Last Night, I Think

Tuesday night Julie and I watched Paterson. When it ended I said to Julie that I was so struck that I really didn’t know what to say to her. She said, “I understand.” It’s sure rare, isn’t it, when someone “gets you”?

The poems in the film are by Ron Padgett. He’s been a friend I’ve never met. There’s a conversation between him and the director Jim Jarmusch. Padgett says to him something like “I knew you were trying for the big bucks when you told me that you were going to make a film about poetry.”

I hope I get to see you at The Red Dock, 6pm, August 8.

https://ridl.wordpress.com/2017/07/23/fourth-annual-reading-at-the-red-dock/

Last Night, I Think

During the storm,
I wondered
about gathering
all the drops.
From there it
took off into all
this other stuff: light
on the underside
of leaves, what
rust peels away,
the space between
musical notes. I forgot
what time it was; I
wrote that down.
When I was a kid
I loved plus signs
and hummingbirds
in the honeysuckle.
I have jars filled
with words my
father left behind.

–Jack Ridl

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Visit Roan & Black 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!

Aubade for Today

Something quiet after all the fireworks.

Independence Day. How many are experiencing their freedom, their independence? Too easy to be rueful about how the day this year has been sullied.
Instead, here’s some delightful news: This year’s annual Red Dock Reading will feature Thomas Lynch.
August 8, 6:30pm at — where else? — the Red Dock which is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Congratulations to huge-hearted Tony, gently dazzling Dona, and the generous, warm-hearted staff.
To lure you to mark your calendar here’s bit about Thomas:
 
Thomas Lynch has read and lectured throughout Europe. His commentaries have
been broadcast by BBC radio and NPR, and he has appeared on MSNBC, The
Today Show, and with Bill Moyers on his PBS series, “On Our Own Terms.”
Lynch lives in his ancestral cottage in Moveen, County Clare, Ireland and Milford, Michigan.

Aubade for Today

When the morning comes,
that’s when you can do
what the morning hopes

you will do. Most can’t.
You don’t have to. If you
do though, it will then all

change. And it will be
noon and time for a
sandwich, or you might

keep going until the moon.

–Jack Ridl

 

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Visit Roan & Black 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!

Within What You Endure

You have likely read the columns recognizing that T’s mental and emotional development is that of a seven year old. That did it for me.

It’s reached the point where my concern for the republic has turned into resentment that I have to be concerned for the republic. I want to be concerned for what matters in my world: wife, daughter, friends, family, dog, cat, the annuals I planted last week, my Pittsburgh Penguins. You know that’s what matters–our worlds, governed by our love.

Trouble is that this week all the recent disclosures plus the overload of various activists asking for my 876th signature and accosting me for not pledging a mere $25 to their 876 causes sent me into one helluva dark place, and I ended up displaying a similar infantile rant at those who in no way deserve to witness or be bombarded by little boy Jack. What I needed was a time out.

Within What You Endure

Beneath the quilt you lie
still in the chronic morning

light, eyes on the ceiling’s blank
canvas. You paint your father

in a dark blue shirt kneeling
in his garden, you sitting small

beside him, he handing you
his trowel and a seedling,

as if to say, “You plant this one.”
And you imagine you do. Then

you paint your own house
half-built at the foot of a gentle

rise within the quiet landscape
of a stagger of pines higher

than the roof. The sun is half way
up. You put down your brush,

and welcome the day, your day
spreading out into its question.

-Jack Ridl

Published in Third Wednesday and Poet Lore

After the Embargo

Immigration–an issue. Especially during our current political darkness. But an issue is not people. What does it mean to be an immigrant? How can we know in new ways?

I’m also thinking about us all. I’m thinking that we are immigrating every day–where we live, in what we do, even at home. Daily we’re immigrating our way into nations of others and other ways, adapting and adjusting and hoping to be welcomed, perhaps assimilated. It’s precarious: we can be extradited. We deeply want to be neighbors.

The shift from identity as immigrant to neighbor is poignantly revealed in the new anthology, Immigration & Justice For Our Neighbors, edited by Jennifer Clark and Miriam Downey.

The proceeds from sales of this important book ($10) benefit Justice For Our Neighbors, a ministry of hospitality that welcomes immigrants into our communities by providing affordable, high-quality immigration legal services, and engaging in advocacy for immigrants’ rights.

The anthology is valuable not only for the individual reader, but also for those teaching applicable courses, leading workshops, etc. To order email kzoo_assist@jfonwestmichigan.org or download and use this order form.

After the Embargo
Let in. Let out.
Make sure to send
the cigars. We must

have the cigars. And a
baseball player or two
or three. And Cuban

sandwiches. The music
has been here for
a thousand years. It

never needed a heartrending
raft to land on the sand.
It came the way music always

does. And now we sigh and
hope that never again along
the Keys’ haphazard shores

will a sea-soaked, ragged,
salt-enameled soul be dragged
to jail to wait, and then to wait.

–Jack Ridl
First published in Immigration & Justice For Our Neighbors (Celery City Books)

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.

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!

 

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!