Stonington, Maine: Early

In her poem “April 9, 2018” poet Sharon Arendshorst uses as an epigraph, the following quote from Annie Dillard…

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

45, along with his sidekicks in Congresses both national and state, chronically — through action, lack of action, unethical and callous practices, words and tweets and disregard — do violence to our right to determine how to spend our days, thus creating our lives.

Interesting word, “spend,” how it suggests a limited amount of figurative currency. It’s a terrible thing to be robbed of something of monetary value. It may be even more evil to break, enter, and steal our time, our hours and minutes that deserve to be contributed to the common good, the personal good, the good of those loved in our worlds.

“Thou shalt not steal,” is most often applied to the robbing of material things. These thieves have stolen and hoarded the expectation that everyone deserves humane housing, healthcare, food, education, and safety, what should belong to all.

And they are stealing what little time we have.

Stonington, Maine: Early

The moon, full and on its
downward turn, seems to lay
the light bright off the harbor.
The fishing boats are leaving–
Cap’n Dolan, Edward Lee,
Jesse III. The snarls of rockweed
wrap the granite juttings. Open
clam shells seem to be gaping
as if taking in the morning.
And you are waking.
Gulls are walking on the low
tide floor. The town is beginning
its day: the bait shop opening, the diner,
the bookstore with the morning paper.
Father Kenney on his walk to Mass,
Marge and Marv turning up the heat
in their gas station/grocery store.

–Jack Ridl

boneandsinewoftheland

Such good news from historian Anna-Lisa Cox who lives nearby…

Smithsonian Magazine named Anna-Lisa’s The Bone and Sinew of the Land as one of eight books honored as the “Best History Books of 2018.” This year they were looking specifically for books that spoke to events in the nation today. Her book tells the history of the brave African American pioneers in the Midwest, people whose stories have been overlooked for so long. Follow the story: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/best-history-books-2018-180970864/?no-cache

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

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

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Fractals: A Nocturne

Tis the season. As we learned this week from the Handbook of 45–global warming is a hoax, climate change is normal. Just note the big early snowstorms.

Sigh.

When confronted by Pilate, Jesus said, “I am not of your kingdom,” and a multitude of us are most certainly saying, yelling, muttering much the same about King 45.

Things aren’t fine, but we have learned how to hold on to all that is good, loving, true.

And so in the midst of it all, ’tis still the season to be jolly, not happy–jolly.

Fractals: A Nocturne

Today we woke to the first snowfall of the season.
You know how it is: The flakes fall, and after
the dog goes out, comes in, you wipe his paws.
Or you don’t.

My wife’s father was captain
of a destroyer heading to
Cuba during the missile crisis. He
and his crew listened to Radio Havana.
Sometimes to Tito Puente. Kennedy
called to turn back the fleet.

This is the holiday season. The deer will soon lie in
the drifts outside our bedroom window. They sleep,
lift their heads, then lower them back into sleep.

Last night we put up a Frazier fir. They hold
their needles. We also untangled the strings
of lights. Eight months before I was born, my father,

white Army captain of a black company, led his
men through the rubble of Belgium and France.
My mother and her mother trimmed a tree.

I was born in April. My father was slogging his men
through the breath-stealing heat of the Philippines.
We are not treated the same as the others, he wrote,
and we are living in a rice paddy. All there is is rain.

Here it is still snowing.

–Jack Ridl

First published by Re)verb.

Then published in Toad.

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

I encourage you to take a look at the blog kept by award winning author and artist Linda K. Sienkiewicz. In posts she entitles “What, Why, How,” Sienkiewicz asks each person she welcomes to her blog those three questions. Talk about cutting to what really matters. Her novel In the Context of Love received not one but five major awards.

For many the Season of Advent is arriving. I noted before, Gayle Boss’s All Creation Waits, her numinous reflections on creatures who live with us, each reflection accompanied by the stunning woodcuts of David G. Klein. Day one: Painted Turtle, followed by Muskrat! Soon comes the loon and then the wood frog!

