To Live with the Benedictines

After the incomprehensible insensitivity of this past week, I have been thinking with deep gratitude about Guy Martin, the remarkable man I worked for at Colgate University. Guy was a theologian, philosopher, man of depth carried gently. His presence was one of inexhaustible thoughtfulness.

Guy was infinitely patient with this anxiety ridden kid trying to come through on his first work after college.  One day I asked Guy what he as a kid told people when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. He thought for a bit — he always thought for a bit before responding to any question or comment — then said, “I remember now that I always said that I wanted to be kind.”

To Live with the Benedictines

I would love to live within the Benedictine
vow of hospitality, letting it fill the day–
from matins bringing the sun out of

the night until I kneel by the straw
pillow waiting for my happy head.
To never have to try to feel at home,

to wander into prayer, the words turning
into leaves, salt air, nothing at all, the world
being what a cello says it can be. Anything

on the tongue would be the host—chunk
of dark chocolate, an apple, breadstick,
sprig of mint. The days, never enough,

would simply be light and dark moving in
and out of one another, a redeemed yin to
yang, an endless alchemy of hours, cowls

over the shaved heads of the monks.
To love without distinctions: Why this?
Why that? There is a window. And there

is a crocus blooming in the snow. There is
a book open to page 73. And there, asleep,
an old dog, snoring his own Gregorian chant.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Poetry East, 2006

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Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings 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!

Epilogue

Perhaps it’s the term ‘post-modern.” I don’t understand “post-modern.” I don’t understand “modern.”

I know some people who had an argument over when modernism began. It all but destroyed their friendship. When disagreements like that break out, I feel like offering an adaptation of a Mel Brooks response: Uh, you go on arguing, “I gotta wash up.”

Epilogue. Maybe we’re inhabiting an epilogue. I like that. Epilogues tend to have a sense of addition or addendum to a story and are often a gentle settling of things.

Yeah. I don’t want to dwell with you in a “Post-T Word” world. Let’s head toward an epilogue.

Epilogue

I’m working a Sudoku puzzle, one cat
in my lap and Mozart on the radio. I
didn’t catch what work, but I don’t know

much about classical music. I like it,
most of it, have it on all day, a companion
as I wander from room to room within
a life that may or may not matter. I
also don’t know much about cats. We
have two. They act as if they can’t believe
the other should be in the house. They hiss,
growl, swat at one another. The old dog
sleeps. The young dog stands between them.
It’s a cold day, patches of snow and ice.
There are birds at the feeders. There is
a clear sky, and the creek behind the house
drifts along as does the next piece on the radio,
something by Edward Elgar or maybe it’s
Vaughn Williams. This puzzle is impossible.–Jack Ridl

First published in The Louisville Review

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Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings 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!

What To Do Instead

Al Murtz was a folk artist… more of an outsider artist… no, more a guy who liked to paint on things.

My good pal Max Milo introduced me to Al. We visited him in Baldwin, MI, where his house was surrounded by every object imaginable, each painted by Al. Never a canvas. Always an object.

One time,  Doctor Scholl’s truck tipped and out spilled thousands of insoles. Al had them gathered up and dropped off at his place where he painted each one.

Hundreds of bright yellow railroad spikes with red-painted smiley faces on top greeted you in front of the house.

When a leak appeared in the roof, Al put an upturned rowboat over the spot, the boat painted all imaginable colors. In the back he had placed upright a set of bed springs, each painted, monoliths to something.

We asked Al’s wife why he did this every day, all day. She shook her head and said, “He likes to paint.”

What To Do Instead
Out here, the paint stays
between my fingers–a boat,
a long afternoon, this wide
and generous landscape.
I like the smells: grass, yellow,
the insides of old hats, rain,

the rot of logs and leaves.
I wonder about church.
I’d like to paint the pews.

I like every afternoon, how
the morning empties and opens
and birds and light come into it,

how the color moves north or
veers into my neighbor’s yard.
And I like where my hand goes

when the brush takes it across
a board or broken dinnerware,
a light bulb, shoes, baseballs,

those dinner trays there beside
the bicycles, or these stumps.
When I’m out here, it’s quiet

and the wind moves across my hands.

–Jack Ridl

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Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings 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!

