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!
fullsizeoutput_2ce2

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.

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

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.

The Old Days

You may have seen it online, the photograph of a gas station sign that reads

“FREE GAS ON ANY DAY [45] DOESN’T SAY ANYTHING STUPID!”

There have been no long lines and the owner is quite sure he’ll remain in business.

I have a hunch this guy hangs out after work here in this poem.

The Old Days

In a dark corner
of the Bull’s Eye Bar

they sit, burnt out
and burned up over

wages and dreams
that turned to lies.

They live in beer
and bad jokes,

make it through
the day

by knowing
this is where

they’ll be
when the whistle blows.

Something about
the neon sign.

Something about
the elk’s head.

Something about
the floor,

the walls, the
bowling scores

taped behind
the bar.

“Wish I could
quit smoking.”

“No you don’t.”
“You’re right.”

for Nelson Oestreich

–Jack Ridl

Published in Between (Dawn Valley Press) Copies available on used book sites.

Kristin Brace will be offering a reading from her newly released collection Fence, Patio, Blessed Virgin on September 26, 6:00pm at Books & Mortar bookstore, 955 Cherry Street. SE, Grand Rapids.

On September 27 at 7:00pm, The Hope College Visiting Writers Series will open with readings by Matthew Baker and by Linda Nemec Foster and Anne Marie Oomen with illustrator Meridith Ridl from their book The Lake Michigan Mermaid. The readings will be held in the Concert Hall of the Jack H. Miller Music Center.

There are still a few spots left for The Lost Lake Writers Retreat. It’s a great time with good writing souls in a beautiful setting.

 

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

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.

Christmas at My Grandfather’s

This past Monday here in the U.S. we celebrated Labor Day. My paternal grandfather was a laborer. He was also a Bohemian immigrant. Those from much of eastern Europe were denigrated in ways 45 speaks of certain immigrants today. My grandfather was a “hunky.”

When he was sixteen, he lied about his age so that he could work in a Pittsburgh factory, Westinghouse Air Brake. Each work day until he retired he stood at the assembly line.

I once asked him, “Grampa, how were you able to do that day after day, all those years?” He thought for a bit and said, “Well, I’m not sure what you mean. It was only eight hours a day.”

Christmas at My Grandfather’s

The dark stab of pre-dawn
stings my grandfather’s wrists.
He grabs his lunch pail.
The mill still burns,
one shift moving
into the next, men
held to the air
by hunger,
home, the unrelenting
threat of sudden illness,
and the nag of hope
that one kid
might get out.
At Christmas, I remember
only the gift
of the day off,
watching
my grandfather get up
at the same time,
dress, and turn
the tree lights on.
He’d sit in the dark,
stare at the tree,
drift into the branches,
let his mind take its place
among the ornaments
as behind him, over his shoulder,
the sun came up
through the window smudged
with soot and spray-on snow.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Artful Dodge.

Subsequently published in between (Dawn Valley Press, out of print).

Personal History Workshop
On Saturday September 29 from 1-3:30 at the Douglas United Church of Christ, 56 Wall Street, Jack will be offering a workshop on a variety of ways of exploring your personal history. If you want to sign up, and please be sure about it, send an email to Jack at jack@ridl.com, or use the contact link up there at the top of ridl.com.

Music and Poetry Happenings
On Friday at Uncommon Grounds in Saugatuck, David James will be reading at 7pm. Rob Kenagy and Ganges and Press Delete will be playing starting around 6pm and again after David’s reading. On Saturday, Kenagy, Ganges and Real Umami will be appearing at Virtue Cider beginning at 7pm, along with poet Peter Berghoef. These promise to be great good times for one and all!

 

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

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.

During the Last Two Weeks of His Life, He Wrote Only the Last Lines of Poems

In our little village the flags were lowered to half-mast immediately when we heard the news of John McCain’s passing. The flags hung there in front of the clapboard town hall and the police station. People talked of his service, his character.

During the Last Two Weeks of His Life, He Wrote Only the Last Lines of Poems

I.

the stars, lost in the half light of evening.

II.

giving us only a noun and the time to finally understand it.

