My Brother — A Star

“The Necessary Angel” is what Wallace Stevens called the imagination. Which begs the question, when is an angel not necessary? We need them all right now.

The following poem seeks to embody what he meant. When poet/fiction writer/brother Gary Gildner read the poem he said, “This is when the sensibility of a poet arrived for you.”

My Brother—A Star

My mother was pregnant through the first
nine games of the season.  We were 7 -2.
I waited for a brother.  My father
kept to the hard schedule.  Waking
the morning of the tenth game, I thought
of skipping school and shooting hoops.
My cornflakes were ready, soggy.  There
was a note:  “The baby may come today.
Get your haircut.”  We were into January,
and the long December snow had turned
to slush.  The wind was mean.  My father
was gone.  I looked in on my mother still
asleep and hoped she’d be OK.
I watched her, dreamed her dream:  John
at forward, me at guard.  He’d
learn fast.  At noon, my father
picked me up at the playground.  My team
was ahead by six.
We drove toward the gym.
“Mom’s OK,” he said and tapped his fist
against my leg.  The Plymouth ship that rode
the hood pulled us down the street.
“The baby died,” he said.  I felt my feet press hard
against the floorboard.  I put my elbow on the door handle,
my head on my hand, and watched the town:
Kenner’s Five and Ten, Walker’s Hardware,
Jarret’s Bakery, Shaffer’s Barber Shop, the bank.
Dick Green and Carl Stacey waved.  “It was
a boy.”
We drove back to school.  “You gonna
coach tonight?”  “Yes.”  “Mom’s OK?”
“Yes.  She’s fine.  Sad.  But fine.  She said
for you to grab a sandwich after school.  I’ll see you
at the game.  Don’t forget about your hair.”  I
got out, walked in late to class.
“We’re doing geography,” Mrs. Wilson said.  “Page
ninety-seven.  The prairie.”
That night in bed
I watched this kid firing in jump shots
from everywhere on the court.  He’d cut left,
I’d feed him a fine pass, he’d hit.
I’d dribble down the side, spot him in the corner, thread
the ball through a crowd to his soft hands, and he’d
loft a star up into the lights where it would pause
then gently drop, fall through the cheers and through the net.
The game never ended.  I fell into sleep.  My hair
was short.  We were 8 and 2.

-for my mother and my father

–Jack Ridl

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Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings and Reader’s World to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

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

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

Dailiness

Times such as these can erode our sense of mystery about being itself, just being. Of course in the West meaning is what holds a hierarchy of value. “But it’s meaningless,” we hear. Or “I really need to do something meaningful.”
Being is a wonder. It can be especially important now not to dismiss that there is no such thing as “merely” mundane. I have to admit to tiring of hearing lives devalued by some to “dailiness.”

Nancy Willard’s work steadfastly holds to recognizing wonder, the magic of what can be taken for granted. You may know of her A Visit to William Blake’s Inn. Nancy had a great personal impact on our daughter Meridith when she was young. And on this guy always.

This gives me a chance to say thank you to you, reading this, for sustaining this project, this journeyman in his own explorations of dailiness.

 

Dailiness

This morning after the angels had put on
their scarves and mittens and said their
goodbyes and headed out into the surprise

of the first snow, he put away the recipe
for crepes, washed the plates, the other
dishes, silverware, put the butter in cold

water, and poured a second cup of coffee.
The moon was not yet set at 8:30, and it
made him remember how he never wanted

to leave his grandmother, her house, her
porch, her lap where she would read
to him, often a chapter from Moby Dick

or a comic—Felix the Cat, Buck Rogers—
an Uncle Wiggly story, something from
the King James Bible. Today he knew

what lay ahead: He would feed the fish
in his little pond, cut back what he’d left
in the flower bed, get pumpernickel bread

and orange marmalade, then the mail, maybe
stop at Jane’s Depot and buy some new
warm socks. And he needed to decide

what book next to read. And what
to have tomorrow for breakfast when
the angels would be back around 7:30.

for Nancy Willard

 

–Jack Ridl

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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!

The Materialism of Angels

During this season, I hope these angels bring you comfort and joy. That’s their job!

Here’s some joy in our household.  I learned yesterday that that the first poem I sent you, “While the Dog Sleeps,” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by The Louisville Review.  So good of them to do that. And so we’ll go through the winter with our fingers crossed…

The Materialism of Angels

“Who would say that pleasure is not useful?”—Charles Eames

Of course the angels dance. If not
on the head of a pin, then maybe
on the boardwalk along the ocean of stars.
And they eat hot and spicy: salsa,
tabasco, red peppers. They love
mangoes. They can munch
for hours on cashews. Olives
sit in bronze bowls on the cherry
tables next to their canopy beds
where the solace of pillows swallows
their sweet heads and the quiet
of silk lies across their happy backs.
They know the altruism of material things.
They want to say to us, “We’ll sleep
next to you. Feel our soft and unimposing
flutter across your shoulders, on your
heartbroken feet.” They want us
to take, eat, to smell the wood,
run our tired fingers over the rim of
every glass, give our eyes the chance
to see the way the metal bends and
curves its way into the black oval
of the chair. They want us to feel
the holiness of scratching where it
itches, rubbing where it hurts. They
want us to take long, steamy showers
and a nap. They know how easily
we follow directions: hook the red wire
to the front of the furnace, fill in only
the top half of the life insurance form.
They have no manuals for joy.
They can’t fix anything we break.
They wonder why we never laugh
enough, why we don’t know God
is crazy for deep massage, and loves
to wail on an alto sax whenever they dance.

–Jack Ridl

from Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

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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!

 😇