Willie and the Prof

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. 

Baseball and the military. I can hear an old English professor, “Stick to the topic, ONE topic.”

I’m gonna flunk this…

My wife Julie’s grandfather, the WWII War hero, the Rear Admiral, is buried at the Naval Academy. Her dad graduated from there the same year Jimmy Carter did, when they were hustling midshipmen through as fast as they could.

One of her brothers was a grad and became a Top Gun pilot, flying his F14 off aircraft carriers. Her other brother worked in the Navy’s digital imaging offices in the Pentagon before he retired. His wing was hit by that plane on 9/11. He happened to be out of the office at the time.

Julie’s father had charge of Subic Bay Naval Station in the Philippines during Viet Nam, where Julie lived until her early teens. He was also Captain of a destroyer going to Cuba during the missile crisis — the ships JFK ordered to turn around — the closest so far we have come to a nuclear war.

Julie married me. I was offered a Presidential ride to the Naval Academy. I turned it down.

And now for 37 years I have been happily married into a three-generation U.S. Navy family. Whew.

I bring all this up because we are so glad the Captain is not alive to see this time. He would be appalled at 45’s irresponsible attempts to use the military to put down peaceful protests. I couldn’t possibly recall how many times the Captain talked about being in the Navy for peaceful reasons, to protect every person in the United States and their rights.

He joined the military for its technology, for the science. He admired the discipline. The military wasn’t ever going to be a perfect fit for him, but he understood sacrifice for one’s country. He understood banding together to protect people who needed protection. It was okay to make your life a little uncomfortable for the benefit of all.

But above all, he understood that while the Commander in Chief is an office that deserves respect, the commands that issue from that office must be legal ones. There are lines that cannot be crossed. No soldier can be commanded to perform an illegal act.

How furious he would be to watch 45 divide the country, label protesters anarchists, arsonists, Marxists out to destroy “our democracy.”

I heard Julie’s father disagree with many a policy, many a protester. Even at the close of his career when he commanded the NROTC at the University of Wisconsin after his unit was bombed, even when he had to wear civilian clothes to class and then change into his uniform, he would always say his task was to serve and protect American citizens.

And now a Wall of Moms has taken on that job. Thanks be to them.

And so baseball.

Baseball is back. Well… kinda. Had to laugh the other day when a manager fumed at an umpire, all the time wearing a mask.

And of course, it’s the best we can do, all of us in the “stands” of our couches and recliner chairs, chomping on a hot dog that costs less than $7 and a bowl of popcorn under $8 and a beer for a buck.

Sixty games is plenty to determine a champion. I don’t wanna get into that argument. The game is back, and at a time when July doesn’t seem like July because it’s almost August and just the other day it was May, this is one small gift to our day.

So, if ya like baseball…

Willie and the Prof

Say hey! Willie Mays retired.
And I’m no longer young.

Last night I heaved my paunch
and slugged a slow pitch softball
off the left field wall. The faculty
out-huffed the frosh 26 to 25.
At second base I wallowed in my
former dream. I, too, broke in
in ’51, in little league. A wad
of raisins stuffed my cheek.
Willie went up 13 times
before he got a hit. I never felt
the first base sack beneath
my tennis shoes. I peed my pants
before each game. The on deck circle
ringed my fear that lay along
an endless streak of strike threes
through the last game when
my coach had me take on 3 and 2.
All winter I lugged a leaded bat,
swinging it against the Pittsburgh wind.
Toward the spring, I felt a lump jump
in my bicep. Swinging in the wind
paid off. I hit .650 in my second year.
Willie cracked .300.

Say hey! Willie Mays retired.
And I’m no longer young.

It wasn’t his knees, throbbing
and swollen with cortisone.
Or his arm wilting under packs
of ice. Or his chest, heaving
from the dash from first to home
on a rookie’s punk double down
the line. It was his .211 average
typed every morning. The bench
pricking his hips that once
seduced the pick-off throws
of pitchers who thought
they could hold him on.
The fly balls dropping
one by one like dead
offerings just out of reach.
And in New York.
It’s embarrassment that drives us out.

