The Rain on the Burren

Julie and I are members of the Douglas UCC Creation Justice Team, a group that believes that the way we treat the environment is a matter of justice. We organized our own “Big Read” of Dan Egan’s extraordinarily important book The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, and Tuesday evening a large group gathered to talk about the urgency of not only protecting, but saving the Great Lakes.

It’s unsettling how few of us realize that what is happening to our water everywhere is dire, and without water becoming an issue that everyone becomes aware of, that same everyone will have their lives threatened and the lives who live after become all but unlivable.

Does 45 care? How could he? He doesn’t read. He doesn’t listen. He is the master of “I wouldn’t be around anyway.”

He’d say, “Climate change? A hoax. Damn rain.”

The Rain on the Burren

I.

The morning rain comes every day, bleak
across the grays of limestone. It falls
on the dolmen, austere and singular
since the cold people of the stone age
hoisted the great slab over their dead.
At home this rain would be a reason
to change our little plans. But here we
assume our noses will drip, our feet
will be wet as we walk the roadside
along the stone walls covered in gorse
and wild roses, our breath will warm
our hands. At home, we would be
having our breakfast on the porch,
a bowl of strawberries in cold milk.
In this day’s beginning we let our hands
wrap around a steaming cup of tea,
then find their way to each other.

II.

The rain here is a burst along the horizontal
or a languid drizzle, the light seeming to lag
behind the day’s gray crawl across the limestone.
Peat-dappled smoke rises sweet within the soft
damp, hints at a warm corner, or after the lost hours
of work, a hearth and finally sleep. The chill is mute.
Tomorrow the sun may come, glistening its light
across the subtleties of green and the blue
of the spring gentians, ellipses between the neolithic
slabs and glacial blunder of boulders. And always
this benevolence of stillness, the rain.

–Jack Ridl

Published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

Hey, I’m so delighted to announce the April 1 (perfect!) release of my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, from 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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Congratulations to Susan Glassmeyer, recently named “Ohio Poet of the Year” for her latest collection Invisible Fish (Dos Madres Press) Dos Madres also published David James’s recent collection, if god were gentle, and will be publishing Greg Rappleye’s collection Tropical Landscape with Ten Hummingbirds.

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!

Mary McSchmidt will read from her new book Uncharted Waters: Romance, Adventure, and Advocacy on the Great Lakes, Holland Barnes & Noble Bookstore, 10am on Saturday, September 22.

Kristin Brace will be reading from her collection Fence, Patio, Blessed Virgin from Finishing Line Press, Wednesday September 26, 6:00pm at Books & Mortar Bookstore, 955 Cherry Street SE, Grand Rapids.

The Hope College Visiting Writers Series will be hosting writers Matthew Baker, Anne-Marie Oomen,, Linda Nemec Foster, and painter/illustrator Meridith Ridl. Thursday, 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.

Oxbow Workshop!

Hi there, one and all–

My daughter Meridith Ridl and I will be teaching a class at Ox-Bow July 9-12, from 10am till 12:30. The max number of participants is 12. There are some openings. We’d sure love to have you join us.

This is an Art on the Meadow Class. We’ll start each day with some directed writing that you will enjoy, especially because you can write any way you like: fragments, notes, lines, sentences, prose, poetry, chicken scratches . . .  Then we’ll turn to coordinating what you wrote with a visual artwork.

Each day will be different.

To find out more and sign up, here’s what to do:

Register at http://www.ox-bow.org/art-on-the-meadow-day-course-registration

Or you can call Ox-Bow at 269-857-5811

Meridith and I would love to spend the week with you!

Gaslighting

Growing up in a small town (population 1,200) things were uneventful save for the ordinary disturbances of any kid’s life. I was a coach’s son, played baseball and basketball, hung out with my pals, visited Gramma each weekend. My parents were parents of the 50s. We went to church, assumed God was love, Jesus was loving, the Holy Spirit was inconceivable. I don’t recall ever talking about “right religion.” It was the 50s: you didn’t talk about money, religion, politics. You were nice.

I was in youth group at the church. We played a game called Bible baseball where you were tossed a question and if you got the answer right, you got a hit. Once I was asked how many sins Jesus committed. I said, “One.” I was asked by our kindly minister why I said that. I said, “When He went off to the temple, he didn’t tell his parents where he would be.” It was that kind of childhood.

And then along about high school time our church hired a youth minister. He was charismatic, recruited several of us to meet with him several times a week for breakfast, took a deep interest in us. Before long we were praying together and he was teaching us about the “Truth” of Christianity. I’d love to tell you his name. He stole my life and after a while my very self.

Today there is a psychiatric term for what he did–Gaslighting.

45 is a gaslighter. He says the news is fake. He turns those who care about people into enemies of the state. He makes lies a means to an end. He calls revenge patriotism. It’s all about him. You don’t need me to tell you this. The youth minister was a gaslighter. He terrified me with damnation until I realized that I had to be converted. Soon he had me convinced that certainly all my friends, along with all the little town — help your neighbor, church going souls — were not real Christians. In the diction of 45, they were fake Christians.

