Living in the 21st Century

Two years ago today, I promised weekly posts as a contrast to 45 until he was out of office. I did not believe that two years later he would still be perched on his obscene and life-destructive dead branch.

This post could perhaps be seen not as a contrast, however, I truly mean it to be, and to draw attention to what has always been what this country has cared about with the hope that hope can be resurrected.

>>Joy alert: Following this post is a list of absolutely wonderful news, on the publishing front, of new works that can sustain you, fascinate, illuminate, educate in the most humane ways, and offer experiences you perhaps have not had. So either skip past the post first for joy, or know the joy awaits.<<

Over the past seven months I have learned what it’s like to be a campaign manager (through the woman I get to be the husband to — Julie) for a candidate with full integrity and also what it’s like to be a full supporter of four other candidates who carry what today has become too often an anachronism–that same integrity. And then to watch them lose to five candidates who revealed their lack of integrity by barely showing up, or accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from you-know-who so that they can continue to dismantle democracy and replace it with their oligarchy.

I have also learned what it’s like to be a helpless spouse who tries to do and say the right thing when there is no right thing to say or do. Sometimes I think it’s the curse we men carry who don’t blurt out the old “cheer up,” “get on with it,” “look on the bright side,” “some others won,” “we’re making advances in what matters” gene.

Last night here we watched our five local candidates, who both act on what they care about and have real plans (for accessible health care, budgeting to benefit those in need, safe water, reliable infrastructure, schools that give teachers salaries and classroom sizes that enable students to not only learn, but also become themselves rather than cogs in the machine that enable those who have no need to work to continue to have no need to work, the destruction of the planet, and more) LOSE to candidates who didn’t even campaign.

Imagine this, the people who WON refused to show up for forums. When asked by the press to answer questions for print, they didn’t. They accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from dark and corporate PACs — willing to have their corporate patrons tell them what to say and how to legislate. They lied outright about our candidates, which seems to be accepted practice under 45. They didn’t need to connect with anyone except tycoons, megachurches, gun fetishists, and any organization willing to tell their audiences, “vote for _______ or else.”

The people who gave five, ten, fifty, a hundred dollars to Julie’s candidates gave because they knew these candidates would work for what matters.

Those who backed the winners sustained their own selfish agenda. The winners oh so often say they care about us–with a smug simulacrum of honesty. However, that’s all: “I care.” The record shows they haven’t yet acted on this obfuscated word.

Let’s face it. The business of America is business.

I prefer the New Testament woman with only a few shekels who gave them all away.

I am staring now at my dogs, for whom this day is just another day. I want to be my dogs.

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

Published in Broken Symmetry, Wayne State University Press


1. Greg Rappleye’s collection, Tropical Landscape with Ten Hummingbirds has been released by Dos Madres Press. That’s the same press that published David James’s moving if god were gentle. Leslie Harrison, finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry, says “The core of the book is a series of poems about the life and paintings of Martin Johnson Heade, and the poems, like the paintings, are intricate, gorgeous, and deeply, quietly felt. In range and scope this book is unique.”

2. Gayle Boss’s All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings, with stunning woodcuts by David G. Klein, has been published by Paraclete Press. Obviously this is a book for the Advent, Christmas, and Holiday Season. Richard Rohr writes, “Adapting to the dark and cold [each of the beautiful creatures in this book] announce…that through every dark door the creating Love of the universe waits.” And the late Brian Doyle, author of Chicago: A Novel, wrote “A wonderfully refreshing sidelong book that makes you stop and think and ponder and consider and contemplate and see not only Advent but your entire blessed life with new eyes.”

3. Jim Hanson’s 137 page — yes 137 page — poem About Florence has been published. Jim gave a recent reading of the entire collection, all composed in blank verse. He noted that there was an intermission.

All three collections can be ordered in the usual ways, found in area bookstores, or by contacting the authors.

AND–Mark Hiskes’s collection Standing with Alyosha has been accepted for publication, also by Dos Madres Press. Dos Madres recognizes these close-by, remarkable poets, all of whom know one another. What a joy!

