Feeding the Pup in the Early Morning

Speaking of treason… (And 45 has been tossing that extraordinary word around like it’s nothing more than a Wiffle Ball. ) …around here it’s called “insubordination.”

What can we do when there’s nothing we can do?

Many of us were brought up with good and evil being a good versus evil. If we didn’t fight evil, we were complicit in it. We were told making art, being cheerful, working in the garden, playing games at a time like this is morally repugnant.

Yes, let’s work to prevent further damage. But what do we do when we can’t stop the abuser of power or when what’s been done is done, leaving lives forever harmed, never to be healed?

Being cynical about the value of joy and the arts is easy. Why? Because these things CAN put good into the world.

Every second we are creating the world that others live in. We can continue to perform random acts of kindness, paint paintings, comfort one another, take care of a garden, stay by our families and friends, say hi to anyone we pass on the street, find a wandering way with one another’s differences, write down our days for our grandchildren, sing in the shower, and, and, and.

And get a dog.

The other day one of the beloved couples at the local college who were victims of hate and lost their livelihood in music got a puppy, a golden retriever. That pup will redeem their days. He will make them laugh, bring life to life, drive them mad, bring out their deep care, and join them in joy.

We are so glad for them, and for their dog.

Feeding the Pup in the Early Morning

I love our pup, she whose DNA chooses to chew
the coffee table’s legs, any book, shoe or the pair
of reading glasses I left where anyone my age

would set them in case of fire, storm, the need
to finally pay a bill, an inappropriate drop-in
by that person you would never add to

your daughter’s wedding invitation list. However
it’s 7am and I must feed her. There’s a schedule,
a set of behaviors prescribed in validated tomes

by those who decided never to major in philosophy,
dance history, or literature. They opened their minds
to trial and error, determining a schedule that for sure

is the only way to raise a confident and willing companion
who will on some unfathomable day give up dragging
anything dangling — bed spread, sweater, scarf, shower curtain—

who will come when called, sit, lie down, heel, fetch,
love me even when there is no treat. But it’s 7am and
I staggered to bed after meeting a 3am deadline.

However the schedule proclaims “Feed the pup at the same time
each and every day.” Oh come on! If she sleeps just one measly
hour longer, do I risk her turning into the neighborhood’s teeth-baring

dingo who digs up Mrs. Phelps’s petunias, snarls
at the priest on his daily walk, steals the dump truck
from the sandbox down the street, snaps at the kid

selling magazines for a trip to Haiti? Will I be
the one whose best friend must be muzzled
because she slept just one more hour of just

another day? What do I know? What will I ever know?

–Jack Ridl

From Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)

Daughter Meridith is featured in an interview along with her artwork in the latest Holland Weekly. Check it out at hollandweekly.com

Katie Kalisz will be reading from her new collection, Quiet Woman, at Grand Rapids Community College on February 21 and at Kentwood KDL on March 27.

I’ll be leading a workshop about approaches to writing personal history on March 23 at Grace Episcopal Church in Holland, Michigan, 10am-1:30pm. Contact the church for details, registration, etc.

Poetry Trauma: The Way to Recovery workshop is filled. But there is a wait list. Sign up here to put yourself on it.

We are throwing a book Reception for Saint Peter and the Goldfinch. RSVP here to help us make plans. We’re so excited to welcome the Persisterhood Choir, who will open for us and the John Shea Trio, who will take the stage with Jack and create a conversation between jazz and poems.

Kristin Brace’s new chapbookEach Darkness Inside, can be ordered through April 12 from Finishing Line Press. It will be shipped in June.

Mark Hiskes’ new book is on the way! Watch Dos Madres Press for news!

Saugatuck’s D.R. James has a new chapbook coming out! Click here for a pre-order discount!

Midwinter Song

There are so many things to write about this week to bring you down. Spent an evening with music teachers whose lives, not mere jobs, were taken from them.

And of course…

Nah!

Krista Tippett — many of you know her project “On Being” — wrote about how there are now two separated worlds. One imposes itself on us. The other is the one we will not give up, our own.

Let’s get back to how remarkable it is that day after day, hour after hour, each of us keeps attending to what matters.

Here amid the ice and snow, the local coffee shop is open. My buddy David and I had our coffee and pastries this morning with the owner, Renee. Every Friday from 6-9pm, her 80-year-old dad and his buddy Ron play their guitars and sing here, two guys who have a deeeeep and long friendship that comes out as they glance at one another, nod, and smile. They’d play if no one was there.