And here’s what Dos Madres Press has released about Greg Rappleye’s new collection–

New Book:  Tropical Landscape with Ten Hummingbirds by Greg Rappleye

Tropical Landscape with Ten Hummingbirds

Greg Rappleye is a poet of exquisite, lush language, exacting and precise in description, inventive in the re-creation of entire worlds. In this intoxicating and revelatory journey through the Brazilian rain forests of the 19th century, he populates the canvas of his poems with not only the flora and fauna of that time and place, but with the voice and inimitable perspective of its subject: Martin Johnson Heade, an American painter obsessed with the otherworldly appearance and flight of hummingbirds. As Rappleye’s imagined Heade confesses, “[I] walk for days to find their tiny hearts / beating in the jungle dark.” Yet for all its meticulous research, the heart of this book is a meditation on connection, on what we willingly give our lives over to. As the poet asks, “What should we save—/ a fallen world, or the life we are finally given to live?” —Todd Davis

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

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

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

In My Little Hometown

Today in the states we celebrate Thanksgiving. And yes, within it all, there is still much to be thankful for.

Making the rounds is the following: Thanksgiving: The celebration in remembrance of the time that Native Americans sat down to dinner with the illegal immigrants.

After the midterm elections you may have heard “There’s light at the end of the tunnel.” Yes, all of us hope there is. Meanwhile, let’s do our best to each be a light within the tunnel.

In My Little Hometown

In my little hometown, there’s a grocery store,
Gilliland’s Market. If you are a few dollars
short, “You can bring the rest in next time.”

Billy Small, that’s his real name, has coffee
at the one restaurant every morning. He’s 62,
has lived here all his life. Mostly alone.
They often ask him to sweep the sidewalks.
He goes all over town, sweeps and smiles.

Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep do not live in
my little town. But everyone knows them.
They try to do some good. This morning
A Supreme Court Judge rebuked the President.
The President tweeted a caustic response.
The counting from the Camp Fire continued.

In my little town, there are five churches.
There is a park with a playground and
a swimming pool. Kids ride their bikes
and leave them leaning against a tree.

In my little town, there’s a garden club.
They meet, talk mostly about perennials.
They keep the town square in bloom
and trim the grass around the memorial
to those from town who died in any war.

My little town’s not perfect. There was
a murder/suicide in 1957. There’s no
movie theater. But Mr. Hover will
sharpen your mower, knives, and saws
for free. And the butcher at Gilliland’s knows
what you want for Thanksgiving dinner.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Toad the Journal

Hey, a couple of weeks ago, mentioned the new weekly online publication created by Reka Jellema and Kathleen Schenk: hollandweekly.com. The editors welcome all sorts of writing about Holland and the area. Many of you are those writers! Take a look and consider contributing!

 

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

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

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

The Man Who Wanted to Change the World

For the first time in the now two years that I have been posting, I received an email questioning the worth of it.

45 is still in office. Congress remains cowardly. Yes, there are some inroads of integrity as a result of the midterm elections, but…

Perhaps this questioner is unaware that I could never be brash enough to imagine I can change the oligarchical agenda or minds polluted with hate.

As I’ve said from the very beginning, all I but desperately hoped to do was offer an affirmation for those who — while keeping Jefferson’s dictum to maintain a vigilant watch over those in power — never abandon attention to people and things that matter.

After all, sarcasm, shallow irony, and cynicism are easy. What is difficult is to refrain from saying, “Honey, can’t you see that I’m watching the news?!” Or refrain from turning every conversation into a rant instead of asking, “So, tell me what’s been happening with you?” To instead feed the birds or visit the one grieving down the street.

When the synagogue in my home city of Pittsburgh suffered the hate-initiated mass killings, 45 of course drew attention to himself.

Noah Farkas, the nephew of poet Joy Friedler, is a rabbi in Los Angeles who answered the killings with an invocation to his city. He kindly allowed me to excerpt his:

A Prayer for Pittsburgh: Invocation at the Los Angeles County Board Of Supervisors
Published October 30, 2018

Thank you Supervisor Ridley-Thomas for asking me to come this morning. Indeed it is a difficult morning. The last few days have tested our resolve. On this past Shabbat, the sabbath, a man filled with hate murdered eleven worshipers simply because they were Jews. They came for respite and found only violence. But I would be remiss if I did not mention that this attack-the bloodiest massacre of Jews in this country’s history-an attack meant to divide us, was a singular event. Just hours earlier two elderly African American patrons were gunned down in a grocery store because of the color of their skin. At the same moment, an assassination attempt against our nation’s leaders and former leaders was still unfolding. Such violence, such hatred, such cruelty.