And–a new weekly online publication has been created by Reka Jellema and Kathleen Schenk: Holland Weekly! It welcomes all writings about Holland and the area. As the editors point out, “It’s a new kind of journalism!” Check it out. I really think you’ll be delighted. Do consider contributing.

Alas I wasn’t able to attend the reading at Central Michigan University by honored German poet Eva Christina Zeller who follows these posts and has become an online friend. Eva lives in the same city of Tübingen, Germany, as dear friend Norbert Kraas. It was Norbert who introduced me to Christian Zaschke. The world is smaller than it feels.


Sisley’s “Snow at Louveciennes”

“Thou shalt not steal.” Most everyone grows up with this dictum usually applied to material goods.

It’s not only immoral; it’s illegal.

However, we are having to live with one who steals from us and gets away with it.

45 steals our attention. Of course we are obliged to pay heed to what issues come before our leaders, keep a vigilant watch, as we learned, likely in elementary school.

But today this thief breaks and enters and steals what deserves our attentiveness, distracts us from those we love, from our dogs and cats, our breakfast, our own cares and passions. Imagine! Our attention stolen and tossed to a feud between 45 and Alec Baldwin.

There you are trying to comfort a friend, have a good time with a loved one, trying to fix the faucet, while slithering around in your consciousness is this blatant thief, and you find yourself saying to the other person, “Did you see what he tweeted today? Right there, right then, he stole what you would have said about the weather, the kids, what happened to Helen or Tom.

Sisley’s “Snow at Louveciennes”

We see white on white, a woman
in the bleak center of the canvas,
this cold holding onto the rolling

snow lying along the fences,
tree limbs, hipped roofs,
stone walls of the lost village.

On a cottage door, a quiet blot
of blue. Wrapped in a tatter
of brown, the woman, deep

in the landscape’s insistent flat,
has the anonymity of a still life.
She is your mother unable to return,

staring into the blizzard’s dread
beauty, seeing only the sky,
a mute wash of blue hanging fragile,

spare as the frozen air. She stands
bordered by the indifference
of daylight, imagines a cardinal

cutting its wound across the snow,
a cat crawling under a cottage,
curling its tail around its sleep.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Harpur Palate
Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

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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, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

The Man Who Wanted to Change the World

When sticks and stones break our bones, we’re pretty sure they will mend. However, words can hurt, and the hurt often lasts. Of course, words also can comfort, sustain, understand, lead to healing, to change for the good. I’ll stop there and invite you, if you want, to add to the list.

Here’s a guy who tried–

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 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, fact.

–Jack Ridl

From Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

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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, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

The Artist to the Canvas

Last week we sent out “The Refugees.” The remarkable artist of numinous works Dawn Stafford and her daughter, Lillian, read it aloud together. It became a kind of chant/rap. Would I ever love to hear that!

Speaking of artists–

45 has heard of Vincent van Gogh! He asked the Guggenheim to send him one of van Gogh’s paintings to hang in the White House.

The curator declined and instead offered to bring over and install “America” by Maurizio Cattalen. It’s a solid gold functional toilet.

You don’t have to be Fellini to recognize the metaphorical layers in that offer.

Can’t imagine 45 would have any idea what it’s like to take part in the uncertain, vulnerable experience of attempting to create a work of any art.

We are in what has been called the age of criticism, often reduced in prestigious publications, classes, and conversations to “What did you think of . . .?”

Whereas, Vincent van Gogh offered the following:

“I want to touch people with my art.”

“What is done in love is well done.”

“The beginning is perhaps more difficult than anything else.”

The Artist to the Canvas

I see the lost
light of the dead,
the occult of morning,

the same moon
rising behind the night.

The next child is
the next child, each
chasing the disappearing

I let you in the back door,
mortician of beginnings,

sleeping in a newly mown field.

–Jack Ridl


First published in Colorado Review

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


Monday mornings I meet David (D.R.) James for coffee and a pastry at the Respite Cappuccino Court in Douglas. We chat and sip and chat some more. His new collection, If god were gentle, has been published by Dos Madres Press and is available from the publisher, online, and from your local independent bookstore.


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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, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!