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.

Christian

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

Prayer for the Moral Heart

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. 

I said to Julie, “I haven’t had my stomach in such a knot since my dad had to play North Carolina!”

Well, this is it, everyone. This is the first post for the beginning of the next four years. It’s also my last protest post. Four years ago I thought to counter this awful man and his minions by giving the only thing I have to give. I got  so much in return from you.

So, starting next week, each Thursday at 9am instead Julie and I will do our Facebook video chat-and-a-poem only, the emphasis being empathy, as we work to survive the pandemic together. You’ll find me at that link above.

Of course I have wondered all four years whether doing this was worth it to anyone out there. I’m grateful for the responses that came in each week. They were sustaining.

This week, knowing we were nearing some kind of closure, revealing the ugly underbelly that has been there all along, waking us up to how fragile a moral nation is, I received two sustaining messages. One is from an American citizen; the other from a German citizen.

From our American friend Joe MacDoniels: “Here is hoping that you will be able to present a ‘last in the series’ poem on Thursday! That said, I hope you will also announce a new ‘Julie and Jack’ series that will shine a light on redemption, resolution and, dare I say ‘resurrection’ for America and a democratic vision of fairness, equality and hope. With appreciation for four years of starting my Thursdays with glimmers of light, memories and the joy of just falling into the wonderful implications of your words! –Joe

And from German friend Josef Hien: “Dear Jack, I just read a book by Terry Pratchett, from the Discworld series, and I stumbled upon something that made me think of you and what you did the last four years.  In it, a good witch has to fight a daemon called the Cunning Man. He is responsible for spreading fear and hate among people—and when she finally has to face him she says, ‘Your power is only rumor and lies. You bore your way into people when they are uncertain and weak and worried and frightened, and they think their enemy is other people when their enemy is, and always will be, you—the master of lies. Outside you are fearsome; inside, you are nothing but weakness. Inside, I am flint.’ A line a little earlier says, ‘Poison goes where poison’s welcome.’ I really hope that next week there will be not enough hearts and places to be found where poison is welcome. All my best wishes for you—and thank you for being flint!”

And thank YOU all for being flint! All this time, every Thursday and every day.

Prayer for the Moral Heart

There are those who know
the world without words,

not even a murmur or
a breath. Within the modesty

of presence, a prayer
could be green, tattered,

cold, alone as a possum
crossing a back road. It’s

the touch of the still. It’s
where we are Amen,

Shalom, Namaste—it’s our
there, here, our forgotten

habitat of yes. We become
sigh, our “I” the wet dog,

the sparrow nesting
in the anonymity of brown.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Southern Poetry Review
Subsequently published in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University

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

Blue Sky Over Key West

Jack will NOT be reading this poem over livestream on Facebook today. He’s having trouble with a lot of nerve pain again, and he will be taking a little break while we work to get it under control. Prayers and incantations for him, if you are into that sort of thing, please.

Well, Never did I think I would be sitting here four years later.
I certainly don’t need to ask you to VOTE!
And HOPE!

Blue Sky Over Key West

Sometimes when we stand in the loss
of it all, surrounded by what we will never

be, the sky seems to be just fine. It’s blue.
It’s many shades of blue. And it’s there

and will be when we join the landscape
of the invisible. Clouds cross, none ever

the same. And that’s when we realize again
that there actually is no sky, just another

anonymous unknown we are sure we see.
When our dog steps out onto the deck of

our little houseboat bobbing on the nameless
blue-green of this bight and lifts his nose into

the gull-crossed and sea-soaked breeze,
does he see our sky? I like to suppose

he does. Though most likely it’s something
his gentle nose has brought for only him.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

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

The remarkably prolific and playfully serious poet J.R. Solonche has just come out with two collections: The Moon Is the Capital of the World and A Guide of the Perplexed.

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

On the Last Day of the World

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. Two weeks away.

I was raised to be very careful about using the word “Evil.”

It was never to be applied haphazardly. Hitler was evil. 45’s way of responding to Gretchen Whitmer, who bravely extended the lockdown here in Michigan and saved who knows how many lives, along with his vicious attacks on Dr. Fauci who has devoted his life to saving lives long after he could have retired, and the heinous accusations placed on Hunter Biden and promoted by that Cheshire Cat Guiliani and the ethically mangled Murdoch’s false journalists led me to brand the word on the protruding foreheads of 45 and his band of conscienceless pranksters.