Now my days of adolescent applause,
of late-inning rallies, of off-season
days are gone like a wild pitch.
I’m left with silence when I drive
home the winning point about
a masterpiece. That’s what’s hard,
Willie: the silence. There
I’ve got a start on you.

Tonight I swung and doubled
home my colleague with the
winning run.

Say hey! Willie Mays retired.
And I’m no longer young.

–Jack Ridl

Z.G. Tomaszewski has published two new collections. KORAKIA was created with his partner, Hayley. It is a collection of poems, haiku, photographs, all arranged in a fresh design layout. The other collection is titled STONE POEMS. Each poem focuses on a different stone, revealing what is astonishing about a single stone.

The best medicine for this time has come from the great Detroit Poet and merry prankster, M. L. Liebler, and his poetry happenings online. Do follow him, show up for his Zoom readings. Feel better.

On August 4, Matthew Baker’s new bookWhy Visit America? Henry Holt & Co., comes out. It has already received exceptional reviews, and Matt has offered remarkably insightful interviews. Esquire Magazine has called it one of the twenty must-read books published this summer.

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

Putting Down the Dog

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. 

The other day, Buddy,  Peter’s dog, died. It was not expected. Peter is our church’s music director. Because our services are virtual, we always watch Peter play from his home, Buddy at the corner of the screen watching Peter. Buddy had become, in many ways, the congregation’s dog.

I bring this sadness because of hearing time and time again how important people’s dogs have been to them during the pandemic.

And they don’t know.

Monday afternoon we went downtown with our dog, Vivi. Our daughter was maintaining the ceramist Jeff Blandford’s magical shop. (Is there a ceramist the likes of Jeff? Do go to his shop in Saugatuck.)

The town was all but completely masked, a relieving and hopeful sight. And everyone who saw Vivi wanted to bend down and pet her, talk to her.

Hers is one of the only breeds that in the dog books is described as “kind.” And many said just that: “She seems so kind.”

And then the subject that invariably came up was “We can’t imagine getting through all this without our Benjy, Jojo, Glory, Searcher.”

Every day dogs keep us at our routine. Vivi woofing ever so gently at 6:45—time for breakfast. They keep us walking. They keep us calling for them when they sneak off. They let us scratch and pet them for hours. They curl up with us, a comfort as we endure the news from the only purposefully dangerous president we’ve ever had.

And so, Buddy, thank you. Thanks be to every loving dog who simply and not so simply is always there, devoted, without taking any credit—well maybe a biscuit—for helping us each through each difficult day.


Putting Down Our Dogs

We let the vet
place them

on the last place
they will smell.

Do they see
the unknown

in our eyes?
They feel

our fingers
scratch

behind
their ears.

Then our palms
along their backs.

–Jack Ridl
from Saint Peter and the Goldfinch, Wayne State University Press

The best medicine for this time has come from the great Detroit Poet and merry prankster, M. L. Liebler, and his poetry happenings online. Do follow him, show up for his Zoom readings. Feel better.

On August 4, Matthew Baker’s new bookWhy Visit America? Henry Holt & Co., comes out. It has already received exceptional reviews, and Matt has offered remarkably insightful interviews. Esquire Magazine has called it one of the twenty must-read books published this summer.

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

My Grandmother Lived Mostly On Her Porch

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. Maybe a story for our times…

I all but grew up on my grandmother’s porch. In many ways my grandmother raised me. Her husband, my mother’s father, had died at Christmas. I was born the following April. In her grief, my mother really couldn’t do much for me. Lala (the name I gave my grandmother) took over. My father was overseas, leading a company of men around Europe.

Once I could manage sitting up on my own, I had my own chair on “Lala’s Porch,” and she and I would spend most of the day there.

There were breaks for tea. She came from northern England, told stories of hiking across the border for picnics in Scotland. Had to break for tea.

Lala lived in an understated yet elegant brick house, the kind where the passageways from one room to another had a curved archway.

Her porch was the same, the roofline quietly curved. There was an iron fence on three sides. the fourth wall had a pile of firewood and a door.

