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.
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.
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Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.