III.
after the taxi, after the end of the affair.

IV.
like the slow ruin of his own small town.

V.
and God? Lost somewhere in the bread section.

VI.
wind, three medieval priests, a puppet, and a wedding dress.

VII.
the bus.

VIII.
window, pouring out the last of the anonymous gin.

IX.
not the cow, not the fence post, not even the back door.

X.
knew the rest, but kept the pile beside her desk, adding to it when it snowed.

XI.
amid the holiness of snails.

XII.
later. Then he juggled a scarf, an orange ball, and the flute.

XIII.
wondering was it the rain, was it the ontology of morning?

–Jack Ridl

 

First published in Prairie Schooner.

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

Writers’ Retreat Up North

There’s a wonderful Writers’ Retreat coming up at Lost Lake near Alpena, Michigan. Instead of the usual workshops, the retreat provides you a long-needed chance to get away, be among warm-hearted fellow writers and a staff of fiction writers, poets, and song writers with whom you can meet one on one, hear read, sing, and listen to interesting presentations. Here you will have time to write on your own in the beautiful autumn setting at Lost Lake.

October 4-7

For more details and to sign up go to inspirationalcona.org

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

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.

Living in the 21st Century

We’re all wanting things to be normal, not utopian, not even idealistic. Just rather normal, civil. 

Years ago I heard someone say, “It’s all the Beatles’ fault.” Really? “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” “Here Comes the Sun.” “Eleanor Rigby.” “We All Live in a Yellow Submarine.” Oh, I know: the hair, the drugs, the outrageous dress, the riots, the protests. Much like the Gay Nineties and the Roaring 20s.

But–this today?

Normal for me would be going outside to fill the bird feeder without words such as “Rat,” “Dog” “Loser” battering my brain. “I disagree,” would be fine. Or “Not my taste.” Even “Not for me.”

Sigh.

Living in the 21st Century

Long before there was this day
another day came. Maybe it rained
or there was a little sunlight. People

got up and did what they always do.
Birds sang and the cats wanted out,
or in. You and I weren’t here,

but the world didn’t know. Trees
grew and nobody noticed. Someone
was cruel. Someone else

tried not to be. Maybe the weather
shifted unexpectedly and plans
had to be changed. This morning

we watched our day begin. We
wondered if it would be good,
wondered if it would rain.

–Jack Ridl

from Broken Symmetry, Wayne State University Press

There’s a wonderful Writers’ Retreat coming up at Lost Lake near Alpena., Michigan. Instead of the usual workshops, the retreat provides you a long-needed chance to get away, be among warm-hearted fellow writers and a staff of fiction writers, poets, and song writers with whom you can meet one on one, hear read, sing, and listen to interesting presentations. Here you will have time to write on your own in the beautiful autumn setting at Lost Lake.

October 4-7

For more details and to sign up go to inspirationalcona.org

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

Visit Reader’s World 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.

And, of course, click here to visit ridl.com, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

 

There Are No Hidden Meanings

Tuesday evening I was invited to read at The Red Dock Cafe and Bar, one of the great venues for the arts in my town. A touch of old Key West in the Midwest, it sits out in the Harbor here where we get to live in Douglas/Saugatuck, Michigan. Tony Amato and his warm-hearted staff make everyone feel at home. If you can’t lay back at The Red Dock, you wouldn’t be able to lay back in a hot tub along the beaches of the Bahamas.

Joining me was the luminous poet Laura Donnelly, the sparkle of poet/translator Rebecca Kosick, and the ever-surprising Randy Smit. The place was tidal-wave full and with us. It was what a poetry reading is supposed to be–a gift to the soulful. And the soulful were there. At least I didn’t sniff an evaluator within a mile of the place.

All four of us, along with Tony and the Red Dock staff, were there to overcome, for a couple of hours, 45 and his gang, those who daily pollute our consciousness, distracting us from what we care about, from those we love.

So thank you, soulful souls. Thank you so very much.