And that is what we are all doing: playing our “guitars” and being with one another. What otherwise might simply be what we do, has become an unintended act of resistance.

No matter what — whether it’s a job, an interest, another check off the to-do list, a passion — it has become in its everyday way what keeps us going, what we hold in our hearts.

Feed the birds. Shovel the walk. Listen to your music. Head to the coffee shop, and say hi to Renee.

Midwinter Song

How good it is to be
in here, on the couch,
the dogs asleep on the pillows
as if we are safe in the great
Kingdom of Snow. Death
with its lisping end rhymes
stands under an umbrella.
The snow against the windows
is a language, its assonance
an uninvited solace. Cold
will come again. We can’t
move south. We have sweaters.
We depend on a shovel
and the neighbor’s plow.
We depend on music, on
knowing we no longer
need to say we love one
another. Love is Emanuel.
This snow. The wind.
This music on the radio
is music on the radio.
The dogs sleep with
their names. The cold,
this music, this snow.

==Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

Subsequently published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press)

About that Party
Okay, I really, really, really believe that you will have a great good time on April 5 at the Douglas United Church of Christ at 6:30pm, where we’re holding the reception for my new collection Saint Peter and the Goldfinch.

WHY???

BECAUSE at 6:30 the shake-up-the-house choir PERSISTERHOOD will open for us, singing, and lifting your spirits above the spire.

THEN at 7pm, The John Shea Trio will take the stage with me, and we will blend the poems with exquisite jazz. John’s created a program to savor.

And then the jazz trio moves with us to the party, and we… party!

I don’t care if you have other plans, live in Germany, or 376 miles away — be there! I have no problem unselfconsciously promoting this. This party is for YOU!

More Good News

My March 30 workshop “Poetry Trauma: The Way to Recovery” is now full. Let me know if you would like to be on the waiting list. If we get enough folks on that waiting list, we will offer it another day.

Kristin Brace’s new chapbook, Each Darkness Inside, can be ordered through April 12 from Finishing Line Press. It will be shipped in June.

Saugatuck’s D.R. James has a new chapbook coming out! Click here for a pre-order discount!

Daughter Meridith is featured in an interview along with her artwork in the latest Holland Weekly. Check it out at hollandweekly.com

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, 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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

You Mustn’t Die Unsaved

Like many of you, I was a victim of Christian dogma abuse. Lots of fear, control, punishment, oppression, guilt for simply being. And then I had to take responsibility for all the fear and guilt I would never have felt without this oppression. A kind of vicious self-feeding trauma cycle.

(If you don’t consider yourself a Christian, welcome. I hope you will read on. If you do call yourself a Christian and are already offended, please read on anyway.)

In 1971 I joined the faculty of a Christian college. Back in my day, much of the faculty affirmed how Jesus had dramatically altered the consciousness of many, had challenged the assumed laws and status quo of the day, had placed people over policy, had shifted choice of behavior from obeying orders to following values like mercy, love, hope, compassion, forgiveness. We understood who should be throwing the first stone. And more.

Jesus didn’t punish people. He admonished people sometimes, sure. Even with the money changers, he angrily moved them to where they belonged — admonishment, not punishment.

While teaching at the college, I remember being admonished a few times. Some of those times, I admit, were deserved. But I was never punished.

Over the course of many months, more than a year, the administration and board of my old school severely punished several beloved music faculty members. The charges are refutable or minor. Ongoing investigation will perhaps bring this to light.

But some of these good souls are no longer teaching there. The music students have voiced their protest, their affirmation of their teachers. The Student Congress aligned itself with the administration. (The Student Congress?!?) After damaging these lives cruelly and forever, the powers and principalities continue to maintain the school is Christian.

I say no.

These punished professors, some of the lowest paid professors in our collegiate association, lost tens of thousands in legal fees. How did the college administrators pay for their legal counsel? Was it paid for by the parents and students who paid tuition, from donors? With or without their approval?

45 is seeping into our little local lives. He has been doing that for longer than he’s been president. His patent phrase, “You’re fired!” from his reality show changed the norm, the tone and tenor of collegiality from college classrooms to corporate offices to small businesses. The way we treat people now, blaming and culling first, working out our differences later, or never, has turned our culture into one where differences cannot contribute to a whole, much less be tolerated.

And at my little college, many (most?) of the faculty are left in trauma, afraid to speak, afraid to be who they have been trained and grown to be.

Is this paranoia? Nope.