 

Instead of Vacationing in Maine

Times such as these often leave one wondering about alternatives. How can we do anything other than be chronically absorbed by the disrespect for the office of the presidency and the course language and cruel disregard of those who so need the government to be “for the people”?

I think back to the time when our daughter, maybe seven or eight said, “I think a lot depends on where you put your but.” We, of course heard “butt” and burying our surprise, asked what she meant.

“I mean that you could say, ‘I wanted to go to the beach, but it’s raining.’ Or you could say, ‘It’s raining, but I can stay here and read on the porch.’ ”

I’m not suggesting that we abdicate paying attention to the miasma we’re in, but maybe it would help if we thought about where to put both our “butts” and our “buts.”

I hope I get to see you, and you get to see Tom Lynch at The Red Dock, 6pm, August 8. Books for sale at the reading.

Instead of Vacationing in Maine

Here on our screened in porch the hot August light falls
like a shawl over the dogs, each asleep in his bed,
the old one stretched out in his long white coat,

the pup curled into a pile of pillows, one ear flopped
over his forehead. The FM station sends “The Wasps”
into the humid afternoon. Williams composed it at nineteen.

At nineteen I was lost. Cicadas stutter in the branches bending
over the stream drying now to a meandering line of cold
spring water that rises from the bottom of Kelly Lake

then twists for three miles before losing its trail into
the maw of Lake Michigan. Deer come, drink, then
move closer, this year close enough to gnaw

the leaves from the mass of hostas surrounding
the house. One kingfisher cackles back and forth
from branch to branch pausing to peer down

for minnows, crayfish, and tadpoles. The gardens held
through July’s dragging lack of rain. We helped,
sprinkling the pots with a watering can we found years ago,

its paint peeling and leaving a patina that bends
into the quieting hues of the scramble of color:
wine-red begonias, pale pink and purple phlox,

a collage of coleus, the pastels of daisy, gazania,
the stunning burgundy of bergamot—seducer
of hummingbird and yellow jacket. Dragonflies pose

on the lilies’ leaves, the day-mortal blooms leaning into
the sunlight as if to invite the swallowtails and monarchs.
All here, all soon leaving with the soft, dark closing of the day.

–Jack Ridl
from Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

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Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings 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!

 

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!

The Gardeners

My father was a remarkable gardener. Thousands of flowers and vegetables. He dug up and brought in every gladiolus bulb and in the basement laid them on abandoned window screens. This week I brought home our first glads of the season from our farmers market. “Pop-Pop” would smile.

It just struck me, the word “glads.” That’s what we likely can best summon up at this long time — a bunch of daily “glads.”

Here’s one: “The Fourth Annual Reading at The Red Dock.”

On Tuesday, August 8,  Thomas Lynch will join me on the dock. We’ll get the reading underway around 6pm with live music leading us before that. Consider bringing a chair! And once the dock is full, it’s full. So early birds get the words.

The Gardeners

In the spring, she
drops the seeds, he
covers them. He
digs up the weeds.
She cuts the flowers.
She takes the blooms
and puts them in
every room. They soar
red from the tables, sprout
yellow from the shelves,
hang purple from
the ceiling, blue
from the edges of
lampshades. Clusters
of flowers sit in
tiny pots on every
window sill, in open
cupboards, behind
the sink. He stands
beside her as she tosses
all the wilted leaves
into a rusty bucket.
This house is heaven’s
door, the air gathering
the bashful smells of
blossoms, roots, cut
stems, wet dirt, new
and rotting leaves.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Poetry East

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry

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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!

Rainbow

The word Myth, poor thing. It’s been reduced to mean that which isn’t true. “It’s just a myth.”

Sigh.

But true myths are those that contain and maintain certain truths.

And poor Science, how it gets misunderstood, especially when “what happens when” is equated with “why.”

Real science, real art, real myth welcome us to mystery, wonder–humbling, awe-kindling, inspiring places to be.

The first lines of the following poem could appear to be in opposition to science. They aren’t. They are meant to challenge a misunderstanding of science, one that is presented in the epigraph that opens the poem.

And it’s raining this morning!

Say, mark your calendars if you are interested in attending “The Fourth Annual Reading at The Red Dock.” This year Thomas Lynch will join me on Tuesday August 8. We’ll get the reading underway around 6pm with live music leading us into the reading. Consider bringing a chair! And once the dock is full, it’s full. So early birds get the words.

