                         “Who would say that pleasure is not useful?”—Charles Eames

Of course the angels dance. If not
on the head of a pin, then maybe
on the boardwalk along the ocean of stars.
And they eat hot and spicy: salsa,
tabasco, red peppers. They love
mangoes. They can munch
for hours on cashews. Olives
sit in bronze bowls on the cherry
tables next to their canopy beds
where the solace of pillows swallows
their sweet heads and the quiet
of silk lies across their happy backs.
They know the altruism of material things.
They want to say to us, “We’ll sleep
next to you. Feel our soft and unimposing
flutter across your shoulders, on your
heartbroken feet.” They want us
to take, eat, to smell the wood,
run our tired fingers over the rim of
every glass, give our eyes the chance
to see the way the metal bends and
curves its way into the black oval
of the chair. They want us to feel
the holiness of scratching where it
itches, rubbing where it hurts. They
want us to take long, steamy showers
and a nap. They know how easily
we follow directions: hook the red wire
to the front of the furnace, fill in only
the top half of the life insurance form.
They have no manuals for joy.
They can’t fix anything we break.
They wonder why we never laugh
enough, why we don’t know God
is crazy for deep massage, and loves
to wail on His alto sax whenever they dance.

–Jack Ridl

from Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

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

35 thoughts on “The Materialism of Angels

  1. Ahhhh….your best post yet! The poem is divine. I need to read it every day. Thank you, Jack, for walking all of us through these long 4 years. It has been most comforting to be in solidarity with you and your readers through all the nonsense we have been forced to endure. Blessings on you! Sue Poll

    Sent from my iPad


    • Sue,
      Tears are about to fall. How would I ever know if I was being
      at all helpful unless told. What you wrote is such a beautiful
      gift. Thank you beyond any way to thank you.
      Blessings back

    • Margaret and you too, David,
      Whatta ya mean? I’m just a guy doing about the only thing he knows
      how to do besides hang up his coat. You are so extraordinarily kind,
      and have been since we first met. When you first invited us over, I
      immediately felt I had gone home. Our thanks for you walk with us always.

  2. English is not my mother tongue I sometimes have difficulties to understand some words, feel the vibration of sutle words. But The Materialism of Angels touched my heart.
    Thank You very much indeed, Jack Ridl
    Wolfgang Klug

    • Dear Wolfgang,
      How kind of you. How very very kind.
      The angels are very happy too, and are always
      ready to rub your feet.
      My thanks cross the sea, and I hope stay always in your heart.

  3. Thanks Jack.You’re a treasure full of revelation. In dogma class we we learned the only dogma of the Romantradition on angels is that they exist. Thanks for filling in so much more… Peace and all good things. Paul

    • Father Paul,
      They are what they are.
      They do what they have to do.
      You are a gift to me. You are in my every day
      bringing me peace and loving kindness.
      I am forever grateful

  4. Another wonderful post! Your wisdom and art have been such lights in the last four years. Thanks to you and Julie for incredible perseverance. I am so grateful.❤️

    • Oh my gosh, Linda. I would never apply those two words to me. Only another can.
      If I have been of help and support along our way, I am deeply grateful.
      And to be told is the only way that I can know; therefore my thanks go
      to you for such loving thoughtfulness. I speak also of course for Julie.

  5. This is one of my favorite poems. Of jack’s, of all. I don’t think I fully comprehended it until I had children. Thank you, old coach.

    Get Outlook for iOS ________________________________

    • Chris, my man
      This comment blew me away, I mea AWAY!
      I would never ever have thought of the poem in that way. And I think maybe I see what you mean.
      I don’t understand Get Outlook for iOS___________________

    • Who would have thought when you knew this guy
      that such remarkable things could happen for him?
      I’m one of the lucky ones whose life just maybe
      have been worth it after all. YOU are most
      certainly a reason for that. I gift thee the poem.
      Sweet joy–the best. We’ll both hold on. Of course we
      will. We have one another. And your work and very being
      are soooo important.

    • Please know how much this means to me. In fact they are difficult to take in. Truly.
      I just do what I do and then—–HOPE! And any good I can do for the world of Jellema
      adds to my joy. As our daughter said when she was little, “Let’s make it a good miss.”
      My thanks run deep.