As a nation we must understand that an assault during the sabbath is an assault on the sabbath itself. It’s an assault on all of us, not just Jews. On the poetry that is America.

If we are to overcome the hatred, racism and anti-semitism that has reared its ugly head we must set for ourselves the task of reaching across our divides and be fully present for each other. We cannot live only with an either/or paradigm that says that when I win you lose. Or that when you win I must lose. Your redemption cannot come to fruition on the back of my neck, nor can my freedom be at the expense of your blood and treasure. Yours and mine are the same.

It was at night when they came for us. It was at night when the Nazis marched against us. It is at night when they broke the glass and burned the crosses. Came into our houses of worship, our schools, our businesses, our homes. It was at night when the tophets glowed the brightest.

In the morning, joy will come. In the morning, for only in the morning, after a long night, in partnership with other people, together, do we dare say it will be good

.–Rabbi Noah Farkas

I can’t help noticing the ways this invocation lays itself within every place in our lives, our towns and cities, our schools and churches, our neighborhoods, our divisive hearts. We have received permission from 45 to break the fragile bonds that hold us together. Farkas seeks to mend them.

And I think that is one of the great gifts of the arts. The bonds formed by noticing the sameness and the differences. There is Bohemian Rhapsody and there is Debussy. I began each of my poetry writing classes by reminding the students that it is good to find out what we have in common and where to find common ground. “But in our poetry class we are going to seek out our differences. You are safe here to be who you are. It MUST be safe here for each of you to be you. And that is going to reveal through your art that you are not the same. However we will refrain from being cruel. There will not be room for even one eye to roll. We are going to delight in our differences.”

A repeat–

The Man Who Wanted to Change the World

He thought changing 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 the 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 remaining
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, highway, lie.

–Jack Ridl

From Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

My thanks to Rabbi Farkas for permission to share his invocation, and to his beloved Aunt Joy Friedler, a poet whose valuable work I encourage you to explore. Her latest collection is Capture Theory. Her previous collections include Dutiful Heart and Like Vapor.

Rabbi Farkas’s commentaries can be found at https://noahfarkas.com/

A video of his complete invocation can be found at https://vimeo.com/298000094

My friend Karen Marie Schuen Rowe, on the Big read of Station 11 in Holland, Michigan, wrote this wonderful letter, which goes straight to the heart of what the arts can do for us in troubling times. And I think how lucky her students are to have her.

 

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

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

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

The Stone at the Edge of the Field

My sister lives in Pittsburgh. The brother of a friend of hers was one of those gunned down in the synagogue. My sister said most citizens feel as if they are living in a fog.

Because of Congress’s Profiles in Cowardice, about the only thing left among the ruins of what was once a democracy is — for those not prevented — the right to

VOTE!

Vote into office those who will represent human rights. Vote out of office those who represent inhumane privilege.

And for all of you who subscribe in other countries, hope for us, hope we can help make America concerned again.

The Stone at the Edge of the Field

At the center is the quiet,
the wretched stretch of time,

the pause for the pirouette
of star above stone. Seed

and sprout die dislocated
from bog-birth, muck,

the glamorous tangle
of green and root. Rust

waits. Ash burns
into the forest’s floor.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Talking River

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

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

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Raking Leaves with the Gods

I’ve been raking leaves. I like raking leaves. We won’t get into the metaphorical experience of raking leaves. I just like raking leaves.

At the same time that I’m experiencing this rather inane mantra of reach–pull, reach-pull, Julie, whom I get to be husband to as best I fallibly can, is within the last two weeks of managing the campaign of Garnet Lewis for State Senate here in Michigan. Garnet isn’t even the opposite of 45, because she is for what matters. To compare Goodness to 45 is as much a waste of an intelligence as writing your first year college paper revealing for the first time the differences between Mother Teresa and Attila the Hun.

So the point: For months now Julie has been working tirelessly in behalf of what matters. Instead of economic greed, displaced human values, a despoiled environment, an educational system that makes it impossible for teachers and students, taxes that keep the non-working class able to continue to not have to work, and and and, she is working to prevent an inevitable loss of democracy and the environment to this unrestrained capitalism and a demagogue.