Lala and my grandfather had lovely gardens, one a sunken rock garden where I would “set up camp.” They gathered the rocks on their travels. He called her “Lovins.” She called him “Lover.” My mother, their only child, adored her father.

The home sat on a fairly large corner lot in a quiet, all-but-English village. This enabled us to watch who was coming or going from two different directions. And that was what we did: watch the people walking by. There were always those who would say, “Hi there, Mrs. Rogers. Hi, Jackie.”

If she was unfamiliar with someone, she would often make up a story or mutter, “Good god, who would wear such a hat!?” or “I bet I know what he has in that bag.”

She never learned to drive. So each day at 2pm we would, as she said, “walk up-street,” where all her sisters lived about a mile up the hill next to one another on Broad Street. The sisters had lost their parents and were sent to America (Immigrants!) to be raised by Aunt Lil. There on Aunt Lil’s porch the sisters would congregate and kibitz.

It’s hard not to wonder if there would be less need for therapy if we all had a place to go, without needing an invitation much less an appointment, where we would gather and trustingly tell one another what was really going on in our lives.

My grandmother taught me a love of reading—by reading me comic books. I don’t recall her ever reading me a book. But the range of characters I met in those dime paper stapled stories was remarkable—we would go from Red Rider to Felix the Cat to Little LuLu to the Katzenjammer Kids before dinner, which invariably was a “meat cake” (a hamburger pattie) bought at the A & P on the way home from being with Aunt Lil and the sisters. “Here comes Mrs. Rogers. Get out the hamburger.”

Yes, she was a character. And the older I get, the more I feel her presence. While we kept our eyes on the sidewalks, she spent most of the time between lunch and heading up-street, just playing solitaire.

And what has this to do with now?

Now we have a front porch. Two chairs. We have lots of wonderful neighbors, neighbors who greet, and often stop to kibitz. And that’s when it all comes back. Well, almost all. The most important part is those just walking by.  And I realize that because of this Covid I feel a deep, profound gratitude for each kindness from each neighbor as they pass.

My Grandmother Lived Mostly on Her Porch

Git,” snarled my grandmother
at any stray dog
sniffing at her lawn.
If it set a paw
on her property,
she’d yell, “Go on;
Git out of here. Go on. Git!”
and it would take off down the walk.
She lived alone, her husband, Lover,
dying four months before
my mother and I came
to live with her in her house
where she read me Marvel Comics,
taught me
the Jack of Spades is the bullet,
and took me every day
for a walk “Up street.”
We’d stop at the bank
wander through the five and ten,
sit for a couple hours
with her three sisters
on Aunt Lil’s porch.
On the way home,
we’d pick up a loaf of bread,
and some ground round for a meat cake.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Sunrust.
Subsequently published in Between (Dawn Valley Press).

On August 4, Matthew Baker’s new bookWhy Visit America? Henry Holt & Co., comes out. It has already received exceptional reviews, and Matt has offered remarkably insightful interviews. Esquire Magazine has called it one of the twenty must-read books published this summer.

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

The Morning after the Tenth Straight Loss

jacknotafraidofamask

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. Maybe a story for our times…

My father is coaching the University of Pittsburgh’s basketball team.. It’s the mid ’60s.

After losing the opening game, PITT goes on the longest winning streak in the country. Sports Illustrated features the team. All the starters are from no more than maybe 15 miles from campus.

One day after practice my father is approached by a guy who introduces himself
as “Sonny Vaccaro. I’m from Pittsburgh, but I work for NIKE, and have come up
with a new promotion, and I’d like to offer you the first chance at taking advantage of it.”

“OK. what’s the deal?”

“We’ll give you $100,000 if you outfit your team in NIKE gear.”

“What?!?”

“Yep. That’s all you have to do. Just have your boys wear only NIKE sports
apparel when they play and practice.”

My father asked him to leave. He then called the University, asked for full security if Vaccaro came around the field house, his office, his home.

About all he ever said to us was, “No one should have to decide between money
and doing the right thing.”

My father coached one more year. He retired at 55. He never explained why he
retired that early from coaching the game he loved. They would have had to drag
him out of the gym. His salary when he gave up what he loved was around $18K a year.

