My Father Gardening in Heaven

Last week in a workshop — actually more like a salon — that I was asked to lead eleven years ago, the poets brought poems in which they described their heaven. Among the many moving heavens created were several that included…

*an absence of gun violence.
*rights not labeled privileges.
*health care for all without regard to ability to pay.
*respect for and care of the natural world.
*children not separated from their parents at the border.
*religions that didn’t just welcome all, but affirmed all.

Well, you get the idea.

I could call this approach heaven on earth, but for the fact that many of us affirm that this is the way earth should be on earth.

My Father Gardening in Heaven

The flowers are no taller here.
The cosmos carry their saucers
of burgundy and white, the fuchsias
dangle their puckered blossoms
no farther down than they do on earth.
Every flower adds its promiscuity
of scent, its audacity of color
to the unencumbered hues of heaven. Here
my father imagines snow-on-the-mountain
spreading across the clouds, succulents
thriving in the fierce sunlight, bleeding
heart drooping in the perfect air. Here
there are no slugs peeling the leaves,
no aphids ravenous in a flower’s veins.
The days are bereft of drought, the nights
solicit no unwelcome frost. Once, my father,
sleeping under the apple blossoms,
began to dream of spider mites, leaf hoppers,
and lace bugs cutting across his every plant.
He woke up shaking and reaching for a spray.
Adam turned from his hoeing, smiled. Eve
waved out the window. My father nodded,
stood up, took his rake and pulled it gently
over the straight and narrow furrows
he had loosened in the soft, sweet loam.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

Please mark your calendars for the Fifth Annual “Reading at The Red Dock.”
Tuesday evening, August 14, 6:30pm. Come early, grab a seat.

This year’s guest poet is Laura Donnelly, winner of the Cider Press Review Editors’ Prize for her collection Watershed. This past year Laura was named The State University of New York/Oswego’s Outstanding Professor.

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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!

But He Loved His Dog

24 million will lose their health care unless some in congress have a backbone and a twitch of caring for those they are sworn to care for.

When our daughter, Meridith, was living in France for a year on a Watson Fellowship to paint in the footsteps of Cezanne, she was struck by a hit-and-run motorcyclist and was taken immediately into surgery for critical head injuries: no paper work, no questions, no nothing but care, excellent care. When we arrived, we were told not to worry about any financial concerns. “We are here to take care of your child.” Total cost: $25 dollars. She continues to paint in the footsteps of Cezanne.

Coda: When Meridith first visited Cezanne’s studio in Aix en Provence, the curator was struck by Mimi’s awe and asked her to return in a couple days to talk. (Incidentally, there were no ropes to keep visitors away from everything: his bag, brushes, easel, everything.) When Mimi returned to her apartment we asked her about her talk. “She gave me a key and told me to come anytime to do my painting in the studio.”

24 million. Ropes to keep us away from everything. Get rid of the National Endowment for the Arts. Take a selfie with your microwave. Now as pass by those such as this man, I wonder . . .

 

But He Loved His Dog

Wednesday was trash day so he pulled
the garbage can to the curb. There
was never that much in it. Sometimes
he stood there for a few minutes, looking
down when a car drove by, looking up
at the trees in the yard across the street.

No one really knew if he knew anyone.
He had a dog. It wasn’t much of a dog.
It was an old dog, a mix too mixed
to know what all might be there. He
told someone once, “Oh I suppose
there has to be some beagle, maybe
some German shepherd.” Each noon
he walked the dog down to the corner,
left on Maple Avenue, three blocks
to the park where they would stop and

he would sit on a bench under a Beech
that had been hollowing out for years.
The dog lay at his feet, once in a while
lifted its head and sniffed. He never read
or talked except to say, “What do you
think of this day, boy?” and the dog
would wag its tail across the gravel path.

He would sit for most of the afternoon,
then tug on the dog’s leash and they
would walk on through the park, then
back home. He would bring in the mail,
toss it away. When the evening’s light
began drawing its shadow across his porch,
he would turn on the radio, open a window,
and sit outside, with his dog, listening
to the classical music station and the cicadas.

–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!