After Spending the Morning Baking Bread

Jack will post 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 anecdotes that in one way or another encapsulate our experiences during this inexplicable time:

After our Douglas UCC church service, we have a Zoom coffee hour. Remembering 9/11 was brought up and Pastor Sal gave a thoughtful and poignant response to the lives lost, some 3,000, and talked about Father Mychal, with whom Sal worked when he was a Christian Brother. You may have seen the iconographic photograph of the fireman carrying Father Mychal, the first official victim taken from the Towers. Father Mychal was priest to New York fire fighters.

I then brought up the nearly 200,000 people who have died because 45 refused to take proper early action against the virus. There are no dramatic photos of each of those people, just someone who passed away, likely in a hospital bed.

My comment aroused the fire of a lone Republican in defense of 45, who we all know is not at all even a Republican, but a despot. Well, that was interesting. I have never heard “Blessed are the liars and the billionaires for they shall inherit the earth.”

However, they are giving it their best shot.

To balance that unexpected experience, I have to tell you a rescue story. Julie is mothering two kittens she discovered behind the air conditioner at the same DUCC church, They are now about five or six weeks old and it is very difficult to stop watching them. They’re inseparable, curl all around one another when they sleep, eat out of the same bowl, although Jennifer tends to surreptitiously nudge Molly over in order to gobble more kitten repast. Of course Julie has created a kittens’ amusement park complete with towers to climb, boxes to hide within, a three-storey sleeping quarters and multiple stuffed everything that can be unstuffed and batted and carried by a kitten. Ya gotta smile, no matter where you are in the house you can hear them squeaking at each other. It’s a sound like no other.

So perhaps those two anecdotes in one way or another represent the lives most of us are leading. Anguish at its peak. Joy at its peak. I don’t know how we’re doing it, but we all are.

As we say in DUCC, “Namaste.” I hope you stay well, and if you are ill, may you recover to join us as we try to wander our way through these times like no others we have known.

After Spending the Morning Baking Bread

Our cat lies across the stove’s front burners,
right leg hanging over the oven door. He
is looking into the pantry where his bowl
sits full on the counter. His smaller dish,
the one for his splash of cream, sits empty.
Say yes to wanting to be this cat. Say
yes to wanting to lie across the left-over
warmth, letting it rise into your soft belly,
spreading into every twitch of whisker, twist
of fur and cell, through the mobius strip
of your bloodstream. You won’t know
you will die. You won’t know the mice
do not exist for you. If a lap is empty and
warm, you will land on it, feel an unsteady
hand along your back, fingers scratching
behind your ear. You will purr.

–Jack Ridl

First published in North American Review.
Subsequently published in Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (Wayne State
University Press)

J.R. Solonche has released not one but two new collections this year already: For All I Know and Piano Music. “In lines full of mischief or romance, gaiety or grief, he is the poet of the everyday, spent on Earth or in an imaginary heaven.”—Judith Farr, author of The Passion of Emily Dickinson

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

It Doesn’t Matter this Early in the Morning

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. 

My buddy from college, Mel, is a brilliant and eccentric therapist and professor, and has lectured throughout the world. His publications are multiple, he chairs his department while keeping his private practice.

In 1971, Melvin Miller is in Vietnam, in charge of a troop. He has his men leave a space during roll call for one invisible soldier — Private Harold Harnch. He orders his men to go into the jungle, tear down vines and make peace signs. A superior officer tried to have him court martialed, but the reasons were so absurd that they decided to just let it go.

“Sir, we demand a court martial for Miller’s invisible soldier.”

Nah.

One day Mel drove his jeep over a cliff. I can’t recall how many bones he broke.

He was sent home and placed in Valley Forge Military Hospital. I was living in Pittsburgh so I drove across Pennsylvania to visit him. And there he lay in bed with both his arms and both his legs held up in the air in traction. there was no way he could move. There was no way he could heal except by waiting — for a long time. And then very slowly begin to walk and lift, and move again. Painfully.

However he could talk.

“I got out of that damn lie of a war,” said Mel.

So 45 thinks our soldiers are “suckers” and “losers.” Say, what?

It Doesn’t Matter This Early in the Morning

The sun beats down
somewhere else and
the moon is lower
than the top of the trees.
The cat comes back from
its prowl and curls up
in front of the back door.
Coming up the street,
the headlights on the
night shift worker’s car
turn into his driveway. We
can hear the refrigerator,
the pump in the basement,
the fan in the bedroom
upstairs. If there are
ghosts, they have only
the silence, only the last
of the moon’s borrowed light.

