Ice Storm (…and about that party…)

Here’s a little coda to last week’s post: How many of you grew up being subjected to the well-meaning, “Just do your best”? I don’t know about you, but I was the kid who had no idea what my best was. Anxiety to the point of panic slithered within whether I was making my bed (My mother invariably smoothed out a wrinkle or four) or studying for an exam in existential philosophy.

Always I obsessed, “Did I do my best? How will I know?” They bewildered me, those people for whom the phrase brought relief, even confidence. Even after a failure — missing a layup or receiving a C — those folks heard, “That’s okay. I know you did your best.”

Man if this is 45’s best, I dread to think what his less than best looks like.

This week has lugged in quite a storm. It’s so cold that, even if properly winter-clothed, we will be frostbitten in ten minutes. The windchill here as I write has plummeted to a minus-27 F.

At least for a while we love it. Pile up the books, get out the board games, watch an old movie, curl up with the dogs.

A storm like this is a paradoxical gift, distracting us in the best of ways by forcing us to pay attention to what matters deeply in our own lives, all we would attend to if the thief-in-chief of our personal lives had never shown up in The White House.

Which brings me to today’s poem. Am I ever lucky! The blurbs/reviews for my new collection were written by Li-Young Lee, Dan Gerber, Terrance Hayes, and Billy Collins. In tune with the weather here, here’s an excerpt from Dan Gerber on the new book:

“Open the book to page 27 and read ‘Ice Storm.’ Feel how it settles in your chest, how your breath resounds with a long, deep, ‘Yes,’ how subtly you are changed by what you didn’t know you knew.”

Ice Storm

Here on the couch with my old dog I find
I’m feeling gratitude, an odd gratitude,
an old gratitude, one I thought had gone

for good down a long back road
that led away from the years when
I felt glad, felt what I believed

was an abiding gratitude: to be,
to be warm, and grateful to be
warm, to have some pillows

and a dozen books and all afternoon.
To be alone without even a sideswipe
of loneliness. To be on page 47,

or 114, or page one and there
was nothing missing. The ice
storm made things warm,

time irrelevant, made the sleeping
dog an Amen to a prayer never
needing to be said.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Third Wednesday
To be included in Saint Peter and the Goldfinch (Wayne State University Press)

So much news to share!

1. Jack Interview, February 22 on WMUK’s Art Beat. 12:30pm.

2. Party Time: Book Reception, April 5 for the release of Saint Peter and the Goldfinch.

When: April 5, 6:30-9:30pm
Where: The Douglass UCC church.
There will be a reading at 7pm. Then we party. Books on site for sale and signing.
Click here to Read all about it and RSVP PLEASE

3. Writing Your Personal History Workshop, April 6. Grace Episcopal Church. 9am-2pm

4.Workshop on March 30. “Poetry Trauma: The Way to Recovery.” This will offer a fresh way to be nourished by a variety of poems. It’s FREE. But you MUST reserve a seat.

When: March 30, 10am-1pm.
Where: The Douglass UCC church Friendship Hall.
Click here to reserve your seat online, or sign up at the church hall one of these Sunday mornings.

5. Reading with Lisa Lenzo (whose new book, Unblinking, will be released in May!) on May 16 at Michigan News Agency Bookstore in Kalamazoo.. 7pm

6. Wonderful news for those of you who know or want to meet the beloved Kathleen Markland.
She has been named the Honoree for the celebration of and fundraiser for The Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency  in Saugatuck, Michigan. Ox-Bow is more than 100 years old and is a part of The Art Institute of Chicago. Stay tuned for that fundraiser date!

7. Saugatuck’s D.R. James has a new chapbook coming out! Click here for a pre-order discount!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

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.

On the Last Day of the World

With apologies to Robert Frost who read at an inauguration where there actually was a large audience–

Someone there is who really loves a wall.
(Letting thousands suffer until he gets his way.)

On the Last Day of the World

Maybe the sky will be clear,
and we’ll take a walk down
the road behind our house,
just walk along, going nowhere,
somewhere. Birds will fly
branch to branch, a rabbit
or chipmunk may cross
in front of us, disappear
into the brush. We’ll try
not to look at the sun.
We’ll keep our eyes off
to the side. When we come
to the bend, we’ll look for
the deer path, take it, and
see where it leads, see if
it opens to a clearing where
each night the deer sleep
deep within the star-distant light.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Third Wednesday

Mark your calendars for Thursday, January 24 at 7pm. Three exceptional poets, Katie Kalisz, David James, and Greg Rappleye will read from their wonderfully varied new collections at The Bookman in Grand Haven.

On April 1 (perfect!) my new book, St. Peter and the Goldfinch, will be released by Wayne State University Press. Preordering is up at that link, and Julie says stay tuned for news of a PARTY!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Jack’s page on Amazon.

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.

The Healers

Those with the gift of empathy are all but done in, overwhelmed by entering into the suffering of others. Not too long ago I read an article that discussed the cost of empathy. We, of course, know that 45 has not a drip of empathy. Empathy is for “losers.”

What can we do who wake up helpless within the shadow of 45? Some work hard politically to change things. Some carry on serving in capacities empathic. But what of those of us who don’t have access to doing much of anything to counter “him” other than address flyers, stick stamps onto postcards that encourage electing those who want to serve, truly serve?

In the shadow of 45 and his lost souls, and his spineless cohorts, and his deceived supporters, what can we do?