This “correct Christianity” had nothing to do with Jesus, and a lot to do with double binds, terror, brainwashing, and the inculcating of a cult. Gaslighting by its very definition. All of us who contradict 45 are the evil ones. Lindsay Vonn after her stumble at the Winter Olympics received a deluge of tweets (I hate that word. Poor Chickadees!) declaring that this happened because of her criticism of 45 and her saying that if she won Gold she’d not go to the White House.

I went off to college. How’d that go? My sophomore year, my whole cruel gaslit psyche broke into a thousand pieces. After class one day, my roommate found me catatonic. Thirteen shock treatments, five stays in four different psychiatric wards, years of panic attacks, depression and PTSD followed — that’s how it went.

That so-called Christian minister and his like–ie. 45–always wash their hands of anything they inflict. It’s our fault. We’re wrong. We’re believing fake news.  Kinda like the 1% who have never pulled a weed from their multiple gardens saying it’s the poor’s fault, that they need to work harder for their money.

We’re being gaslighted. Know it, and resist.

After the Thirteenth Shock Treatment

I asked for two fried egg sandwiches
and a blueberry milkshake. I got soup.
And it was raining so instead of trying
again to read Middlemarch,

I lay on my side and watched the rain
glide down the window. I used to love
to go outside. My sister was a high school
cheerleader, someone everyone loved

to be around—if anything was good,
it was great. I needed to know. My God
spoke only in doubt. The nerves at the ends
of my fingers never slept, and when my fists

bloodied my forehead, only the comfort
of bandages let me look out across
the parking lot, out over the vans, Audis,
and pick-ups into the trees where I could

see how the leaves held to the limbs.
At home my father stayed alone in his
gardens. My mother carried her knitting
to a neighbor’s and talked about dinner.

–Jack Ridl
First published in Talking River
 

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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!

Morning with Dogs

Today is Charlie’s 14th birthday.

Well, we don’t know his exact birthday, but 14 years ago he came out from behind the counter at the shelter, on the day after Valentines, and wagged his way our way, landed in Julie’s arms, nuzzled her easy to nuzzle nose, and came home with us.

Charlie is somewhat of a beagle. He was on his last try, meaning he had been returned to the shelter twice and a third return is the dire opposite of a charm. For weeks we pretended we were in a children’s book: Take Charlie to the car and he was sure he was being returned and would throw up; make a mistake on the kitchen floor and we were sure he was pleading, “I’m sorry. Please please give me another chance.” He’s still hand shy and terrified of kids or anyone under five feet tall. You can imagine what happened to the little guy before we claimed him.

Now he has a ten month old sister, a Spinone Italiano, and they are best buddies, Charlie allowing himself to be another of her umpteen dog toys: Drag me along by the collar–sure. Pull my tail–why not? Knock me over in the snow–what could be more fun? They sleep side by side — with us of course — causing us to sleep the sleep of contortionists. (Dog trainers, stop shrieking. Vivi and Charlie are family. Those accusing us of anthropomorphism and sentimentality, you are right. And be damned.)

Charlie sits on command. He’s deaf now, but raise your hand above his head and he’ll sit. So-called VP Mike Pence sits on command, too. He’s also deaf. Charlie is in a way an immigrant, has no papers, and we didn’t return him. He also loves unconditionally.

Morning With Dogs

The old dog won’t get up. The pup
is yelping. We want to sleep another

hour, half an hour, fifteen minutes.
We are old dogs, too. But the pup

is hungry and the light
is crossing the evergreens and now 

that we have found our way out of bed
and on to the dogs’ bowls, the old dog’s

eyes open. The coffee—timed when
to perk is dripping through the grounds.

And though wanting still to sleep, we
divide the morning’s rituals: filling

the feeders for the rampant demands
of chickadees, finches, the one downy;

letting the old dog out first to pee
unencumbered by the pup’s romping

plea to play. This is the opening of our
every day. And we go on, the past

always tugging us back into regret.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

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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!

After Reading Dom John Chapman, Benedictine Abbot

There are times for those who pray that it doesn’t seem possible. What words would one mutter in response to a horrific sorrow? Silence may be the most sacred of all prayers. I often think that prayer is there to lead us into being prayerful. Perhaps that’s one way to stand in opposition to what assaults all that is good and to overcome that which separates the sacred from the everyday. This week’s poem tries to enter that way of being.