The Morning after the Tenth Straight Loss

“The only thing that’s happy in my life,”
Coach thinks, “is my dog’s tail.” He looks
at his hands and wonders what they could
have held. It’s a day when the temperature
will stay below zero. He goes upstairs,
all the losses lying in his mind’s graveyard,
opens a window, reaches for the heat tape
dangling from the snow covered roof, grabs it,
pulls it inside, plugs it in. His dog
has followed. Downstairs, on his bookshelf
are his gardening books: The Gardener’s
Garden
, Guide to Creative Gardening, All
About Perennials
. In the fall, he strung
last summer’s geraniums from a string
across the basement, the plants dangling
in the slant of light through the earth-high
window. He goes back down, looks
at the morning paper, sees another
loss, goes to the shelf, takes All About
Perennials
, goes to the living room, sits
on the sofa, one hand turning the pages,
one hand scratching his dog’s right ear.

–Jack Ridl

From Losing Season, CavanKerry Press, 2013

On August 4, Matthew Baker’s new book, Why Visit America? Henry Holt & Co., comes out. It has already received exceptional reviews, and Matt has offered remarkably insightful interviews. Esquire Magazine has called it one of the twenty must-read books published this summer.

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

Reasons Enough

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. 

How are you holding up? For a lot of us it has gotten more difficult.

We are trying our best within the rise of the pandemic, the beginning of an overflow of messages from candidates and organizations, and the despicable words and acts of 45.

It’s overwhelming enough, let alone each time I hit unsubscribe, I feel I’ve let down helping out with all that really matters.

This is a second wave. We haven’t finished the first. We miss our break to get out, gather hugs, hang out with the people who keep us going.

I spent part of the morning playing with Hattie our cat. I have never pet Vivi so many times during a day. Of course I can’t scratch her butt enough as far as she is concerned. I always thought I would love having this much time to read.

There’s this sneaky feeling that I am lurking. It helps to get into the garden, even just sit on the porch and watch the sunset, most anything that doesn’t require passing through a barrier.

Well, we will make it. I am, for one thing, changing my view from “reading” to reading this book I’ve never experienced.

Reasons Enough

Because the afternoon sun shines through the window and settles on the pillows
And because the last of the summer sausage was stuck in the back of the fridge
That’s why. And—
The way the car starts like a bad joke
The way yesterday’s mail sits on the desk
The way the priest holds the host and carries the crucifix
Oh, and
Because of the Hopper print in the bedroom
Because of the maps of the Florida Keys in the glove compartment
Because of the burro’s tail drooping down across the open kitchen shelves
And the rosary beads on the mantle, the dog dish on its mat, the garden rake leaning against the side of the house
Also, when it rains at night, Sarah Vaughan, the radio
And the end of the driveway, that big rock with hostas around it, and the light on the back porch

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Journal (Ohio State University Press)
Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

J.R. Solonche’s The Time of Your Life is out, his latest from Adelaide Books.

Rosemary Wahola Trommer’s new book Hush, winner of the Halcyon Prize for a collection of poems about human ecology, is a book-long love song to humanity and the natural world. It’s driven by curiosity and a willingness to dance in the unknown.  You will want this one, I promise.

Ginger Rankin’s novel , Grapefruit Parlor, is out on Amazon a novel that explores human trafficking in terribly personal detail. Touching, terrifying, and hopeful by turns. You won’t forget it.

R.A. Kamin’s first novel, The Other One, is out on Amazon. A psychological thriller that has your heart firmly in your throat from beginning to end. Set in the West Michigan!

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

Poem Beginning with Of Course

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. 

This past Thursday Jean Kirchner was honored by the U.S. Navy in a formal ceremony as she retired from her remarkable career.

Jean saved many lives — many after their tours of duty. She enabled Navy personnel suffering from trauma, PTSD, suicidal tendencies, to be restored to their civilian lives, some to return to duty.

Jean, like so many, is a hero who will go unnoticed while at the same time she will be able to recall the lives she restored.

