Raking Leaves with the Gods

I’ve been raking leaves. I like raking leaves. We won’t get into the metaphorical experience of raking leaves. I just like raking leaves.

At the same time that I’m experiencing this rather inane mantra of reach–pull, reach-pull, Julie, whom I get to be husband to as best I fallibly can, is within the last two weeks of managing the campaign of Garnet Lewis for State Senate here in Michigan. Garnet isn’t even the opposite of 45, because she is for what matters. To compare Goodness to 45 is as much a waste of an intelligence as writing your first year college paper revealing for the first time the differences between Mother Teresa and Attila the Hun.

So the point: For months now Julie has been working tirelessly in behalf of what matters. Instead of economic greed, displaced human values, a despoiled environment, an educational system that makes it impossible for teachers and students, taxes that keep the non-working class able to continue to not have to work, and and and, she is working to prevent an inevitable loss of democracy and the environment to this unrestrained capitalism and a demagogue.

Yesterday I paused for several hours from raking leaves and texted a very civil message in behalf of Garnet to voters in our district. There wasn’t a pushy word in the text. It was actually more of an invitation, worded not much differently than “Would you like to come over for some wine and cheese?”

Among the responses I received were thoughtful, civil affirmations and responses saying kindly that they were for Garn or for the other candidate. Also among the responses were those using words that actually frightened me. Some were so coarse they are unprintable. Some claimed I was something that I had no idea existed. Some were downright cruel. I kept wondering, why? What turns a child who at one time likely played in the leaves into someone verbally monstrous?

My awestruck admiration for Julie soared. And I went back to raking leaves.

Raking Leaves with the Gods

For a month, there have been leaves.
Scattered over the pea stone paths

that lead us through the shade
of our gardens, beech and birch,

oak, ash and even larch leaves
lie, their ends dry and curling

toward their veins. I rake and
make believe I am a Zen-traveled

monk smoothing the surface, quieting
the loss into a calm within a heart’s

usual storm, the tines’ slow scrape
assuming silence among the stones.

In the branches birds sing. The cool
cloud-covered breeze is my Master

saying, Slow, slow. Move to the edge.
The lack of rain today says, patience.

The gods say, What is there to do?
This, I say. And they say, And this.

They stand their rakes against a tree,
gather in the Adirondack chairs along

the narrowing stream. Yes, there is
also this, I say, nodding toward the water.

–Jack Ridl

First published in Poetry East

Subsequently published in Broken Symmetry (Wayne State University Press)

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

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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.

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