Yesterday I paused for several hours from raking leaves and texted a very civil message in behalf of Garnet to voters in our district. There wasn’t a pushy word in the text. It was actually more of an invitation, worded not much differently than “Would you like to come over for some wine and cheese?”

Among the responses I received were thoughtful, civil affirmations and responses saying kindly that they were for Garn or for the other candidate. Also among the responses were those using words that actually frightened me. Some were so coarse they are unprintable. Some claimed I was something that I had no idea existed. Some were downright cruel. I kept wondering, why? What turns a child who at one time likely played in the leaves into someone verbally monstrous?

My awestruck admiration for Julie soared. And I went back to raking leaves.

Raking Leaves with the Gods

For a month, there have been leaves.
Scattered over the pea stone paths

that lead us through the shade
of our gardens, beech and birch,

oak, ash and even larch leaves
lie, their ends dry and curling

toward their veins. I rake and
make believe I am a Zen-traveled

monk smoothing the surface, quieting
the loss into a calm within a heart’s

usual storm, the tines’ slow scrape
assuming silence among the stones.

In the branches birds sing. The cool
cloud-covered breeze is my Master

saying, Slow, slow. Move to the edge.
The lack of rain today says, patience.

The gods say, What is there to do?
This, I say. And they say, And this.

They stand their rakes against a tree,
gather in the Adirondack chairs along

the narrowing stream. Yes, there is
also this, I say, nodding toward the water.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Poetry East

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Yes, preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

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

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Winter on the Seine, Lavacourt

You know there is this idea in the world that the French think very little of the Americans: Rude. Boorish.

When really, it’s just that our people often lack enough respect to learn to say, “I am sorry, but I don’t speak French,” when speaking to a French person. In France.

Two Stories–

How we got to be so fortunate as to get to be Meridith’s parents is beyond us. As a college senior she was awarded a Watson Fellowship for her project to paint as a contemporary woman in the footsteps of Cezanne from Paris to Aix en Provence.

While in Paris, on the street by Notre Dame, Meridith, or as she was also named when she was born — Mimi — was struck by a hit-and-run motorcyclist. A friend she’d made called us. I speak no French. Julie speaks just a bit. She called the hospital, said that her French was poor (in French) and was told not to worry. Julie then inquired about Mimi. “Oh the little red-haired girl. It’s very serious; however, the surgery has gone well and she will be fine. Please do not worry. We like her very much.”

We flew to Paris. We went to the hospital, said we were the parents of Meridith Ridl and want to take care of things. “Oh no. There is nothing for you to do but take good care of your daughter.”

“Thank you, but I mean that we want to take care of the cost.” “No cost. We care about the people who need us.” Pause. “Oh, I’m sorry. There is one thing: $25 for copying fees.” For her ambulence, her surgery and several days in the hospital.

Once Mimi was feeling well enough to walk, though for a while she felt panic at each curb we crossed, she and I went to Sainte Chapelle, the cathedral with the stained glass that seems to soar into a heaven.

We sat on a little green bench while about a dozen Americans were arguing, shouting at the woman who accepted the entry fee: “What the hell do you mean you don’t have change?! You have to have some god damn change!” It went on.

I turned to Mimi, said, “We don’t have the correct change.” “Don’t worry, Pere, we’ll speak French. All they had to do was apologize that they didn’t.” And we entered the wonder of Sainte Chapelle, change in our pocket.

A couple of days ago my sister returned from ten days in Paris. Almost every French person she encountered said to her, “We are so worried about you, about what is happening in your country. Sometimes we are scared of (45). Are you?”

Monet’s “Winter on the Seine, Lavacourt”

These blues were never in the world.
He would have had to let his palette

find this benign freeze, this landscape
still as a stoic’s paradise. The ice must

have lain beneath his frayed gray gloves
as he thrust his brush stiff across

the canvas. His red spreads from the sun.
Nothing else moves. In this infinity

of cold, this pitiless lucidity of fading light,
the dead walk across the river into town.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Mid-American Review

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

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Yes, preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

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

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

That’s Enough

This is the 100th post for “In Time: Poems against the present administration“. That’s rather despairing. How I hoped it would all be over in a few months.

But here I sit, and–

Brat was confirmed.

And they who confirmed him slept well.