    • Sandy
      To think I might be a little part of healing is more than I could
      have dreamed of. How we miss that good guy, and you are always in our hearts,
      loving you.

  6. I have come to look forward so much to Thursday morning, thanks to you & Julie. You have kept us (me and Bruce) sane during this 4yr period of insanity. I, like you, am not convinced 45 is done doing his damage to democracy in the name of feeding his insatiable narcissism, but I do feel we are closer to at least relieving OUR house of his corrupt, greedy presence. I’ll feel better once Biden/Harris are sworn in. Such unnecessary insanity, all for a bully. THANK YOU for the words and the wisdom! [and the love].

    • You and Bruce have hearts too big to keep beating, and yet they do, for all that is good.
      No, he likely will never go away, but we have at least dealt him a realization that there
      are lots of us out there who care. You have been a constant kindness throughout this
      project, and please believe it has made a difference in sustaining me as I limp to
      the computer wondering if I’m helping at all. I am endlessly grateful for you and Brice.

  7. Jack, I was in a pub in Belfast a couple of years ago. Struck up a conversation with a man sitting next to me. “When I was a kid,” he said to me. “I alway wanted Belfast to be more like America. The other day my wife said to me that America has now become more like Belfast.” I wrote a story this week on a man named Rufus Gifford. He was deputy campaign manager for Joe Biden. He said that as a married gay man, who worked with Obama on the passage of the affordable care act, he spent the last four years certain that his president hated him. Not just disagreed with him politically, but considered him an enemy. He talked about what a slippery slope that is for us all.

    We talked about the president who refused to concede and the trouble he might cause. Rufus (I live names like that. I tried to name my son Xavier, but my wife vetoed it. We settled on Kevin. That was 32 years ago) was very calm. He said that we can all look forward to the day when we wake up in the morning and simply have a president “who does not call American citizens scum, or tell them to go back to where they came from, or put immigrant children in cages and blame it on their parents, or call reporters the enemy of the people.”

    Imagine that. What a low bar to jump over. Just a normal, random, day without the ranting.

    I love how you are able in poems to bring together the holy and the everyday, as if those two things are simply part of the same thing. And, of course, you are right. They are. We all need a reminder that God plays tenor sax while the angels dance on a boardwalk. And that simple, everyday joys are gifts.

    By the way, my grandparents met on a boardwalk at a place called the Salem Willows. He was the first one born in America from a large family of Italians. She was the first one born in American from a large family from County Kerry, Ireland. They were both considered miracle babies. American babies. Imagine that. There was a big band playing in a club, and although neither had the quarter it cost to go inside you would hear the music outside on the boardwalk. He asked her to dance. They were not yet 20 years old.

    I really have no idea if that story is true. My Nana told it to me many times. She was quite often drunk when she told it and a notoriously unreliable narrator. But all of that was forgiven. She could tell a story and there was magic in that.

    Thank you for everything.


    • And just maybe it’s the stories, true or fiction, that are the real, the really real. Where else to live our own lives but in imagination?
      The rest is in the hands of others and their fictions get materialized and we have to live with them. I am very happy that you see
      that I can’t separate the imagined from the materialized, that they are all spirit-filled. That came as quite a surprise, Obama’s
      being cruel to that fellow. Sad to know. Oh, do I ever agree that normal goodness is a low bar to jump over. I can feel
      my consciousness shifting already. Of course 45 is going to cause lots of trouble, but he may look even more the fool, more the two year old
      wanting yet another stuffed sloth. Finally thank YOU for everything, for so so much. Your work matters so very very much and my gratitude
      is endless,

    • Thanks so much. I certainly never would have dreamed of all the good
      that has come my way, and certainly YOU an integral part of all these gifs.

  8. Last night during one of my recently-less-frequent interruptions to sleep, I realized I hadn’t received a post from you this past Thursday. This morning it occurred to me that, interrupted, I hadn’t read past the first paragraph of the last post that did come, unread paragraphs of which might explain your absence. I mean, given/in spite of continuing hoo-ha.

    Sho-nuf. Christian’s homage choked me up. 45 not withstanding, there will be a small void to miss each Thursday (or whenever). If you decided to post a weekly poem to continue affirming what is good, I would sign up.


  9. Jack and Julie, it warms my heart today to read this about your friendships across the globe with Norbert and Christian. How special and lovely! ❤️

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