We must hold to what we value: our care for one another wherever we see his attitude acted out, whether those who do so vehemently deny it. Those college administrators may say they disagree with 45, that this is different, that they acted on their own, according to policy.

Policy above people. What would Jesus really do? I mean, really?

You Mustn’t Die Unsaved

Reverend Kirk came to town,
lured us
from the playgrounds
to the church,
turned us into Christian jocks.
We carried Bibles, picked off sinners,
won them back to God.
We began to pray,
four, five times
every day, and memorize
key passages
to keep our noses clean
and pick apart the enemy’s defense.
God we were good.
Every other day, we met
with him for breakfast,
Bible study, prayer.
Before he came to town,
we’d all been up and out
each day to play
some ball and make enough
to take our girls out
after pick-up games we played
behind the high school gym.
But Reverend Kirk sure
set us straight. He taught us
ball, a summer job, and
four good friends were not enough.

For Rev. Gerry Van Heest who knew “Where two or three gather together . . .”

–Jack Ridl

First published in Samisdat
Subsequently published in Between (Dawn Valley Press)

Coming Up…

Saugatuck’s D.R. James has a new chapbook coming out! Click here for a pre-order discount!

Jack Interview, February 22 on WMUK’s Art Beat. 12:30pm.

Workshop on March 30. “Poetry Trauma: The Way to Recovery.” This will offer a fresh way to be nourished by a variety of poems. It’s FREE. But you MUST reserve a seat.

When: March 30, 10am-1pm.
Where: The Douglass UCC church Friendship Hall.
Click here to reserve your seat online, or sign up at the church hall one of these Sunday mornings.

Party Time: Book Reception, April 5 for the release of Saint Peter and the Goldfinch.

When: April 5, 6:30-9:30pm
Where: The Douglass UCC church.
There will be a reading at 7pm. Then we party. Books on site for sale and signing.
Click here to Read all about it and RSVP PLEASE

Writing Your Personal History Workshop, April 6Grace Episcopal Church. 10am – 1:30pm

Reading with Lisa Lenzo (whose new book, Unblinking, will be released in May!) on May 16 at Michigan News Agency Bookstore in Kalamazoo.. 7pm

Wonderful news for those of you who know or want to meet the beloved Kathleen Markland.
She has been named the Honoree for the celebration of and fundraiser for The Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency  in Saugatuck, Michigan. Ox-Bow is more than 100 years old and is a part of The Art Institute of Chicago. Stay tuned for that fundraiser date!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, 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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Ice Storm (…and about that party…)

Here’s a little coda to last week’s post: How many of you grew up being subjected to the well-meaning, “Just do your best”? I don’t know about you, but I was the kid who had no idea what my best was. Anxiety to the point of panic slithered within whether I was making my bed (My mother invariably smoothed out a wrinkle or four) or studying for an exam in existential philosophy.

Always I obsessed, “Did I do my best? How will I know?” They bewildered me, those people for whom the phrase brought relief, even confidence. Even after a failure — missing a layup or receiving a C — those folks heard, “That’s okay. I know you did your best.”

Man if this is 45’s best, I dread to think what his less than best looks like.

This week has lugged in quite a storm. It’s so cold that, even if properly winter-clothed, we will be frostbitten in ten minutes. The windchill here as I write has plummeted to a minus-27 F.

At least for a while we love it. Pile up the books, get out the board games, watch an old movie, curl up with the dogs.

A storm like this is a paradoxical gift, distracting us in the best of ways by forcing us to pay attention to what matters deeply in our own lives, all we would attend to if the thief-in-chief of our personal lives had never shown up in The White House.

Which brings me to today’s poem. Am I ever lucky! The blurbs/reviews for my new collection were written by Li-Young Lee, Dan Gerber, Terrance Hayes, and Billy Collins. In tune with the weather here, here’s an excerpt from Dan Gerber on the new book:

“Open the book to page 27 and read ‘Ice Storm.’ Feel how it settles in your chest, how your breath resounds with a long, deep, ‘Yes,’ how subtly you are changed by what you didn’t know you knew.”

Ice Storm

Here on the couch with my old dog I find
I’m feeling gratitude, an odd gratitude,
an old gratitude, one I thought had gone

for good down a long back road
that led away from the years when
I felt glad, felt what I believed

was an abiding gratitude: to be,
to be warm, and grateful to be
warm, to have some pillows

and a dozen books and all afternoon.
To be alone without even a sideswipe
of loneliness. To be on page 47,

or 114, or page one and there
was nothing missing. The ice
storm made things warm,

time irrelevant, made the sleeping
dog an Amen to a prayer never
needing to be said.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Third Wednesday
To be included in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)

So much news to share!