Rainbow
There is no precise date at which mythology gave way to science.
–Carl B. Boyer, The Rainbow: From Myth to Mathematics

So science is the bully on the playground,
the guy who says Babe Ruth was just
a drunk, the kid who rolls his eyes
the day the trees all bud. You know elves
live under your porch, that God loves
puppets, that the wind comes from a witch’s
cave, and birds sing just to sing.  What if
Wordsworth, strolling along the lakes,
looked up, took out his pen and speculated
how the color came from light refracted
through the drops of rain that formed
around some dust? And what if Noah, crazed
with the smell of dung, the impatience of every
creature on the earth, what if this wild builder
of faith, when he saw that covenant of color
draping over his mad zoo, had tried to tabulate
the cubits in the rainbow’s length, forgetting
about the dove, the olive branch, dry land?
And what do we make of Philip, Plato’s less-
than-certain pal? He scribbled in his notebook
that the rainbow wasn’t stable after all; it moved
as the observer moved and somewhere
over the rainbow was farther away
than any bird could ever fly.
So if science is uncertain
as tomorrow’s weather, I think I’ll say
the rainbow, like most everything—this
poem, elephants, the hurricane along
the Georgia coast, my daughter’s scribbled
chalk across the sidewalk—is not just one more
worn, anonymous effect in cause’s long and
flagrant history. I’ll say the rainbow simply
comes. Light may bend, reflect, refract,
but why then color? Why Mozart
from a catgut string?  And why this morning,
when I saw that we were out of coffee,
did I look up and see you in the garden,
staking our tomatoes in the rain?

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Journal, Ohio State University
Subsequently in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

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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!

To This New Child Breathing in the World

We have all heard, perhaps said, “It’s so hard to believe it’s the right thing to do, to bring a child into this world.”  And during this time, it’s likely said with all the more concern. It’s a loving concern, for the child. We all want our children to have a world that they deserve, not one they have to adjust to.

To This New Child Breathing in the World

When you look back
at your mother, her
father will come back

to play. The world’s
slow promise waits
for your walk, the next

chance to wander along
each day’s concert
of impossible notes. Your

mother, audacious with
love, is in your blood. She
will sleep in your bones. She

will look up into the sky’s long
reach and ask that you stay longer
than the day her father had, safer

than her mother lives. And you
will carry their fierce and loyal
quiet. Yes, you will bring him

back, and with them walk within
the light between the trees. You
will step to the edge of the garden

where they will see again
what Cezanne saw—no line
to separate, only the blend

of form, the definition of color,
the wild uncertain weight
of their hearts’ unruly kindness.

–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!

That Time We Read at Roan & Black

I lost track a while ago of all the “Once Ever” experiences poetry has brought my way in the fifty years I have been in this one art.

This past weekend extended and enriched this list because of the great and lovingly generous souls at Roan & Black Gallery–John, Doug, Angela, J, Rian, and Sophia–where within the gallery’s understated but bounteous gardens the luminously soulful poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer and I read, accompanied by Rob Kenagy, the gently awesome improvisational guitarist/poet/friend.

We played before an audience (150 of you?!?) who welcomed each word and note with a warmth we soaked up and savored. Imagine–the gardens, a huge lawn for chair or blanket, flowers and lemon water on the set, incense keeping any gate-crashing bug at bay, the sun glowing down its way within weirdly accommodating weather, Prosecco, gourmet cookies, sighs and laughs, and good folk lingering after, enjoying just being with one another. Thanks to everyone who came and for your part in creating an evening that is already a sustaining memory.

Then on Saturday I got to be Rosemerry’s sidekick for an all-day workshop planned and hosted by the inexhaustible Colette DeNooyer at Colette and Bob’s welcoming home on Lake Michigan, where winsome and intelligent folk gathered in Rosemerry’s ideas, sparks, encouragement, insights, and perceptions — all fresh and valuable.

Do visit Roan & Black–it is truly a visit —  the gallery, sculpture gardens, the home store, and the soulful hosts. Being there brings to you something endangered and much needed– Quiet joy. Our books are still available there, but of course, that’s only one of many reasons to go!

And now before I place yet another exuberant adjective before you, I’ll sign off with two words that we sometimes overlook. But they contain the ineffable.

Thank you.

 

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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!