—Jack Ridl

Published in Point Shirley/Oxford England

Laura Donnelly’s Midwest Gothic, winner of the Richard Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press is now available. Donnelly’s first collection, Watershed, won the 213 Cider Press Review Editors’ Prize.

Eco-poet Alison Swan’s new collection, A Fine Canopy has been released by Wayne State University Press.

Both of these collections reveal writers who care deeply about their subjects and the use of artistry that serves their subjects with evidence of mastery, purpose, and integrity.

All of these writers have new books that deserve our attention: Robert Fanning, Alison Luterman, Jeff Munroe, Heidi Aronson, Shea Tuttle Charlie Brice, Judith Brice, R.A. Kamin, Matthew Baker, Ginger Rankin (her husband was my dad’s first All-American player), Dan Gerber, Phyllis Klein, Linda Hillringhouse, Patricia Barnes, Lisa Lenzo, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Robert Hamblin, Faith Shearin, Nancy Esther James, Salvatore Sapienza, Kirk Westphal, Thomas Allbaugh, D.R. James.

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 Days

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. 

My neighbor, a black man in his 80s, will no longer leave his porch. Mostly he reads. His wife is white. She now does all the things that need to be done outside the house. During his lifetime, he has been a security guard in a hospital and at a college, where he once saved a young white woman from jumping from the roof of her dormitory. He owned a company in Detroit, lived through the riots.

He and his wife bought, and made highly successful, a rundown farm. He fell in love with the earth and with tending the produce he and his wife sold out by noon every day.

In the backyard behind our condos now he grows about a bucketful of potatoes. We had some for dinner last night.

No matter where they have lived, as soon as they moved in, he has gone to the local police station, first responder teams, and firefighters to introduce himself, give his address, and tell them that “If there is ever a need for you to come into our home, the white woman there is my wife.”

His grandfather’s family had been slaves who were given some land. Beginning around age ten my neighbor spent the summers working in his grandfather’s tobacco fields. His job: covering the plants with arsenic insecticide. Today he can barely breathe. 

Somehow through this whole long, fascinating and difficult and hardworking life he can find a way to laugh, and grow potatoes, and share them. But right now, he won’t leave his porch. Except to watch Portland and Kenosha and Minneapolis and Louisville. 

This is but one example of the consequences of 45’s bullying claim of being the “LAW & ORDER” president, protecting us from the “violence incited by the leftist, radical democrats.”

Uh huh.

Obviously it’s 45 who incites the hate that leads to violence. It’s 45 who has jailed my friend, confined him to his porch.

The Days

There’s a bit of a rustle, leaves maybe,
the wind lifting them off the dust
for a second or two. Or a deer, startled,

turning back. Overhead, the clouds go by.
Someone raises the sheets, gives them
a shake and makes the bed, fluffing the pillow

to finish things. You lie back. There
are dogs in your dreams, a garden, a daughter
picking a flower to bring to you. She’s not

supposed to pick the flowers there. No matter.
Everyone’s asleep in another room. When you
opened your eyes, the world stopped, looked

your way, went on. It’s like that. The cars go by.
Some people give speeches. Some have it all
figured out. The cardinals and sparrows feed

at the seed outside the window. You used to watch
them. You heard their song. When the big band
played “Satin Doll,” you were dancing

again, the ballroom floor glistening under
the sparkle of the spinning silver globe,
everything else a long way away.

–Jack Ridl

This poem first appeared in Controlled Burn and was subsequently published Practicing To Walk Like a Heron, Wayne State University Press

I’ve been asked how I pick the books to include here. I don’t. I simply list books by those I know who I’ve learned have books out. I know that I miss many. And for that I am sorry. Friend, if you’ve got a new book out, tell me about it!

These writers have books I know that some of you would appreciate: Laura Donnelly, Alison Luterman, Jeff Munroe, Heidi Aronson, Shea Tuttle Charlie Brice, Judith Brice, R.A. Kamin, Matthew Baker, Ginger Rankin (her husband was my dad’s first All-American player), Dan Gerber, Phyllis Klein, Linda Hillringhouse, Patricia Barnes, Lisa Lenzo, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Robert Hamblin, Faith Shearin, Nancy Esther James, Salvatore Sapienza, Kirk Westphal, Thomas Allbaugh, D.R. James.

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 Wanted To Change the World

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. 

I am stymied. I’m just no good at this divisive stuff, especially when someone keeps arguing by saying things like “Well, that’s what I believe,” or “It’s my opinion,” or “God’s word says.”

And yet a wonderful thing happened here in the nearby city. After more than nine years of fierce argument, and six more hours of the public standing at the mike and either offering scripted, unsupportable, cruel ideas and descriptions or reasoned and supportive explanations, the city ordinance against discrimination of any kind, especially against the LGBTQ community, passed 8-1.