She and her husband Gary were among my first students and could never have known way back then that they enabled me to recognize that if this is what teaching is like, I don’t want to do anything else.

Like so many events today, the ceremony took place on ZOOM. So there I sat at home facing a group of senior officers honoring Jean. I was to close the ceremony with two poems.

What touched me so much was how profoundly sincere, personal, and serious in celebration each officer was,  speaking directly to Jean. Voices cracked. Jean touched the corner of her eye. Her husband smiled.

Out of somewhere came the realization that sitting in front of me was the embodiment of courage; however, this time I recognized not only military courage which was most certainly evident, but moral courage. In the past week, these and many other senior officers had to display a kind of courage for which they have always been ready, but hope never to face: to firmly defend the Constitution against their so-called leader. This itself had to be traumatic. And there they were distinguishing one of their own in times that threaten the very stuff of people like Jean and Gary Kirchner.

Jean, we wish you quieter times. We thank you for your humane, life-restoring work. And we thank each officer we met that morning for defending our country against an inside force who does not know how to defend us, only how to defend himself.

Poem Beginning with Of Course

–for Jean Kirchner

Of course there are days when

the story slowly becomes one

we have known before: quiet

except for the highway

humming a mile away

while we still sleep within

the dream that hasn’t yet

awakened us. The morning

will slip away like the dew

on the hostas, ferns, and

butterbur. Mid-afternoon

will hang its heavy heat

on the spiders’ webs

while the cosmos droop

their startle of pink into

the bees’ bypass. Our ragged

cushions sit on the haphazard

disassembly of Adirondacks

we bought when we wondered

if we would stay where time

now settles into itself, the two

of us waiting within what lingers.

–Jack Ridl

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

Rosemary Wahola Trommer’s new book Hush, winner of the Halcyon Prize for a collection of poems about human ecology, is a book-long love song to humanity and the natural world. It’s driven by curiosity and a willingness to dance in the unknown.  You will want this one, I promise.

Ginger Rankin’s novel , Grapefruit Parlor, is out on Amazon a novel that explores human trafficking in terribly personal detail. Touching, terrifying, and hopeful by turns. You won’t forget it.

R.A. Kamin’s first novel, The Other One, is out on Amazon. A psychological thriller that has your heart firmly in your throat from beginning to end. Set in the West Michigan!

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

Late Night Jazz Station, Coach Listening

Jack might just livestream today’s poem at 9am, ET,  on his Facebook Page here,  where the video will will be saved for later viewing.  Buuuuuuttttt, he might not. He had lower back surgery yesterday, and though, at this writing, he is doing great, he might decide to sleep in…  Meanwhile, you can find all of his past Livestream videos here. 

Black lives always mattered to my father. Here is how he taught us…
(I apologize to those of you who have heard these stories…)

My father was the Captain of a black company in WWII. In boot camp he drank from a different fountain, showered, slept, ate in different tents. One day he noticed that his men’s equipment was not equal to the white companies’ equipment. He confronted the General, and his men were given equal equipment. But still the separate quarters, separate eating spaces. Later, he would wonder aloud to us why he hadn’t noticed these things then. “It’s just the way it was.”

One night, in 1958 (correction, 1957), before civil rights was in our consciousness, my father, now the basketball coach at a small college in western Pennsylvania, started three black players.

The next morning he was called into the president’s office. When Dad came home for lunch, we asked, “What was that about?”

My father said, “The president looked me in the eye and said two words, ‘Next game,’ and then he held up two fingers.”

My mother, sister, and I sat stunned, frightened. We assumed our father’s job was on the line. One obeys the president. We tried to just go ahead and eat our lunch. But after a few swallows, I couldn’t take it, and I stammered, “What’re you gonna do?”

My father finished his sandwich, wiped his fingers, paused, took a breath, and firmly but quietly said, “Next game,” and he held up four fingers.

And that’s what he did.

Titans 1957

Late Night Jazz Station, Coach Listening

Coach lets those good notes
float, swing their good way
into his late night. He smiles,
and his eyelids lower, and his
young dream comes sauntering
down the aisle of his mind.
He plays the sax.