45 and his henchmen are most certainly evil.

Good soul after good soul have told me that it’s reached the point where they are having physical reactions: stomach pains, increased pressure in the heart, headaches, surge depletion, ambivalent loss, increased anxiety, depression either mild or severe.

G. F. Korreck is one of those people whose interests are so eclectic, a man so humbly knowledgeable and intelligent that awe comes my way in our every conversation. And he’s an exceptional poet with an uncommon imagination. Today he sent to me the following piece of light verse he composed, which if you tilt your head, ain’t light, or is. Both. I secured his permission to include it in today’s post.

“My Favorite President”

serves me
french toast
every morning
and fresh squeezed orange
juice my napkin
has the constitution printed
in script every day
he sings the hallelujah
chorus he rescues a puppy
each afternoon he takes
my mom for a walk
and then shopping and
then to Taco Bell for lunch
he lets me watch old
videos of football
games my favorite
team won and gives
me a dollar
to spend wastefully

my favorite president
has Jimmy John’s cater dinner topped off
by a carton of blue
moon ice cream
and then we watch
tombstone
for the 80th time
my bed gets turned down
the sheets always
fresh the blankets
new and warm
the night light
is a star that sings
lullabies and
then
when it gets real dark
my favorite president
leaves as quietly as
a whisper never heard

–G. F. Korreck

Tonight is the workshop of outstanding poets, ten of ‘em. I think this is our 12th year. Not one emailed me, “But what about the debate?”

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
Published in Third Wednesday

Laura Donnelly’s Midwest Gothic, recipient of the Richard Snyder Memorial Prize and published by Ashland Poetry Press, is one mesmerizing collection. How can you not read poems with tales such as “Miss Missaukee,1966” and “Boat Song in F-sharp Minor”? On sale from the press, or wherever fine books are sold.

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

Fractals

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. 

It’s time for a hodgepodge. How can you follow the importance of one thing to another?

The virus has us all thinking with accompanied anxieties, plural, about the upcoming winter. And if you are where we are in Michigan, that means cold until May. What is the virus like in the freezing cold? I have yet to be told.

However, I should’ve begun with the wonder that is autumn. It all makes me feel honest awe, and at my age, I should be immune. I am not. The way the colors choreograph their appearance is silently orchestral.

Then there was my grandmother. (You met her before if you follow these posts.) Every year we—the family—would head out for a “color tour.” We’d beg her to go along. She would always refuse. Off we’d go, jaws dropping at every turn. On our return, she’d ask how it was, and my sister and I would all but jump around the room exclaiming the dazzle. Mom and Dad would maturely concur. My grandmother, who always sat in “her” chair by the window would turn, point out at all the trees that filled her front yard and quietly say, “Did they look like these?”

And we’re gonna worry about the holidays. How can we have them? They are tradition at its most celebrated.

And November 3. What will happen? What has happened is unconscionable. I started these postings not to argue with 45, but to counter him. I thought four-five months, tops. Frankly, I’m tired. Joe has to let me, if I keep going—kinda up to you—Joe has to enable me to write the sentiment-filled stuff I love to notice.

And if things are serious, I want them to be serious-personal as in the last two days. I’ve worked on poetry with Episcopal priest Rich Frontjes and retired philosophy professor Jim Allis, both of whom compose important, humane poems. I’ve heard and responded to the death of a friend’s father and brother, and I listened to a friend as he told me, somehow, of the death in a car wreck of his friends, a mother and daughter-in-law. Our daughter had a colleague commit suicide yesterday. I am doing the Crop Walk (For me, the Crop Limp?) and I am overwhelmed at the kindness and generosity of so many friends. I write these because I know you are experiencing similar personal experiences and want to give your time and attention to them, not to this virus and certainly no to four more years of gaslighting.

Example: Can you believe the doctor who treated 45 declaring him, what? Safe! 45? Safe??

This doctor took a Hippocratic oath.

That’s enough. Let’s savor the changing of the leaves. Let’s make it a secularly spiritual ritual. let’s all feel like jumping in the leaves, or like my grandmother, just look out the window.

