Listening to Baseball on the Back of the Boat

The hurricanes. Now devastation comes in threes. Julie has spent her days trying to help our Key West friends both on and off the island stay in touch, find who and what they needed to make it through, ease their hearts.

We are ever grateful to those of you who checked on us. Your caring sustained our shocked hearts as we waited with only thoughts of the worst — as did everyone.  Thank you.

As of today no one is allowed back on the island for probably 7-10 days. There is the overwhelming need to tend to roads, bridges, provide clean water, deal with sewage, restore power, bring in gasoline, medical supplies, food, assess damages. The teams on the ground are making amazing progress. But it’s hard to wait to return.

And of course at this time, most everyone is thinking about how it could have been worse and how many millions are worse off than those of us who are getting up this morning to another day with food, shelter, pets, friends.

Here’s a poem I composed to somehow fit with the disaster–

Listening to Baseball on the Back of the Boat

The Pirates are up 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth.
An hour ago, I watched a rehabbed houseboat
being towed across the bight and into its slip,

the owners Pittsburghers who wandered down
into the sun and humidity of Key West. The water’s
dappled oblongs of light ripple laconically and

the sky is all but gull-less. Tonight the saved
boat’s owners will couple again—perhaps—
the same sun setting its lower light through

their new windows. Now it’s the seventh inning.
I don’t know why I’m listening. Maybe I am
twelve. Maybe they are seventeen again finding

themselves in an old new boat, surprised
that saving it has maybe saved a twitch of
them even though this was never in the plans.

A Dodger just homered with two on
making it 3-2. I look back across the water,
watch four cormorants dive, surface, dive.

–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!

The Night before the MLA, Casey Stengel Appears to the Post-Modernist Theorists

Here we are, somewhere, staggering along in days where words are used to mislead, obfuscate, gaslight.

Dr. George Bleasby, my distinguished in every good way novels professor — he would return a paper if he sniffed that we had used even one secondary source. “If you go to the library, look only at original sources. I want your paper to be about you and the novel. The novel is a sacred text.”

Dr. Bleasby would enter the class with only the current novel in his hands. He was so calm, so respectful of each of us. My papers were awful. “Your C doesn’t reflect your mind, but I know that you are afraid. You’ll find your mind. You will.”

Near the end of the spring semester, we were to have read Charles Dickens’s Hard Times. Dr. Bleasby always began class with a topic for us to talk about. He offered one. No takers. He offered another. Again, no takers. After none of us responded to the third topic, he stood, slowly, and ever so gently said, “I shall return when you have learned to respect Mr. Dickens,” and he walked out.

This is for, not “George,” but for a man I would still to this day address as Dr. Bleasby. He was with me during every class I taught…

 

The Night before the MLA, Casey Stengel Appears to the Post-Modernist Theorists

“You ever take a pitch when the count’s 3-1?
Slide home on a single to right? One time
the wind in Chicago threw my boys off.

Whitey was furious when I pulled him
with two out in the sixth, but you have to know
when to bring in your heat.” The theorists open

their titanium brief cases, grab their Pilot pens
and spiral notebooks. This is the deconstruction
they’ve been waiting for. Casey waits, then

starts back up. “One Wednesday, a week after
my stomach quit achin’, I told the boys, ‘We
gotta shine our spikes and button our shirts.’

Mick and Moose said, ‘Sure.’ But Billy
over-slid second. The bleachers were empty.
Tells ya somethin’.” The theorists are dazed.

They ask him to explicate. “Sure, I’ll explicate.
It’s all about the home field advantage. Unless
Conlin was behind the plate. Then you might as well

go to a movie. If it’s a night game, well now, that’s
not the same, it’s different. There’s a difference.
Right, Yogi? Next year. Next year. Not last. Gotta

go, boys.” The theorists say, “Thank you, Casey,”
shake his hand, have him sign their books, high-five
one another, and retreat to their hotel. They order

room service, change their panel to “Signs Don’t
Have to Signify: Words, Ontology, and the Void
between Pitches.” The Q & A lasts two hours.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Waymark, Voices of the Valley magazine.

 

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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!