“Here, Coach, take it,”
and he blows the meanest
wail, so mean that Bix
looks up, drops his chops,
Diz’s cheeks collapse,
and Duke and Lionel both turn
to Miles who laughs and says,
“Man, Count, we’ve all been had.”

Coach is hot. The whole joint
is swinging as he leans down,
blowing his whole damn life out
his horn. Everyone’s clapping,
stomping, shouting, “Yeah!”

Even Bird is flattened, floored,
turns to Mingus, says, “That’s
it. We got a sax.” Coach
can’t believe his ears, hits
a last long, loving note,
letting it hang in the air, feeling
the reed go limp against his tongue.
No one says a word.

Coach looks up,
gives them all a nod,
and takes his leave, the
whole place wondering
where the hell he’s been
and where the hell he’s going.

for Paul Zimmer

–Jack Ridl

Published in Between (Dawn Valley Press.)
Subsequently published in a slightly different form in Losing Season (CavanKerry Press)

 

On June 21 at 2pm I will give an online reading with Charles Baxter and Laurel Blossom as part of M. L. Liebler’s Living Room Online Literary Series on ZOOM. You can find the zoom link here.  I hope you can join us.

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

The Man Who Decided to See

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

You can’t make me wear a mask to protect the lives of others!
You can’t make me wear a seatbelt.
I can drive as fast as I want–and drunk.
You can’t make me wear a shirt and shoes in your store.
You can’t make me buy a hunting license.
You can’t make me put a stamp on a letter.
You can’t make me get a driver’s license.
You can’t make me stop at a stop sign.
You can’t make me stop yelling “FIRE” in a crowded theater.
The NRA can’t make me pay dues to join.
You can’t make me stop selling porn to minors.
You can’t make me get screened before boarding a plane.
You can’t make me stop grabbing any woman I want to in public.
It’s a free country. THAT’S what LIBERTY means, Stupid!

I’d love to be liberated from all the stupidity.

Did you know that one dog sniffing another dog’s butt gathers more news in that one whiff than FOX NEWS has ever broadcast?

People tell me how much more and how much better they SEE now.

They take the time to see, not just to look, but really to see: things they have around the house that others have given them, photographs, what’s outside the window, in the natural world, walking by, a long lost memory, color, a painting.

It takes time to see, to see deeply into things, to not pass by, to see a child, grandchild, sibling, parent, friend. One of the kindest things we can do for others is to see them when they talk to us.

The Man Who Decided to See

And for the first time he saw
the boy on the bicycle who sped by

his porch, then the yellowing leaf
on the back step. He saw a cloud bank

in his rear view mirror, and followed
the winding glide of the crack

in the sidewalk he took to the grocery
where he saw a woman in the bakery dab

the corner of her eye; he smiled as he saw
the way his wife’s hair spread across her shoulders.

He stopped to see the photo on the top of the
television, the frame chipped in the lower left

corner. Stars; the blue moon; the scarred
cutting board. The way the light fell across their bed.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Scintilla

Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)

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.

My first publisher, Nancy Esther James, has published a collection of her highly reflective poems: Avenues Toward Light (Dawn Valley Press).

M.L. Liebler has created an engaging reading series on ZOOM. Write to him for details. He has invited me to read with Charles Baxter and Laurel Blossom on June 21 at 2pm.

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.

Poem

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

Our daughter and her husband were visiting — six feet apart — friends who have a four-year-old daughter. Mid-conversation, the little one piped up, “I want the germs to go away. I want to hug my friends and hold their hands.”

It got to me this week that I was waking up and immediately realizing that no matter what 45 pulls off or what the latest report on Covid-19 is, this day will be just about the same as the day before, and tomorrow also will be.

Then out of nowhere it hit me: without 45 and without Covid-19, the day would still be pretty much the same. So I better take a nap and adjust my thinking to the realization that getting to read and watch the garden come into blossom and listen to music all through the day and walk the dog and have Julie here and once in a while have a neighbor appear to greet and, and, and…

But I’d still like to hug you and hold your hand.

Poem

I trust what my body says.
It is soft-spoken, never shouts,
gently whispers or nudges me into place.
I think you know what I mean.