I recall how difficult it was as a teacher working in that town to help certain students get past ‘ “It’s my opinion” as a basis for what they were enduring. I heard “I have a right to my opinion.” “It’s a free country, “ and I’d try to show that “you have a right to your opinion. It’s simply that I am trying to help you see how much more powerful it is when you also tell us the two or five facts your opinion is supported by.”

Sometimes the light came on. Often it didn’t.

I always felt a success in presenting the point and a failure at enabling the student to realize the importance of that point. And every morning as Julie reads aloud the wonderful nearly-daily column by the brilliant historian Hearther Cox Richardson, I feel again the overwhelming need for the world of opinion sitting alone to be extinct and the world of point-of-view emboldened by facts and history be what we waken to.

If you take in the Republican convention, have a good time noting how often this misguided way of thinking takes place. Watch for false comparisons based on… what? Watch for judgments supported by… what? Watch for promises backed by… what, exactly?

Or listen to jazz instead. Here’s a repeat that seems to fit—

The Man Who Wanted to Change the World

He thought exchanging the nouns
might help. No one could say
“gun” in the same old way. You
would have to pause, say,
“What’s the name again? Oh, yes,
sassafras.” You would hear
“Give me the wisteria to the car,”
or find yourself asking, “Why
don’t we add some whispers
to the bottom line?” He realized
this one long, hazy afternoon

while staring up into the trees,
into the wild acceptance
of their branches’ tangle. He
watched light settle on
the leaves. He believed
the robins, vireos, and
nuthatches could see it.
Later that evening, drying
his dinner plate, he felt everything
around him leaving, felt himself
alone amid the sparkles of dust.
Before bed, he addressed, sealed
and stamped a stack of empty
envelopes, one for everyone
he loved. The next morning
he made his first list: bread dough,
lightning, salt, candle, mourning dove,
while he thought of last
laugh, coffin, profit margin,
proliferation, highway, fake.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Scintilla
Subsequently published in 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

A Father

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. 

Almost four years ago when I started writing this protest blog, I figured I’d be done in about four months. I mean how long can responsible people who represent us let us be led by a bully?

Well, here I sit once again trying to do what I’m not cut out to do: write another weekly, tangent composed “post.”

It’s maddening. I write on Tuesday, giving Julie time to show me what makes no sense whatsoever. Also I can’t spell. I was the first to go down in the state spelling bee. I was in seventh grade.

I sure hope the selection of Kamala Harris helps end this ordeal come November.

All this loss. All these people living in grief.

It’s been 25 years since I lost my dad. I still miss him. I mean I miss him in his garden. Someone’s passing upsets me because they don’t still get to be around. I cringe when someone says, “You’ll have such good memories.” Remembering is anything but a pleasant experience for me. “Remember your father and his gardens?” It’s meant well, but I want to say,“YEAH! I’m really upset that he can’t be back growing his vegetables and hundreds of gladioli.”

“45, YOU could have prevented hundreds of thousands of people being left with “good memories.”

And speaking of, now, it’s the precarious back to school time. Everyone must be worried if their children are among those going back into a building. I am scared as can be for our daughter, an overloaded art teacher.

A Father

I remember how he’d wait; he’d
make a mound of peace and surround
himself with nothing
I could know. His mind
seemed alone at the taut end
of a kite string. I would wait,
hoping for the air to open dipping
him back to us. His eyes were empty

sockets of morning light. I was on
my own, trying to learn at the end
of his fingers what it was he knew.

–Jack Ridl

First published in New Collage.
Subsequently published in The Same Ghost (Dawn Valley Press)

I’ve been asked how I pick the books to include here. I don’t. I simply list books by those I know who I’ve learned have books out. I know that I miss many. And for that I am sorry.

These writers have books I know that some of you would appreciate: Heidi Aronson, Shea Tuttle Charlie Brice, Judith Brice, R.A. Kamin, Ginger Rankin (her husband was my dad’s first All-American player), Dan Gerber, Phyllis Klein, Linda Hillringhouse, Patricia Barnes, Lisa Lenzo, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Robert Hamblin, Faith Shearin, Nancy Esther James, Salvatore Sapienza, Kirk Westphal, Thomas Allbaugh, D.R. James.

I do want to add that R.A. Kamin’s book is a suspense novel, her first, that keeps the pages turning. She wrote much of it here at our house after a full day as a therapist and mom who owns a large practice in Grand Rapids. Her practice is known as the first in her city to openly accept LGBTQ clients. She is good people.

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