There Are No Hidden Meanings
for Julie

This poem you’ll have to find.
Some hints: It’s nowhere in the house,
but can be gotten to by moving under the rugs.
It might be wise to follow where the dog has sniffed.
And watch the gulls: they have a knack for knowing.
Rain is often a talisman, and clouds can lure you.
Listen to the moon crawling across the sky,
but beware of evenings and bread dough.
Whenever a child stops suddenly, look there for a sign.
Mark any spot where you fall asleep.
If, while listening to birds, you notice
a hole in their song, walk into it.
Never underestimate the possibilities in a flea market.
And don’t overlook anything hanging from a nail.
Old ball gloves, wooden toys, weed beds, pocket watches,
cowbells, moths, musty clothes, and vinegar,
they can be signals that you’re close.
Follow any arrow on any pole.
Don’t ignore a detour sign.
Pause where there is mold.
And look especially close
at whatever it is you see every day.
You’ll find it when I won’t have to say,
“Cold, colder, warmer, warmer, hot.”

–Jack Ridl

Published in The Same Ghost (Dawn Valley Press, 1984)

Kristin Brace’s collection Fence, Patio, Blessed Virgin has been released from Finishing Line Press

Laura Donnelly’s award winning Watershed is published by Cider House Press.

As always, let me know of recent publications among your folks. I sure don’t wanna overlook anyone.

 

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

Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings and Reader’s World 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.

And, of course, click here to visit ridl.com, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

Innkeeper

In many places Tuesday was primary election day. We got up and went to city hall in our village.

Sitting at the table were the same welcoming faces, volunteers who year after year guide us through the same process. A father and daughter sat next to each other, greeted us and checked to make sure we were all set to vote. And vote we did.

It’s one of those times when I take a pen, fill in a little circle beside a hopeful and feel that moment mattering. I took my ballot over to the same welcoming man who has done the same exiting task for umpteen years. He made sure all was correct, and pointed me to the machine that would take my ballot. As always, I picked up a piece of candy, put on my “I voted” sticker, then went to insert my ballot.

It got stuck. A woman who, too, has been there every time said, “Take it out of the folder. I won’t look.” I took it out, inserted it, and this time the machine took it. Then with Julie we walked into the day.

Here’s a little touch of our village–

Innkeeper

The innkeeper sits by the door, elbows
resting for the day on the oak desk.

She says, “Yes, looks like a day of rain.
Coffee’s hot,” to the early risers,

most pouring two cups then heading
back to their rooms. She likes to think

they are staying here with her. She
does her best to make their pause

between here and there pleasant.
“The gulls don’t care,” she smiles

when a wife and husband say
the weather’s bad. She knows how to

listen to the rain dripping from the eaves,
watch it hit the leaves of the basswood

outside the window to her left, feel
the soft wool of the blanket on her lap.

–Jack Ridl

The time for the reading at The Red Dock on Tuesday, August 14 is 6:30. Music prior.

Time to celebrate the following:

Kristin Brace’s collection Fence, Patio, Blessed Virgin with cover by Meridith Ridl is now available from Finishing Line Press.

Katie Kalisz’s Quiet Woman will be released in January.

Former student Thomas Allbaugh has published the novel Apocalypse TV.

Tropical Landscape with Ten Hummingbirds by Greg Rappleye is coming soon from Dos Madres Press.

Again, let me know of any new works. I sure don’t want to leave out anyone.

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

Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings and Reader’s World 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.

And, of course, click here to visit ridl.com, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

 

The Healers

Those with the gift of empathy are all but done in, overwhelmed by entering into the suffering of others. Not too long ago I read an article that discussed the cost of empathy. We, of course, know that 45 has not a drip of empathy. Empathy is for “losers.”

What can we do who wake up helpless within the shadow of 45? Some work hard politically to change things. Some carry on serving in capacities empathic. But what of those of us who don’t have access to doing much of anything to counter “him” other than address flyers, stick stamps onto postcards that encourage electing those who want to serve, truly serve?

In the shadow of 45 and his lost souls, and his spineless cohorts, and his deceived supporters, what can we do?

Keep speaking truth to power–A patron at Tony Amato’s Red Dock Restaurant came up to him and snarled, “I bet you voted for that n____.” Tony held up two fingers, said, “Twice,” and ordered the roach to leave. We can also carry on by shifting our conversations to the lives of those in our lives who matter. We can realize that continuing dailiness, planting another flower, handing over some of our too many zucchini, saying hello to anyone, all those things that don’t change the big scene, but enrich the worlds each of us lives within.

I’m turning this into a sermon. Sorry. It’s the UCC church in me. Let’s never abandon giving our attention (a definition of love) to what and to whom we love and who love us.