Keep speaking truth to power–A patron at Tony Amato’s Red Dock Restaurant came up to him and snarled, “I bet you voted for that n____.” Tony held up two fingers, said, “Twice,” and ordered the roach to leave. We can also carry on by shifting our conversations to the lives of those in our lives who matter. We can realize that continuing dailiness, planting another flower, handing over some of our too many zucchini, saying hello to anyone, all those things that don’t change the big scene, but enrich the worlds each of us lives within.

I’m turning this into a sermon. Sorry. It’s the UCC church in me. Let’s never abandon giving our attention (a definition of love) to what and to whom we love and who love us.

When helplessness can’t be helped I recall Samuel Beckett saying, “I can’t go on, I must go on, I’ll go on.”

The Healers

My father guessed at work.
He gave me things to do.
We strangled weeds from the flower bed.
Washed the car.
Walked the dog.

My mother guessed at a mother’s love.
She went back to tucking sheets
Around me as I lay awake.
She pulled her fingers through my hair.
She turned away. She held me.

My good friend guessed at leaving town.
Se we lugged gravel, grinding gears
Up and down the western Pennsylvania hills.
We’d raise the bed and listen
To the gravel rush into a silent pile.

My preacher guessed at God.
He knew the answer, spread my sin.
Prayed, asked me to pray.
Sprinkled oil on my head.
Pronounced me of this world.

My doctor guessed at shock.
Strapped me down.
Hooked electrodes to my head.
Baptized me with volts.

I guessed at empty space
And all the breath
that I could spill to fill it up.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Three Rivers Poetry Journal
Subsequently published in The Same Ghost (Dawn Valley Press)

Good Reads
Here’s another fine, recently published collection: Invisible Fish by Susan F. Glassmeyer (Dos Madres Press). Many of you know of her project of sending out a poem and commentary each day during National Poetry Month.

And a bit ago, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer published Naked for Tea, from Able Muse Press. So many benefit from her astonishing project of sending out a new draft of a poem every single day. She’s been doing this for some ten or more years.

Again, I don’t mean to overlook any recent collections. So please let me know of any you would recommend. Lots of you have work published several months or years ago. I simply thought of this recently and had to start somewhere, so I decided to start with the past few weeks.

Fifth Annual Red Dock Reading
And now I’m nagging when YET AGAIN I say how good it would be to see you at The Red Dock on August 14 for the reading starting at 6:30 with the soul-warming presence of poet Laura Donnelly. Come early for the music that will begin a bit after 3pm. Bring your own comfortable chair. I promise that Laura’s work will settle into your heart.

And as Tony Amato, impresario of The Red Dock always says, “Peace, ta.”

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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!

 

 

Knowing Now You’ll Never Be a Clown

Ya just have to laugh. We do. And we’re grateful for the court jesters, those brassy, brazen jokesters who dare to amplify the cruelty, arrogance, and egomania that vandalize our joy. Do, please, send in the clowns.
Knowing Now You’ll Never Be a Clown

But if you were, and if your grin
were painted red as a Coke can, a fire
engine, red as the Tabasco sauce
you spilled on your mother’s carpet, and
if it lifted itself from the inside of one huge ear
to the other, and if your nose were a ping
pong ball almost begging for a swipe, and if
your feet slept within white shoes, three feet long
and flapping, would you be able then to talk
to everything you really want to talk to: the
chickadees who come closer than your nieces,
that piece of paper blown across your lawn,
the rain, each nudge of green in your garden?
And when you put on your coat, that U.N.
of colors and scraps, that coat that would
make Joseph feel he had folded himself
into the pages of GQ, the one with the shoulders
rolling up to your cheeks, with buttons the size
of pancakes, and a hem like the border of
Czechoslovakia, would you want to walk
into church, quietly take your place with
the choir and just as the minister finishes
the benediction, honk your horn? And
when you put on your polka dotted tie, wide
as a summer afternoon, would you
want to pin the squirting yellow daisy
on your lapel, sit in the business meeting,
and after the ayes have it, squeeze
the rubber bulb in your pocket?  Then
again, maybe you would just stay home,
listen to jazz, the blues, or some swing,
open each of your cupboards and talk
about Tuesday or the way the light falls
across the counters, invite Lou Jacobs,
Emmett Kelly, Felix Adler, Otto Griebling,
hell, the whole clown alley, rent a calliope,
a center ring, one elephant, and get out the pies.

–Jack Ridl

from Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Hey! Just a friendly reminder to check out this news about a lovely reading coming up on June 23.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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!

Reading! Reading! Reading!

  ********** ROAN AND BLACK GALLERY PRESENTS!!!! **********

A GARDEN PARTY READING/CONCERT FEATURING

ROSEMERRY WAHTOLA TROMMER
AND
JACK RIDL
WITH SPECIAL GUEST
GUITARIST/SONGWRITER/POET ROB KENAGY
Where:    Roan And Black Gallery on Blue Star Highway between Saugatuck and Douglas
Date:        Friday, June 23
Time:        7pm
Cost:        FREE!

Weather permitting, the festivities will be in the stunning gardens at the gallery. A limited number of chairs will be provided so consider bringing a chair and/or a blanket. Come early and visit the art in the gallery, stroll the gardens, enjoy the eclectic array of items in the two stores accompanying the gallery.

See the attached flier for more information. Guaranteed money back if you don’t have one terrific time. We would love being with you as we welcome–at long last–SUMMER!

Here’s that flyer.