1. Jack Interview, February 22 on WMUK’s Art Beat. 12:30pm.

2. Party Time: Book Reception, April 5 for the release of Saint Peter and the Goldfinch.

When: April 5, 6:30-9:30pm
Where: The Douglass UCC church.
There will be a reading at 7pm. Then we party. Books on site for sale and signing.
Click here to Read all about it and RSVP PLEASE

3. Writing Your Personal History Workshop, April 6. Grace Episcopal Church. 9am-2pm

4.Workshop on March 30. “Poetry Trauma: The Way to Recovery.” This will offer a fresh way to be nourished by a variety of poems. It’s FREE. But you MUST reserve a seat.

When: March 30, 10am-1pm.
Where: The Douglass UCC church Friendship Hall.
Click here to reserve your seat online, or sign up at the church hall one of these Sunday mornings.

5. Reading with Lisa Lenzo (whose new book, Unblinking, will be released in May!) on May 16 at Michigan News Agency Bookstore in Kalamazoo.. 7pm

6. Wonderful news for those of you who know or want to meet the beloved Kathleen Markland.
She has been named the Honoree for the celebration of and fundraiser for The Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency  in Saugatuck, Michigan. Ox-Bow is more than 100 years old and is a part of The Art Institute of Chicago. Stay tuned for that fundraiser date!

7. Saugatuck’s D.R. James has a new chapbook coming out! Click here for a pre-order discount!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, 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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Instead of Planting Roses

I’ve been wondering lately about the word “best.” Why is it used so often instead of, say, “valuable.” A few weeks ago in The New York Times, David Orr told us which were the ten best books of poetry published in 2018. First I wondered how Mr. Orr found time to read the thousand or so books of poetry published in 2018. Then I wondered what his definition of best was and about his criteria. Neither accompanied his article.

That’s when I started brooding … about why for so many things “best” even matters?

What’s the best restaurant in town?
What’s the best religion?
Which of your nine cats is your best cat?
Since all the snowflakes are different, which is, at least for now, the best snowflake?

Mary Oliver passed away last week. She was our poet of yes.

Was “Wild Geese” Mary Oliver’s best poem? Or was it “The Journey”? Or, or, or? If you Google her, you’ll discover a site that lists her “best” poems. Not on that list were many that nourished the souls who turned to her poems for something much more important than deciding which was her best.

This is not my best poem…

Instead of Planting Roses

He’d work the garden until dark,
now and then looking up

to see if she was looking out
the window. She’d loved roses.

After two years, he gave up.
started sleeping on the left side,

and instead of planting roses,
filled the plot with tomatoes,

beans, zucchini, and asparagus.
The next year he added eggplant

then mixed in impatiens, pansies,
obedient plant, asters, autumn joy.

He loved to be surprised by a tomato
showing up within a mass of lobelia,

to discover peas climbing a tangle
of cosmos, lilies, and cleome,

to find a squash under the geraniums.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Poetry East

Subsequently published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press)

The Lake Michigan Mermaid illustrated by Meridith Ridl and written by Linda Nemec Foster and Anne-Marie Oomen has been named a Michigan Notable Book for 2019!

On April 1 (perfect!) (yipes, just 2ish months away) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, 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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

After Talking it Over

The National Spelling Bee…

Host: “The word is galliambic.”
Katherine: “galliambic- g a l l i a m b i c”
Host: “Correct.”

Host: “The word is tlamatine.”
Nathan: “Tlamatine. t l a m a t i n e.”
Host: “Correct.”

Host: “The word is hamburger.”
45: “Hamburger. h a m b e r d e r.”
Buzzzzzzzzz
Host: “I’m sorry; it’s spelled h a m b u r g e r.”

45: “Once again, FAKE SPELLING.”

 

After Talking It Over

She says, “Why not?” Says,
“Corn chips, a long walk, maybe
a new dog, a mutt, half beagle or
one-third collie, one that will sit
on our laps when we watch
the worst shows on TV.” I think
TV, but know the shows will
turn into another movie or
a report on raising taxes to build
a dam in Idaho. Sixth grade

was not this frightening, but came
close. Mrs. Kendelton held spelling
bees every Friday afternoon. We’d
stand in a line along the blackboard
in the order we finished the last time.
She kept a record. We spelled
antelope, nuclear, satellite, creche.
Winners got chopsticks. Amy
Witherspoon finished elementary
school with 27 sets. Losers sat
with their knees pressing against
the bottoms of their desks. This

place is filled with winter. Winter
makes you think about your head, keeps
your mind on the road, roof, the dog
being outside. You have to know how
to spell rock salt, shovel, scarf.