When helplessness can’t be helped I recall Samuel Beckett saying, “I can’t go on, I must go on, I’ll go on.”

The Healers

My father guessed at work.
He gave me things to do.
We strangled weeds from the flower bed.
Washed the car.
Walked the dog.

My mother guessed at a mother’s love.
She went back to tucking sheets
Around me as I lay awake.
She pulled her fingers through my hair.
She turned away. She held me.

My good friend guessed at leaving town.
Se we lugged gravel, grinding gears
Up and down the western Pennsylvania hills.
We’d raise the bed and listen
To the gravel rush into a silent pile.

My preacher guessed at God.
He knew the answer, spread my sin.
Prayed, asked me to pray.
Sprinkled oil on my head.
Pronounced me of this world.

My doctor guessed at shock.
Strapped me down.
Hooked electrodes to my head.
Baptized me with volts.

I guessed at empty space
And all the breath
that I could spill to fill it up.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Three Rivers Poetry Journal
Subsequently published in The Same Ghost (Dawn Valley Press)

Good Reads
Here’s another fine, recently published collection: Invisible Fish by Susan F. Glassmeyer (Dos Madres Press). Many of you know of her project of sending out a poem and commentary each day during National Poetry Month.

And a bit ago, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer published Naked for Tea, from Able Muse Press. So many benefit from her astonishing project of sending out a new draft of a poem every single day. She’s been doing this for some ten or more years.

Again, I don’t mean to overlook any recent collections. So please let me know of any you would recommend. Lots of you have work published several months or years ago. I simply thought of this recently and had to start somewhere, so I decided to start with the past few weeks.

Fifth Annual Red Dock Reading
And now I’m nagging when YET AGAIN I say how good it would be to see you at The Red Dock on August 14 for the reading starting at 6:30 with the soul-warming presence of poet Laura Donnelly. Come early for the music that will begin a bit after 3pm. Bring your own comfortable chair. I promise that Laura’s work will settle into your heart.

And as Tony Amato, impresario of The Red Dock always says, “Peace, ta.”

 

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

Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings and Reader’s World 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.

And, of course, click here to visit ridl.com, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

 

 

Our Child

Over these many weeks time and again I have listened to parents talk about
the fear they have for their child or children. This fear is not one of the usual fears carried by any caring parent. This is a fear they not only never expected, but one they have no way of offering assurance should the child, too, be abused by the language and recklessness of 45.

I remember feeling helpless in the face of all the inevitable sufferings our daughter would face, staring at her asleep, wishing somehow I could give her the life and world she deserved. That wish has remained–and has amplified.

This past week poet Christine Rhein composed a poem in which she gathered notes written from the immigrants to their caged children. You can find it at Vox Populi.

Not meaning to lighten things inappropriately, but I just recalled that scene from Batman where The Joker laments the attention Batman receives in the Press. Here’s a paraphrase: “What kind of a world is it when a man dressed as the President of the United States gets all my press.”

Yes, what kind of a world is it, now?

Last evening, we were out to dinner. Once again we heard, “Each day I wake up wondering what he’s going to do now.”

Yesterday afternoon I worked with a mother who is putting together a collection of her mother’s poems. Her five-year-old played with our puppy, colored, looked for our shy cat, searched for the frogs around our little pond. We were all in a world we deserved to dwell in. And yet . . .

Our Child
You’re at school learning numbers
and the locations of various geographical
necessities. It’s what you do not know
that takes me to our window where
my sight attempts to rest along
the path our dog follows into the woods.

–Jack Ridl

From be tween (Dawn Valley Press)

Last week I typoed! A new and fascinating collection is Jennifer Clark’s Johnny Appleseed: The Slice and Times of John Chapman. You’ll be surprised.

Three other fine new collections: Kirk Wesphal’s Bodies of Wood and Water, Charlie Brice’s Mnemosyne’s Hand, and Richard Jones’s Stranger on Earth.

Please let me know of recent poetry collections that you would recommend. I don’t want to leave anyone out.

