St. Francis in Disney World

I am ever grateful for our dogs, how they bring out the best in me, contradicting that heinously imposed notion that we have no good within us. And I am ever grateful to so many who do the same. And though I am not grateful one twitch for 45, I am, like so many, deeply moved by all the good emerging because of his cruelty. A high school student here in this village is making sure her fellow students are registered to vote, aligning them with the thoughtful courage of the students from Parkland and other schools, who are demanding change. We who hope for kindness in our politics and the world often feel so out of place, when maybe, just maybe, we are not the ones out of place after all.

St. Francis in Disney World

The children come up to him, touch
his robe and giggle. He blesses them. They
run and ask their parents to take their photo
peeking out from behind his filthy holiness.
Mickey quietly comes up beside him, his
huge fingers dangling like loaves of Wonder
Bread, tilts his head as if to say you better
leave or take a bath and put on clean jeans.
St. Francis whispers, asking for the birds.
Mickey shakes his head. St. Francis holds
his place in line while each ride spins its
squealing riders round or up or down: a
chug, a plunge, a long and hopeless cast
of thousands, tons of hot dogs, fries, and
pizza, sushi, Coke and Pepsi, pie and
ice cream, chocolate. There are bees.
He has no ticket. He’s told to step aside. He
looks up where the sky should be. He
watches a cat slide under the plastic
elephant. He looks back up. The sky
has gone. The earth has gone. His feet
are sore. His hands are turning into
birds. His hood is filling up with coins.
His beard is filled with bells.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Dogwood

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

 

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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!

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!

 

I Thought This Poem Wouldn’t Have a Dog in It

I suppose this will read as merely self-indulgent information, but I’ll try to transcend that.

A puppy arrived here on Monday. Julie drove to Tecumseh, Michigan, the town where her Grandmother was born, where she picked up Vivi — named for Julie’s mother Vivian whom everyone called Vivi.

The pup is a Spinone Italiano, raised by a veterinarian and her farming husband and their six children, three of whom came to the family from Ghana. They are devoted to saving this breed so we feel part of a good thing. Vivi is sweet, gentle, pouncing with joy.
Charlie the rescue is acting like a good big brother, mostly. Cat Hattie is not sure about all this.

And the reason this is part of my project? Vivi is the embodiment of vulnerability. And here we are, every day, carrying both our own vulnerability and overwhelming empathy for that of others. Sigh.

 

I Thought This Poem Wouldn’t Have a Dog in It

Heaven would be good.
But I prefer it here only
without death’s daily nudge.

I put on some Chopin, water
the plants, spend some time
with Buddha, Emily, email,

never work on my golf game or
keep the windows clean. The center
doesn’t need to hold. Sitting here

on the couch, I read the letters
you wrote to me twenty years ago.
The first begins, “I hope you are

feeling better. I hope I’m not
out of line. It’s warm here.”
I notice the light falling across

the page, watch it take
its indiscriminate path along
the floor and think about

the time we forgot we left
the dog out overnight. He
waited at the door, and

in the morning, came in, ate,
hopped up on the couch
and fell asleep.

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

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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!

The Night before the MLA, Casey Stengel Appears to the Post-Modernist Theorists

Here we are, somewhere, staggering along in days where words are used to mislead, obfuscate, gaslight.

Dr. George Bleasby, my distinguished in every good way novels professor — he would return a paper if he sniffed that we had used even one secondary source. “If you go to the library, look only at original sources. I want your paper to be about you and the novel. The novel is a sacred text.”

Dr. Bleasby would enter the class with only the current novel in his hands. He was so calm, so respectful of each of us. My papers were awful. “Your C doesn’t reflect your mind, but I know that you are afraid. You’ll find your mind. You will.”

Near the end of the spring semester, we were to have read Charles Dickens’s Hard Times. Dr. Bleasby always began class with a topic for us to talk about. He offered one. No takers. He offered another. Again, no takers. After none of us responded to the third topic, he stood, slowly, and ever so gently said, “I shall return when you have learned to respect Mr. Dickens,” and he walked out.

This is for, not “George,” but for a man I would still to this day address as Dr. Bleasby. He was with me during every class I taught…

 

The Night before the MLA, Casey Stengel Appears to the Post-Modernist Theorists

“You ever take a pitch when the count’s 3-1?
Slide home on a single to right? One time
the wind in Chicago threw my boys off.

Whitey was furious when I pulled him
with two out in the sixth, but you have to know
when to bring in your heat.” The theorists open

their titanium brief cases, grab their Pilot pens
and spiral notebooks. This is the deconstruction
they’ve been waiting for. Casey waits, then

starts back up. “One Wednesday, a week after
my stomach quit achin’, I told the boys, ‘We
gotta shine our spikes and button our shirts.’

Mick and Moose said, ‘Sure.’ But Billy
over-slid second. The bleachers were empty.
Tells ya somethin’.” The theorists are dazed.

They ask him to explicate. “Sure, I’ll explicate.
It’s all about the home field advantage. Unless
Conlin was behind the plate. Then you might as well

go to a movie. If it’s a night game, well now, that’s
not the same, it’s different. There’s a difference.
Right, Yogi? Next year. Next year. Not last. Gotta

go, boys.” The theorists say, “Thank you, Casey,”
shake his hand, have him sign their books, high-five
one another, and retreat to their hotel. They order

room service, change their panel to “Signs Don’t
Have to Signify: Words, Ontology, and the Void
between Pitches.” The Q & A lasts two hours.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Waymark, Voices of the Valley magazine.

 

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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!