–Jack Ridl

from Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State University Press)

Next Thursday: D.R. James, Katie Kalisz, and Greg Rappleye will be reading from their new collections at The Bookman, 715 Washington Avenue in Grand Haven, 7pm.

AND

On January 29 at 7pm, the Hope College Visiting Writers Series will host a reading by Sophfronia Scott in the John and Dede Howard Recital Hall located in the Jack H. Miller Center

AND

Today is the birthday of William Stafford. I remember him every day as I sit down to write, kept good company by this poem he wrote at our first house, about our first dog.

atjackshouse

On April 1 (perfect!) (yipes, just 2.5 months away) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, 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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

On the Last Day of the World

With apologies to Robert Frost who read at an inauguration where there actually was a large audience–

Someone there is who really loves a wall.
(Letting thousands suffer until he gets his way.)

On the Last Day of the World

Maybe the sky will be clear,
and we’ll take a walk down
the road behind our house,
just walk along, going nowhere,
somewhere. Birds will fly
branch to branch, a rabbit
or chipmunk may cross
in front of us, disappear
into the brush. We’ll try
not to look at the sun.
We’ll keep our eyes off
to the side. When we come
to the bend, we’ll look for
the deer path, take it, and
see where it leads, see if
it opens to a clearing where
each night the deer sleep
deep within the star-distant light.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Third Wednesday

Mark your calendars for Thursday, January 24 at 7pm. Three exceptional poets, Katie Kalisz, David James, and Greg Rappleye will read from their wonderfully varied new collections at The Bookman in Grand Haven.

On April 1 (perfect!) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, 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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

The Crank Collector

I’ve a wonderfully warm-hearted, well-read yoga instructor, Ami. On Monday Ami suggested that if any of us were planning to make New Year’s resolutions, that we consider changing the word to intentions. As I sat there cross-legged, palms up, the wisdom of that arrived immediately.

When with Ami, we smile as over and again she says, “Your intention is to stretch your right leg as far across the left held straight as you can.”

A resolution is a decision one must stand by. Once broken, you have to admit failure in one way or another. “I resolve to go to the gym three times a week” often leads to “I can’t right now. I have to go to the gym.”

An intention leaves room for the welcoming of change. “Yeah, I know. I intended to go to the gym today. Then my neighbor came over, needed to talk.”

Resolve!!! There’s something harsh, unbending, non-fluid, demanding, set in concrete, must be OBEYED, If-I-don’t-I’ve-failed about it. Also something I’m-sorry-but-that’s-just-the-way-it-is about it.

“Intend.” It feels kinder, forgiving, fluid, even softer.

To solve? or To tend.

And no, I emphatically do not believe that all good intentions pave the path to Hell. In fact, I believe that resolutions more often do. The old “I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is. Can’t change it now.”

“Resolved” is not benign.

Last week I mentioned the terrible, destructive injustice done to four beloved music teachers at Hope College, where I taught for 37 years. From the beginning it was obvious that those out to destroy the joyful and life-giving intentions of these four were most emphatically resolved to do them in.

What’s left now? Well, thousands of students are enjoying enriched lives given to them by these four. But, though their good work lives on, this wreckage can’t be healed, fixed, re-solved. And the bitterness is spreading, rapidly.

These four teachers worked with their students with loving intention, the intention being the enrichment of each student’s days. One does not demand that a student be resolved to master Bach, Baez, or Ellington. That leads only to failure or stagnation. These dynamic and encouraging teachers’ intention was to time and time again enable each student to be with and grow with whatever music they were studying, each time new and renewed.

The Crank Collector

I’d love to rust.
Just sit there
turning into air.
I put cranks
on anything. See
how I put one on
that lawn deer.
I wasn’t sure where
to fasten it. When I
found this old stuffed
chair, I had to put
a crank on it. I
thought this stump
should have one.
And that one,
on the rowboat, I first
put on our bed. I find
cranks everywhere.
They just turn up,
in the woods for instance,
behind a garage. I found
one once in a cemetery.
The one on the side of
the house, I found
digging in my garden,
planting some spurge.
There are a couple
thousand kinds of spurge.
That crank there’s
a double handle. You
can swing it arm over
arm. This one, I painted
green before I stuck it
into that window box.
And I took that one from
my grandmother’s attic.
I thought she’d like it
fastened to her Bible.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

On April 1 (perfect!) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, 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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Dear Coach

Leadership is on my mind. The kind that helps people to flourish, the kind that does just the opposite.