A woman calmly, straightforwardly, courageously told us what happened and was tossed aside with all the other women living a lifetime with trauma caused by those who rage and rape and grab and grovel and deny and demand and cry and creep.

Brat CanHeEverGnaw will take his smug seat. And Ginsburg will look him in the eye and know. She’ll know all right.

I get to be Julie’s husband. I have learned of her being physically and verbally abused when she was a restaurant server, when she worked in the corporate world, when she met with so-called Christians, when she as a young gift worked at the “Tenth Tee” at a golf course, when she handed out ski equipment. She’s not an exception. Is there any way I can prevent it? I can only be outraged, understand, try to comfort, change the focus to a British mystery on PBS.

That’s Enough

At times like these, we should
sit down, maybe pet our dogs,
or listen to the way even Bach
left out notes. We should have
a sandwich, something light,
thick tomato slices, lettuce,
slather on the mayonnaise.
(I wonder how fish let their
impulses settle in their cells.)
Sit down. Just sit, there,
on that end of the couch. Let
your arm drape over the side.
Imagine the wind has come
through the window, has turned
itself into a garden monk who is
opening his sack, flicking his
bamboo fan in front of your face.
Let every word in the world
become a vireo. Let them
overrun the yard. We’ll count
back into yesterday, the widower
knocking at the back door.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Pebble Lake Review

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Yes, preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

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

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

Guided Meditation

I can’t imagine having to try to convince you that Brat Craven-gnaw is unfit to serve anyone, let alone bring reason to the Supreme Court.

And watching that Profile in Cowardice called a shouting; er, I mean a hearing, one can easily conclude that even politics no longer exists. This is a government of the government, for the government, by the government. Lincoln’s words have “perished from the earth.”

On the other hand, I can’t remember witnessing anything like the courage and sacrifice of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. That was for all of us.

The contrast is so telling.

I need to calm down. Join me—–

Guided Meditation

Sit in a way that allows you to be comfortable
and relaxed. Do not let this hot and humid morning
enter your mind. Empty your mind, even if you

were up until 3am trying to forget what
your doctor told you yesterday afternoon. Now
take three deep breaths allowing yourself

to savor the mysterious gift that you
are breathing. You are breathing here
during this one moment, the only moment

that the benevolence of the earth gives
during this moment. This is your moment
even though we do not yet know

what a moment is. I often wonder what
the moment is just prior to the moment.
But that is a thought. And this is a yoga

meditation, and we are to accept each thought
as simply something that passes through us
and goes on its merry, or often un-merry, way.

Take another breath counting to four on the inhale
while picturing a gnome strolling up your nostrils
lugging a bag of gentle breezes, then count to six

on the exhale as the gnome cascades ass over
essential oils on an avalanche of air. Feel
your whole body fully relaxed. Continue breathing.

Picture a candle in a cave. Do not ask why in the
whole wide world there is a candle in a cave. If
you do, see in the question a yogi smiling as he

searches for the matches. Continue breathing.
And now imagine a field of lotus flowers. Or
if you are from the midwest and unfamiliar

with lotus flowers you can always substitute corn.
Now picture rain on a roof. Listen to it. Listen
to the distant cough of thunder. Just listen. Don’t

think about what you left out to ruin the last time
it rained. Continue breathing, and as you do, allow
any image to appear on the multiplex of your mind.

Be sure not to fixate on any one image. If a lover
old or new comes at you with a flame thrower, just
sit, watch, let it all pass, be glad your ego’s been emulsified.

Stay relaxed. Continue breathing. Feel the comfort
of your whole body as you repeat the mantra, “I am
at peace. I am totally at peace. I am really, totally at peace.”

Now that you are at peace, feel your feet, palms, pelvic floor
fully at rest in the room. Come to Sukhasana. Bring your hands
to your heart, and join me for one long peaceful Om.

–Jack Ridl

First published in I-70 Review
To be included in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Yes, preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

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

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

I’ve Never Seen So Many Books

During this “pause” in civilization how do we take care of our own soulful selves? Julie and I read while sitting with one another and our two dogs, Vivian and Charlie. Once in awhile cat Hattie comes out and passes by, acknowledging her presence more than ours.

The act of reading itself is mysterious to me. What are we doing when we read? What’s actually happening? All I know is that it has saved me over and over again. Do you have a reading regimen? One book at a time? A particular genre? Only fiction? Only non-fiction? A particular writer? Maybe a particular mystery writer?