After Reading Dom John Chapman, Benedictine Abbot

“Pray as you can; not as you can’t.”
My prayers will sit on the backs
of bedraggled donkeys, in the sidecars
of Harleys, in the pockets of night
watchmen, on the laps of widows.
They will be the stones I walk by,
the smudges I leave on anything I touch,
the last place the last snow melts. They
will be brown, weekdays, potato pancakes.
They will stick to the undersides of porches,
docks, dog paws, and carpets. When I’m sick,
my cough will carry them. When you leave
in the morning, they will sink into the bed,
the sofa, every towel. I will carry them
in the modesty of my feet. Everything
will be praying: My dog will be petitioning
for mercy when he stops to sniff a post.
Every window in our house will be
an offering for supplication. The birds
at the feeder will be twitching
for my sins. I will say my prayers
are bread dough, doorknobs, golf tees,
any small and nameless change of heart.
When I forget my prayers, they will
bundle up and go out on their own
across the street, down into the basement,
into a small town with no mayor where
there is a single swing in the park. When
I forget, they’ll know I was watching TV,
the sky, or listening to Basie, remembering
the way my mother and father jitterbugged
to the big band station, he pulling her close,
then spinning her out across the green kitchen floor.

—Jack Ridl

from Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

Prayer

Comfort often gets a bad rap. It strikes many as avoidance, or that which the privileged seek or have, or it gets attached to the odd term “comfort zone,” as if there is some area we can go where we aren’t going to be troubled. How can one get up in the morning and expect to find that? It’s where the snipe hangs out.

The comfort we deserve now is that which gives us comfort within our distress. Kinda like that old sweatshirt, or soup, or, that person who doesn’t leave when there is nothing to say.

This week’s poem, I hope, speaks to the kind of comfort/comforting we deserve, perhaps especially now.

Prayer

There are those who know
the world without words,

not even a murmur or
a breath. Within the modesty

of presence, a prayer
could be green, tattered,

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

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

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

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

the sparrow nesting
in the anonymity of brown.

–Jack Ridl

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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!

Whoops.

Unfortunately there was a smooshing together of two different subjects in the latest post. I did not mean to have the care/not care comment and the thank you to those who checked in on us be together. We of course know that millions of people we’re caring in many many ways, and that friends were caring who were concerned about taking our attention. The reference to “not caring” was meant to refer to those who were exploiting the disaster. Having friends who are dealing with the storm we too keep trying to figure out whether or not to contact them or trust they know we care.I regret that I didn’t check that copy to catch that misleading construction. And I called myself an English teacher!

As We Go On

Hi folks. This is an important opportunity and a help with fundraising that we’re awfully excited about. Such very good people behind it. Please, on your paths, share the news of this event, and if possible, go! If you choose to attend in Saugatuck, we will see you there!

AS WE GO ON

Sunday, May 21 at 3pm, at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts

On stage — a very important event for building understanding and community, and to raise a groundswell of support for the new-and-important Out on the Lakeshore Community Center in Holland:

https://www.facebook.com/outonthelakeshore/

AND support for Our LGBT Fund at The Grand Rapids Community Foundation:

https://www.grfoundation.org/community-leadership-initiatives/lgbt-fund

Live storytelling: Funny, witty, sad, infuriating. Touching. We will hear the coming-out stories told by members of Ann Arbor’s LGBTQ community. These stories are our stories. The stories of the world we make and live in now. The storytellers’ ages span six decades.

Bring friends! Bring family!

Tickets are $40 general admission, $15 for students. Cash bar. tickets:

sc4a.tix.com

If you can’t make the Saugatuck Performance, or if you just want to see the performance again, here are the details of the Grand Rapids performance:

Saturday, June 10, 7pm, Wealthy Street Theatre in Grand Rapids.

http://bit.ly/AsWeGoOnGR

Please share this invitation by copying and pasting!!

Blue Sky Over Key West

Welcome to Key West, where we are on our little houseboat soaking up lots of lack of inhibition. Several years ago Key West seceded from the U.S., for a moment, anyway, establishing itself as The Conch Republic, the flag of which flies high still around town. If you’ve been troubled by and since the election, come on down. While the T-Word’s T-shirts and hats sell well, and ironically, at The Little Truman White House here, this fashion statement is one not seen on the locals. Wallace Stevens’s poem “The Idea of Order at Key West” remains such, merely an idea. There ain’t much order here. Drop your repressions at Mile Marker One.

Our pier in the city marina, Marlin Pier, is home to a gaggle of joy-filled, caring souls ranging in age from 12 to 90. Vocations and passions include artists, jewelry makers, CSI retirees, fireworks entrepreneurs, horticulturists, teachers of the year in science, blues singers, rock musicians, ice cream shop owners, government workers, sea captains, a Welsh screen writer, eight dogs, day laborers, former Pentagon photographers, knitters, actors, an adventurer who has survived three avalanches, shop owners, charter fishing captains, gourmet chefs on tour boats, and us. It’s the best assisted living set-up in the world: If “Jane isn’t up and out on the pier by ten, we check on her.”

When we arrived on Friday and headed down the pier, we were hugged and kissed and welcomed with the warmth usually offered those who have returned from outer space. Well . . .

“Don’t just do something, sit there!” Come recover for a bit. Just remember that this is a place where on Sabbath morning the parking lot used by the parishioners of the Unity Church is the one owned by the Bare Assets Nightclub.

This week’s poem…

Blue Sky Over Key West

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

 

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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!