A sportswriter, in a piece for Sports Illustrated, noted that my father may have been the only coach in America who kept geraniums wintering in his basement, wore a hat, and said “Oh my” a lot. “Oh My Is a Four Letter Word” became a ubiquitous bumper sticker around Pittsburgh in his day.

Another sports writer wrote about how much my father loved the game of basketball and quoted him saying, “But I don’t understand why thousands of people come to watch and why it matters to so many if we win or lose.”

One time, when one of his players missed a layup that would have won the game at the buzzer, my father, surrounded by reporters in the locker room, was asked, “Why did (name) blow that layup?” My father thought for a bit and then said, “Well, if he didn’t miss it, and instead blew it, I guess he wanted to.”

Have you ever had friends falsely accused to the point that it cost them being able to bring their goodness into the world? I can’t voice how terrible that is. It’s happened to four cherished friends of ours recently. Done under the kind of blind, cruel, fear-inducing “leadership” so popular these days. Cruelty that can’t be undone.

On the other hand, there was my Dad. A real leader. How brave he was.

Dear Coach

Dear Coach,

Remember the time you left me in after I’d missed seven in a row, tossed a few out of bounds, and let my man score twenty? Bad night. But you didn’t pull me. You must have taken a lot for that. I can still hear the boos. I thought they were all at me. Why’d you leave me in? I’ve thought about that lately. Did you really think I’d come around? The other guys were furious sitting there watching me screw up. And after the game? What did you say? You must have had a second thought. It hit me last week. I was thinking back, remembering certain games. After that one, I wanted to run away. I had a thousand excuses. My family’s fine, kids are growing up. We took a vacation this year. My mother’s doing OK. Business is business, up and down. If you’re ever in town, I sure hope you’ll stop to see us.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Nebraska Territory

Subsequently published in Losing Season (CavanKerry Press)

Don’t forget to check out Holland Weekly at hollandweekly.com

On April 1 (perfect!) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, 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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

A Christmas List for Santa

“You’re just being sentimental.”

Sentimental. Sentimentality.  These words more often than not are used as a judgement to label the recipient deficient. We encounter the word when reading reviews and critiques, in the academic world among those appealing for so-called objectivity.

It’s no wonder so many fear being damned as sentimental.

For perhaps a surprise consider the Merriam Webster dictionary, where sentimental/sentimentality is defined as tenderness, love, sadness seemingly expressed in an excessive or foolish way.

Ah hah! The dictionary author says “seemingly,” which I would suggest implies that sentimentality is not false feeling, nor as is often taught, a feeling inappropriate to its stimulus.

(Most definitely false feeling exists. We experience it every day in ads and especially in 45’s tweets.)

It’s that time of year when most joy and merry-making would disappear without the authenticity of sentimentality.

As our dear friend Mary Ruefle (Our fathers were college roommates.) writes in her extraordinary and wonderfully subversive-for-the-good-of-all book Madness, Rack, and Honey, “Why is it that all the great stuff is never in keeping with what you are always told: don’t be sentimental.”

Sentiment. Mental. What a lovely and whole coupling.

So, ’tis the season to be merry. And nostalgic. And sad. And wistful. And rich with seemingly inappropriate love.

As is every season, day, hour, and minute.

A repeat for this season–

A Christmas List for Santa

A Wednesday afternoon with no thought of Thursday

Three weeks in the woods, two by myself, one with my father

My father

Cups of tea, plates of sugar cookies, the first ones I ever made,

the dough still sticking to my fingertips

Comic books from the late ’40s: Little LuLu, The Green Hornet, Felix the Cat

Every creek from the upper peninsula of Michigan

The last page from twenty unpublished novels

The ease of a dog’s sleep

Five gold rings

A moon-draped evening among the birds in the hemlocks

Any snow-covered pile of leaves

Photographs, I don’t care how many, of my daughter just before

she smiles for the camera

Seven moments with the lucidity of cutting yourself with a bread knife

Whatever happens between what happens

The liturgy of an old monk laughing

–Jack Ridl

From Practicing To Walk Like A Heron (Wayne State University Press)

Don’t forget to check out Holland Weekly at hollandweekly.com

On April 1 (perfect!) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, 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.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.