I often told my students that when we read, we come alive. And especially in this
neverland, reading can place us in a world with value and bring out the best in us.

I read a bunch of books at a time. Our son-in-law says I have reading ADD.

Right now I’m wandering in Small Fry, a memoir by Steve Jobs’s daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs; Steve Hughes’s Stiff, a collection of hardscrabble urban short stories; Christ Actually by James Carroll; Thoreau: A Life, a biography by Laura Dassow Walls who brings Henry to life; Dan Egan’s The Death and Life of the Great Lakes; Johnny Appleseed by Jennifer Clark; the memoir get me out of here by Rachel Relland about her life as and recovery from borderline personality disorder; Richard Jones’s Stranger Here; and yes, Bob Woodward’s FEAR, which has to be followed by a restoration to sanity with Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones. My brain spins me to sleep.

The other day our dear friend Rebecca Klott was telling us about her time wandering in Powell’s Bookstore, a wonderfully overwhelming experience.

Let’s take a break and wander in the books that bring us back to a civilized day.

I’ve Never Seen So Many Books

This bookstore sure has lots of books.
Books in crannies, books in nooks.
Books for browsing bibliophiles
In aisles, in piles, for miles and miles.
Books on fiction, books on fact.
Books on friction, books on tact.
Books on unexpected heroes,
For computer geeks with ones and zeroes.
Books on gods that are and are not.
How to survive a pre-owned car lot.
Books on how to plant a garden.
Books on how to gain a pardon.
Books on trees, on bees, PCs,
Avoiding fleas and tacked on fees.
Books on every kind of pill.
On if you should or shouldn’t grill.
Books to make the hard seem easy.
Books on how to play Parcheesi.
Books on fraud, on sod, iPod.
On how to build the perfect bod.
Books on paints and glue and gook.
On what it takes and who got took.
Books on marriage and divorce.
Books on how to breed a horse.
Books to lessen stress, relax us.
How to deal with fractious taxes.
Books on making wine from peaches.
Books to take to summer beaches.
Books on music, dance, and art.
On playing dumb, on playing smart.
Books to lead you back to church.
Books to pull you from the lurch.
Books on style, or jog a mile.
On perfect health with Andrew Weil.
Books for teachers, books for pupils.
Books on loopholes and on scruples.
Books on staying home or travel.
Books on gravy, grieving, gravel.
Mad books, bad books, fad books, sad books,
Glad books, even I’ve been had books.
Books on ticks and tacks and talks.
Books on wicks and wax and woks.
On the smiling Dalai Lama
Books on Donald and Obama.
Books on what to wear when hiking.
On where to go fat tire biking.
On how to gain a leadership.
Get a grip, a readership.
Books by, and on, and pushed by Oprah.
To lift your spirits with Deepak Chopra.
On raising flags and lowering fats.
On living with a hundred cats.
On how to become a mover, Shaker,
Baker, Quaker, a great Great Laker.
Books for kids and older folks,
On telling lies, on telling jokes.
Books on how to micro-brew.
Avoid e-coli or the flu.
On pizza, pasta, crossword puzzles.
What you should sip, throw down with guzzles.
On how to be a better cook.
On how to hook a second look.
Books to make us less neurotic.
Less robotic, more erotic.
Books on Zen and Krishnamurti.
Books on living after thirty.
On learning basic economics,
gastronomics, plate tectonics.
Books on how to raise a puppy.
Raise a roof, a kid, a guppy.
And if your space for books should dwindle.
Find a zillion on your Kindle.
Holy cow! Good grief! Gadzooks!
I’ve never seen so many books!

 

–Jack Ridl

On April 1 (perfect!)  my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Yes, preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!
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Still a few spots for The Lost Lake Writers Retreat. It’s such a beautiful setting, almost too beautiful to be able to write anything. It’s an R and R spot. You can write when you get home after being uplifted by everyone there. Check it out!

The Hope College Visiting Writers Series will be hosting writers Matthew Baker, Anne-Marie Oomen,, Linda Nemec Foster, and painter/illustrator Meridith Ridl. Tomorrow, 7pm, in the concert hall of the Jack Miller Music Center.

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Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

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

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.