Coach in Effigy

Well, it’s time for The Final Four.

What does this have to do with this post-election project, you ask. I hope it will come clear.

My sister and I, living as a basketball coach’s kids, have never gotten past the impact of abusive fans. To this day, no matter what the team, after any game we’ve watched or read about be it college/university or high school, now likely even junior high, elementary school we immediately think about the family of the coach of the losing team. My father said to a writer from Sports Illustrated who was writing about him, “I love this game. But I don’t understand most fans.”

I think it was 1957 or ’58. My father started three black players. The next morning he was asked to report to the president’s office. When he came back for lunch, we asked him, “So, what was that about?” He said, “Well, the president said that he’d gotten phone calls. Then he leaned across his desk and said, ‘Next game,’ and he held up just two fingers.”  We–my mother, sister, and I–sat silent. Then I ventured, “Next game? What are you gonna do?” My father, who was quite a modest and soft-spoken man, replied, “Next game–”  And he held up four fingers.

Coach in Effigy

His daughter saw him first,
hanging from the maple
that draped its old arms
over the house, his head
blooming from the rope
that strangled his neck.
In the morning’s moonlight,
she read their name
scrawled like a scar
across his chest.  She
remembered the way
his hands had held her
years ago when, bloodied
from a fall, she’d let
the scream we all carry
go to him.  He seemed
to hold it in his hands.
Now, within this losing
season, she wants to take
this anonymous lynching
in her arms, ask the hands
that made it and the fists
that rose against it
to join, stand around her
as she sings the only song,
lets the head rest, lets
the heart give out.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Westminster Review

Anthologized in 9MM, edited by Ryan G. Van Cleve and Virgil Suarez

Published in the collection Losing Season (CavanKerry 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.

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

 

Elegy for Cousin Albert – a Circus Man

So many things we didn’t know were problematic turn out to be.

Recently Ringling Bros. announced their day is over. The Big Apple Circus closed.
I grew up with the circus. My mother had a cousin who was as close to her as a brother. He traveled all over with circuses, knew them all, knew everyone. I, of course, didn’t have any idea that it was a big deal to “hang out” with Emmett Kelly, Lou Jacobs, The Wallendas, Clyde Beatty, Unus, who stood on one finger. They were people in the back lot readying to go on. Then one day we watched Ringling unload their tent for the very last time. That was the first loss. From then on for me, a circus without a tent was not quite a circus.

I understand why it’s gone. A few will try to stagger along. But . . .

Elegy for Cousin Albert—A Circus Man

If you knew you were going to be taken in,
you were part of the great act, and all
the richer for your willingness
to suspend belief for the higher world
of jungle cats, exhausted jugglers,
jaded clowns, those who left their losses
in the back lot and paraded center ring
for seven months to lead us on—
to be performers while we sat.
We knew the fat came off the drunk
and drug-infested fly-by night
hard work of broken men
who’d pitch the tent then wait
throughout the show until
beneath the same old stars
they’d watch the dusty bull
pull down the center pole, bellow
to the night, and lumber out from
underneath the canvas floating down,
a shroud to lie, quiet, over the empty
lot. Later, housed twenty to a truck,
the men would sleep.
Somewhere,
on the road, Albert, now ashes
in his widow’s living room,
would think about the time when he
was six and rode the Ringling elephant.
God sears the heart with a single twinge.
Now the loss, the grief is just another line
of colored posters strung along the sideshow
urging us to pay to see Alice wrapped
in tattoos, Johnny Jungle eating bugs,
The Human Reptile, Alphonse tasting
fire, Erma swallowing swords, and
all of us who charm the snakes.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Journal (Ohio State)

 

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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!

Keeping On

Tomorrow, Friday, inaugurates an uncertain future, one where, as of now, what we care about and many we care about will be affected in destructive ways. This week’s poem tries to offer what we can hold to.

Keeping On

But of course he couldn’t decide.
One thing always led to another.
Like the way the lady drove down the street.
No, more like the way the dog . . .
Well, whatever it was, it was
not nearly as traumatic as the way
the man two blocks over . . .
or was it yesterday’s mail? He was
lost, or so it seemed, until he learned
to plant onions amid the hollyhocks
and realized that sticking spoons
in one part of the garden attracted moonlight
long after the flowers had faded. And so,
he bought a hundred more spoons and
arranged them throughout the flowers.
He watered them. And watched them
stay the same. And let them
take the moonlight. And one day he realized
he’d forgotten about the lady
and the way the dog and the man two blocks
over and the mail. He found himself
smiling as he sprinkled the spoons.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Texas Observer
Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

“Keeping On” is not a suggestion to avoid the T-word. The governing image is the watering of the spoons — to care for that which creates light without fading.
Peace,
Jack

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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!

A Christmas List for Santa

“The [person] who refuses sentiment refuses the full spectrum of human behavior, and then just dries up. … I would rather give full vent to all human loves and disappointments, and take a chance on being corny, than die a smartass.” — Jim Harrison

 

A Christmas List for Santa

A Wednesday afternoon with no thoughts of Thursday

Three weeks in the woods, two by myself, one with my father

My father

Cups of tea, plates for sugar cookies, the first ones I ever made, the dough still sticking to my fingertips

Comic books from the late ‘40s: Little Lulu, The Green Hornet, Felix the Cat

Every creek from the upper peninsula of Michigan

The last page from twenty unpublished novels

The ease of a dog’s sleep

Five gold rings

A moon-draped evening among the birds in the hemlocks

Any snow-covered pile of leaves

Photographs, I don’t care how many, of my daughter just before she smiles
for the camera

Seven moments with the lucidity of cutting yourself with a bread knife

Whatever happens between what happens

The liturgy of an old monk laughing

–Jack Ridl

from Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (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!