Fractals

On this autumn afternoon, the light
falls across the last sentence in a letter,
just before the last movement of Brahms’
Fourth Symphony, a recording made more
than 20 years ago, the time when we were
looking for a house to rehabilitate, maybe
take out a wall and let the kitchen open
up into the living room, put in a window
so the morning light could fall across
the bed my wife’s grandmother made
the canopy for, the bed she slept in for
forty years. She was a doctor looking
for a town close enough that we can
drive past where she practiced, imagine
her picking up her violin when there
was time between patients, settle
it under her chin and play, looking
out the window into the same street we
drive down on our way to visit our
daughter in her studio. She creates
dresses, stitches turning into lines,
fabric turning into sculpture hanging
under her skylight, the dresses’ threads
knotted, their edges frayed. When
we knock on her door, she welcomes
us with cups of steaming tea, turns
down the jazz and kisses us. She
is happy in this light and later she
will ask us how we like our new place,
laugh when we begin to tell her all
our plans for tearing out the kitchen,
knocking out a wall so we can see
deep into the wood, along the creek
that twists itself around a pile of rocks
and through the trees. She makes us
dinner as we listen to Miles Davis,
“Birth of the Cool”—I always wonder
why he ended with a vocal, one
that sounds recorded twenty years
before. Its notes are sleepy,
the voices like smoke. At home
the dog and cats are sleeping. We
forgot to leave a light on for them,
but the radio is playing, and when we
get there, they will want to go outside.
The dog will pause for a scratch behind
his ears, his tail wagging as the cats
jump off the couch, hurry out the door,
disappear into the dark.
We’ll tune the radio to a symphony,
watch the moon harvesting
its light through the back window.

–Jack Ridl

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 Chair

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

Because some personal losses happened this week that had nothing to do with Covid-19 or the protests, I thought a lot about those who are grieving in the midst of these events that affect us all. One still receives sympathy emails and notes along with baked goods, a casserole or two. But friends to sit with and be comforted by?

How does one personally grieve when one is already overwhelmed? Can you say to yourself, “I’ll put personal grieving off until family and friends can gather? No. Grief is an ambush. It attacks when it attacks, certainly immediately in the form of shock, then as the days crawl by, it sneak-attacks, and you find yourself crying in the produce section and wondering why.

And yet if you turn away from the hideous blaspheming of 45, the beautiful solidarity of the protests, the welfare of others regarding Covid, and the need to actually “serve and protect,” you feel you’ve put aside what could be — finally — a shift from consuming what isn’t needed to caring for what is.
I need to change the tone.

Let’s imagine 45’s book report on The Bible. First sentence, “It’s incredible.”

The Chair

This chair is empty. This evening
is another evening coming down around
us like the last moment before
the winds are gone and the wild
songs of the insects disappear into
the endless dream of the mind’s nest.

Whoever is not sitting in that chair
is who is resting in your veins, ready
to drift out of you, taking the voices
that interrupt the child’s play,
that hover over the marriage bed, mocking
the rhythm of being alone, ripping
the last chance from the last chance.

This empty chair sits, and sits facing
the window that frames the light
that you imagine is a gift
knowing its source is fire, its long journey
a flood, its movement through
the spider’s web a grace no less invincible
than sight. These are the days.
These are the nights. And at rest,
the empty chair.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Free Lunch. Subsequently published in Between(Dawn Vally Press).

On June 21 at 2pm I will give an online reading with charles Baxter and Laurel Blossom as part of M.L. Liebler engaging reading series on ZOOM. Write to him for details. 

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.

Linda Hillringhouse has a personally powerful book of poems out about the things that shape her life. The Things I Didn’t Know to Wish Forfrom NYQ Books.

Dan Gerber’s new, beautifully reflective long poemLandscape at Eighty, has been gorgeously printed in letterpress by Hound Dog Press.

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.

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

At Breakfast — 1965

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

“I can’t breathe!”

This sentence will never again be spoken without an eruption of consciousness. Its connotation has been forever changed, become a sorrowful mantra. 

And the people who took advantage of the righteous anger of African Americans to wreak their own havoc just sicken me. Speaking of whom…

Indelible is the image of 45 standing before Saint John’s and hoisting the Bible — about which he is illiterate — as a weapon.