Annual Red Dock Reading
And once again! Please mark your calendars for August 14, 6:30 for The Fifth Annual Red Dock Reading created and sustained by the one and only Tony Amato. I can’t thank him sufficiently. The gently arresting Laura Donnelly will read from her award winning collection Watershed along with new poems. If the occasion echos the past, the dock fills quickly. So come early, bring a chair, enjoy the wonderful view, savor the food and drink, and be kind to Laura and me. It’s among the scariest times of the year for me/us.

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

Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings and Reader’s World 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.

And, of course, click here to visit ridl.com, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

The Revolution on Ward B

When I was a kid, maybe seven, and growing up in our church, we played a game called “Bible Baseball.”

You were tossed a pitch–a question. Answer correctly, you got a home run. Wrong, and you were out.

I was up at bat and in came the question: “How many sins did Jesus commit?” I said, “One.”

OUT!

As we were leaving, the minister took me aside and asked, “Why in the world, did you say Jesus committed a sin?!” I shrugged and said, “When he went to the temple, he didn’t tell his mom and dad where he was going.”

To this day, it seems a reasonable answer. What seems unreasonable is why that matters. In fact, by today’s miasma of morals, it looks to me as if the Jesus I know spent most of his time committing sins.

He didn’t want to found some religion. He was a Jew who saw his religion being misused. And he was a rebel who saw government full of corruption. And he saw the dominant values of the day in need of a revolution. Today 45 would be tweeting incessantly about this loser.

And Jesus was rather “Zen-ish.”  “The last shall be first.” Certainly as one opposed to hierarchies — be they of wealth, prestige, or evaluation — he was not reversing the order. Good heavens, that would have had everyone scrambling to be last (“Hey! I’m last. Get in FRONT of me!”).

He was clearly disordering the order.

Unlike under 45 where the “first” are always first in privilege, benefits, health, nourishment, housing, economic assurance, and-and-and, in Jesus’s unruly and un-ruled “kindom” the last shall/should be the first to be cared for.

The Revolution on Ward B

The rooms opened like gaps between a drunkard’s teeth.
In each, decaying, full of unneeded breath
crouched my cohorts in conspiracy.
We gathered like moths around our thoughts
amid the pillows, pills, and stacks of cards.
Away from those afraid to visit us,
we plotted, pricked the mind’s map,
set our pins strategically,
and prepared to charge full force
into the ambush of our past.

General Peterson led us against the sun.
He pulled the shades each morning,
never let the word get out. Joan
of Arkansas held matches with her toes,
lit them, yelling for supplies. Old
Mrs. Pinelli saved her food, sacked it
in her pillow, afraid we might run short.
Young Ben cried, said he didn’t want to die,
and hanged himself with his jump rope.
McBurney grabbed his penis and like Lancelot
charged the lobby shouting, “Viva la personalitie!”
I held the fort, a sentry watching
for a change of mind in us, a change
of heart in them. We were a ragged
mind against the mob.

We were the soldiers whose eyes cut corners.
We were the children’s crusade.
We were the catatonic Quakers.
We were the martyrs without a prayer.

With nothing to gain and less to lose
we revolted against their vision of our lives.
Our bombs rolled across our loved ones’ faces.
Our machine guns dittoed our only way out.
Our mines quivered in the commonplace: We
set them in the supermarket, underneath
the boss’s desk, under the grade book,
and on the putting green. “NUTS!”
we laughed when they’d demand surrender.
We’d never spill our brains for them.

They held with all they had:
Tiptoed down the corridor.
Smiled at our drills.
Turned the television up for Mr. Cobb.
Sent in ten cookies for the twelve of us.
Said our visitors were waiting in the hall.

We hollered, “NUTS!” till Peterson saw the moon.
Then shivering, nerves eating the air, morale
turning against us on its own, we wrapped
our feet in sheets and trudged back
across the snow without a flag.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Southern Poetry Review
Subsequently published in The Same Ghost (Dawn Valley Press)

ANNUAL RED DOCK READING
Coming up Tuesday, August 14 at 6:30pm: “The Fifth Annual Red Dock Reading,” under the direction of Tony Amato Productions with special guest Laura Donnelly who will calm the waters. Come early. Enjoy the atmosphere and the food and beverages. To assure yourself of a seat, bring a chair.

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

Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings and Reader’s World 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.

And, of course, click here to visit ridl.com, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!