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

In Time: While the Dog Sleeps

Friends! Some whacked-out sociologist has written that we make no more than four or five friends in our lives. How did I get so lucky? He needs to meet each of you.

I don’t need to proclaim anything more about what has happened to us. Here’s what I want to do, and do with some self-consciousness: send a poem each week.

W. H. Auden announced that poetry makes nothing happen. I have fought that notion all my life. If I don’t believe that what I’ve given my days to can matter a tiny bit for even a moment to one human heart, then at this age, I’d be looking back at one humungous waste of time. I don’t believe I have wasted my time.

So each Thursday for the next four years, I’m going post a poem of mine (that’s where the self-consciousness enters) on my blog, as a kind of protest against the anti-soul perched atop the once free world. Please don’t worry about responding to it. If the poem can be a friend for you for a bit, that’s plenty. And feel free to “pay it forward” if you know of someone who would benefit from this.

I suppose I want to do this because I am nagged by a need to do something. I hope this will be my little protest on behalf of lovingkindness, for what is good. And all the more these days I want to feel connected to all of you during a time that has darkened the days in multiple ways.

I doubt many of us want to be uplifted. Being uplifted can feel all wrong when so many are suffering. I do think many of us want to feel respected, honored, affirmed, comforted. I hope this little project will help to fill that need.

So to see the poem each week, you can click on the Subscribe link at the top of the page, enter your email, and you’re good to go. Or just visit here on Thursdays. Of course, we’ll never use this email list for anything but sending you content from the blog.

Namaste, Shalom, Amen, Whatever. Here’s the first poem:


While the Dog Sleeps

November the first: Cold.
The last gangs of geese flying
through the gray of the day.
It’s the birthday of Stephen Crane.
On this date, Michelangelo said yes
to the Pope and gathered his brushes.
At the church next door, the choir
is rehearsing. There is nothing
I want to rehearse. Recently I’ve
been realizing, “If that didn’t exist, I
would never miss it.” I say it a lot.
But not about you. We put isinglass
over the screens on the porch so we
could sit there in sweaters, take the time
to see what was in front of us. Now
“tomorrow” is a strange word, “now”
even stranger. “Yesterday” makes sense
but not much of it is true. Our dog still
keeps sleep. I imagine him dreaming
La dolce far niente. When asked
if I miss what I did for forty years
I like to say, “That never existed.”
Now here on the porch I take in the light
crossing the last leaves doing their slow
dance in the breeze, watch the chickadees
at the feeder, once in a while glance at
the sundial we set in the shade of the redbud.

–Jack Ridl

Published in  The Louisville Review, October 2015


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