45 has decimated any progress our country has tried to make toward its ideals. He might as well pull down every symbol of the nation’s dream. He has made the Statue of Liberty a symbol of our gravest hypocrisy.

Our dream of democracy has devolved into the battle scene from a Batman film. Our beautiful cities are suddenly cartoon Gothams.

“I can’t breathe”—and I mean this with deep sorrow and respect—“I can’t breathe” will forever be our metaphor. We all woke this morning feeling that metaphor: We can’t breathe.

45 called state and local leaders weak.

I hope the weak will inherit the earth.

At Breakfast–1965

“Appalling!” said Grace. “How in the world
could you join that fraternity?” She peered over

her bowl of Granola. I wanted to admit the vow
included, “Being white and of Christian birth.”

I poured myself another cup of coffee, cut it
with cream. Then I told her. Our black friend

across the table nodded. And Grace said, “How
could you say that? It’s horrid, horrifying!” I rolled

my hard-boiled egg along the table, peeled off
its shell, dabbed the white in the salt lying on my plate.

–Jack

On June 21 at 2pm I will give an online reading with charles Baxter and Laurel Blossom as part of M.L. Liebler engaging reading series on ZOOM. Write to him for details. 

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.

Linda Hillringhouse has a personally powerful book of poems out about the things that shape her life. The Things I Didn’t Know to Wish For, from NYQ Books.

Dan Gerber’s new, beautifully reflective long poem, Landscape at Eighty, has been gorgeously printed in letterpress by Hound Dog Press.

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.

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

Broken Symmetry

This week’s New Yorker cover: 45 is wearing a coronavirus mask, but it’s covering his eyes.

This morning I said to Julie, I can’t think of a thing to write this week.
So off I went into the day, thinking maybe something will come to me.

I washed Vivi-the-dog’s water dish and filled it with fresh water, nice and cold.
I put some of our favorite clothes into the washer.
Patted Vivi. Scratched her butt. She loves that.
Scratched cat Hattie behind her ears.
During the night I awoke to discover Vivi between Julie and me, and Hattie snuggled up beside me.
I made the bed. I usually trip over the three or four pillows Julie has dropped on her side.
I laughed at the Laurel and Hardy bed-making bit: “Now we’re getting somewhere!” We have some beautiful pillows that dance off the colorscape by Del Michel. Every morning they cheer me.
I “turned on” both fireplaces, watched the flames flicker.
In the room we call the cottage, I watched the zany squirrels and the
wonderful variety of birds come to the feeder.
Looking out that window and into the woods I thought of two dear friends who were having surgery that day.
I made the coffee, waiting for the little whistle telling me the water was ready to pour over the beans I’d ground.
Then Julie and I sat before the “fire” and sipped and savored. Vivi curled up with us, Hattie somewhere.
Julie checked her phone for any news I needed to know. I checked mine for any poems that her heart might need.
After an hour, a friend came. We meet once each week for a couple hours for conversations that you would enjoy, and to explore the poem he wrote that week…
As we sat there in the “cottage,” a goldfinch flew against the large window that looks out to the feeders and into the woods. That majestic patch of color landed on the ground and didn’t move.
We went out to carry the finch into the woods to bury her.
I turned her over, lifted a wing that was tucked beneath her stomach. Her head moved. Moved again. And then she flew off into the woods, stopped on a branch and seemed to look back.

Again I was reminded that what matters is every day that is, was, and will be.

Broken Symmetry

Angels never have to worry
about their wings: lose a feather here
or there, a new perfection floats down

across the landscape, catching itself
on its cousin the tree branch, landing
on its second cousin the leaf, or even

along its third cousin twice removed,
the blacktop highway. There is so much
symmetry that in the mirror your left

side resembles your left side even though
it’s never quite the same as your
right. Go deeper. All the cells split

into identical ice dancers, all
the electrons spin the same bacchanal.
Only the broken reveals, gives

the universe its chance at being
interesting, says a door is not
an elephant, the moon is not a

salad fork. So, break the bread
in two, drink half the glass of wine,
slice the baby down the middle, cut

the corner, divide the time. Tonight
the moon will once again reflect the sun’s
monotonous dazzle, and the old light

making its dumb way to us, will break
our symmetry of coming home,
of passing on the street.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Field.
Subsequently Published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

Don’t forget to check out D.R. James’Flip Requiem with cover by Meridith Ridl. Find it at your bookstore, or order from the publisher Dos Madres Press, Inc.