Yesterday, it told me to go to the market
and buy a box of graham crackers.
I did. But it didn’t want the crackers,
just the walk to market and back.
Maybe another day.

Today, I feel it taking me outside.
“It’s sunny,” it says.
And I agree.

                                               for William Stafford

–Jack Ridl

Published in Between (Dawn Valley Press)

P.S. …

“All you can do is face the world with quiet grace and hope you make a sliver of a difference.”

–Brian Doyle from his remarkable collection of essays, One Long River of Song (Little Brown).

The sweetest email this week came from poet Garret Stack. He shared that in an interview with Pine Row Press, he was asked if any poets inspire him. He said that Ted Kooser was his “strongest influence,” and, “More recently, I’m inspired by… Jack Ridl who is quietly waging the most peaceful and poetic political protest in history.” I love that.

Jim Allis was here this morning and told me about waking up and deciding to deliver 70 pizzas to the families of the kids in his Tae Kwon Do class.

Naomi Shihab Nye has a new collection: CAST 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.

My first publisher, Nancy Esther James, has published a collection of her highly reflective poems: Avenues Toward Light (Dawn Valley Press).

M.L. Liebler has created an engaging reading series on ZOOM. Write to him for details. He has invited me to read with Charles Baxter and Laurel Blossom on June 21 at 2pm.

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.

 

At Home

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

May is trying.

Change of subject: I prefer justice. You too?

And a country with a rule of law.

“Making me wear a mask infringes on my individual liberty.” These yahoos can still fire a semi-automatic with a tiny piece of cloth covering their noses and foul mouths.

And while I’m ranting, what’s with this “I hate ZOOM and Marco Polo, and FaceTime” grousing? Okay, let’s spend this interminable time without being able to see our grandkids, friends, loved ones.

And the alternative is?

The other day I emailed a friend asking how he and his wife were doing. I love his response. The first thing he said was, “It’s a good thing we like each other.” I thought about how important that is. Does one’s love include like? He went on to say that they have set up a pattern to their day and instead of that being boring, it keeps them from every morning groaning, “What are we ever going to do today?” They first watch mass on TV, then read, do the crossword. They take a morning and an afternoon walk usually downtown where there is a chance of meeting someone they know and having a conversation from six feet away. They watch a British mystery, Midsommer Murders. And they ZOOM with Kathleen and Mary (daughters) and sometimes with nieces and Maura’s (spouse) brother.

A “pattern.” I was struck by his choice of that word. All that it implies. And how after mass, each activity undermines repetition.

Wishing you great new patterns and the great good luck to have the means to reach out to loved ones and friends and coworkers…

At Home

We have settled here.
The wind is moving across the dunes,
and the sun-alert afternoon glows.
This is where we stay.
There are friends,
few enough to be friends.
What we know whispers
beneath the bed’s crocheted
canopy, hanging above us
as if to bring us closer.
During the day we walk
around the house, see
out the window: money plant,
beeches clawing the dunes,
the hole under the neighbor’s porch
where the cats hide, the firewood
stacked by the back door, one
chipmunk sitting on top, the car rusting.
We are alone.
That keeps most everything never
ours, helps us keep a kindly distance,
preserves our only chance.

–Jack Ridl

First Published in Paintbrush, a journal of Poetry, Translations, and Letters
Subsequently published in The Same Ghost (Dawn Vally 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.

Innisfree Journal edited by Greg McBride twice each year features a poet felt to be overlooked. This issue features work from each of Jack’s books and his contributions to poetry through his teaching.

Don’t miss subscribing to this podcast.  And Then Suddenly is the brainchild of the kind and brilliant Angela Santillo, whose path I’ve crossed once before while working with CavanKerry Press. Her podcast has a brilliant premise…  Describe a moment in your life that changed… everything. She’s had that moment, and from it she has made this podcast. Here’s the conversation we had recently.  I hope you explore many of the episodes. Because they will change you. In a good way.

Jack’s Homily, “The Devil Went Down to Douglas” is here for those of you interested in marking the occasion.