At last, the reading at The BookNook & Java Shop in Montague has been set for 7pm on April 28, when I’ll be joined by friend and poet Mark Hiskes. I guarantee you will love the place along with its good food and beverages. Many thanks to owner and arts promoter Bryan Uecker.

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

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.

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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.

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

Michael Steinberg Made the World Better

Hi folks. Julie here. We are early this week. It’s a hard day, and we needed to talk about it…

Carole just wrote to us. Michael has died. We are staggered. We are staggered the way we are all staggered, trying to imagine the world without our loved ones in it. It’s unimaginable. And it should be, really. Hard to fathom. Anything less would say so little about the life. We should all aim to leave a hole in the world that staggers people.

Michael Steinberg.

Mike.

Many thousands of writers and readers could walk arm-in-arm through the hole Mike has left us. It is enormous and raggedly edged.

And that’s because Mike invented and taught us a whole new way to tell our stories. Then he made sure our stories were heard.

Really, what better gift could a person give the world, what better legacy could a person leave than giving us a new way to connect, one to an other? By giving us a Fourth Genre, he showed us how creative non-fiction can transport us to someone else’s place and time and experience.

And he poured more of his life into teaching and celebrating other people’s writing than anyone we knew. He celebrated Jack’s poems too, because he was generous that way. He listened to Jack’s stories, and Jack listened to his, and Carole and I were very patient, taking walks to stare into woods or along shorelines,  when many… well, most… of those stories centered on sports.

He introduced us to so many writers. And by us, I mean Jack and Julie, but I especially mean you, and the world. Editors paid attention to the writers Michael paid attention to. Careers quietly and not so quietly launched by his careful reading and coaching, his boundless energy for this work.

No. It’s hard to walk through this day, and it’s hard to imagine tomorrow without Michael. And if it’s hard for us, we can hardly dip a toe into Carole’s pain.  So let’s go to her now, and tell her we will never forget him. Not ever. Impossible.

Without looking for it, this poem landed in my lap this morning. It makes me think of that kid in Brooklyn, playing baseball anywhere he could hunt up a game. And then finding his girl.

Carole, we love you…  J&J

Psalm

I am still on a rooftop in Brooklyn
on your holy day. The harbor is before me,
Governor’s Island, Verrazano Bridge
and the Narrows. I keep in my head
what Rabbi Nachmann said about the world
being a narrow bridge and that the important thing
is not to be afraid. So on this day
I bless my mother and father, that they be
not fearful where they wander. And I
ask you to bless them and before you
close your Book of Life, your Sefer Hachayim,
remember that I always praised your world
and your splendor and that my tongue
tried to say your name on Court Street in Brooklyn.
Take me safely through the Narrows to the sea.

–Harvey Shapiro
From A Momentary Glory — Last Poems, Wesleyan University Press

Poetry and the Spirit (Sold Out, Wait List Open)

IMG_0687A conversation with Pastor Sal of Douglas UCC and Poet Laureate of Douglas Jack Ridl will be held October 24, 7 to 9pm, at Douglas United Church of Christ, 54 Wall Street, Douglas, Michigan. Tickets are available at: http://bit.ly/poetryspirit

Sal Sapienza, pastor of the Douglas United Church of Christ,  is a writer, a spiritual pilgrim, and a progressive minister who seeks communion of all faiths and justice in all things. Poet Jack Ridl was once a pre-seminary student, a former professor of poetry, a workshop leader, who for many years studied Zen.

The evening will begin with Sal and Jack offering some of their ways of thinking about the spiritual and the poetic, which not only have much in common, but may be so intertwined as to be inseparable. After their conversation, the audience will join in with their questions, comments, wonderings, ways of thinking.

Sal and Jack will refer to their own books, so it may be useful to bring along your copies. Their books are available through online and real life bookstores. Reader’s World Bookstore will have books for sale before and after the discussion in the Friendship Hall.

Seating is limited, tickets are $10 and will be taken at the door. Buy your tickets at: http://bit.ly/poetryspirit