Do you know what today is? It’s another
day a lot like yesterday only we are
a lot older than we were yesterday. I bet
you didn’t even notice. I know my day
was about the same. Maybe yours was like
this too. Awoke to the jazz station, peed.
Turned on the hot water pot, ground
the coffee. When the water boiled, I
poured it over the grounds, warmed
our cups, took my meds, made the bed,
fed the dog, the cat, brushed my teeth,
took off and folded my pajamas, got dressed,
put on a soft, comforting shirt and jeans. Did
I mention there is a pandemic? Of course
you know that. Why would I need to remind you?
That was certainly the same as yesterday. Even
if you had tea instead of coffee, we do have the virus
haunting us in common. Purell in every room.
All these messages cheering us up. I sure don’t need
to be cheered up. And how is being despairing keeping
the damn thing at bay? I prefer being neither despairing
nor cheerful. They swim together in my DNA. I’ll tell you
what I do need: that cup of hot coffee, black and the bed
made, pillows ready if I get back. My plans for the day:
Listen to jazz and hope to make it back to a made bed.
BEFORE WHAT CAME BEFORE
We were living in an Irish cottage just outside
the village of Ballyvaughn, the only place where
when asked, I was able to say I was a poet.
But this is rapidly turning into an anecdote rather
than the famine house fifty some yards from
our peat-heated soup and soda bread stocked
home. I say home because I can write poems
knowing in my bloodstream here I am a tradesman.
The famine house has no roof, door, no windows.
It’s inhabited by inedible weeds gnarled, clinging
to the stone walls, and usually by an east wind. Who
lived here until there was nothing left but leaving?
I stand in what was a room where the children woke
from the one bed, starvation sleeping in every stomach.
Try wakening to a bird you never before needed to kill.
Drink hot water while washing mud from the knees
of each pair of pants, watching the children turning
into bone carrying only air, their mother silently
pleading to take them where they could merge from
childhood. He would hold his hoe, one more day, each
day being the day before the next. But the hoe could only
drop into the cremated earth, as impoverished as every spirit
bludgeoned into what was now a haggard search for a mere
dozen spuds, ten to the monarchy. When he turned in the ten
he could feel the knife blade against his thigh. Tonight
after dinner we will settle in with our books, games,
listen to the rain against the windows, dappling the roof.
Jack Ridl’s Practicing to Walk Like a Heron was named best collection of the year by ForeWordReviewsIndie Review, the award given to a book published by a university or small press. His Broken Symmetry was named best poetry book of the year by The Society of Midland Authors. Both were published by Wayne State University Press. His latest collection, also from WSUPress, is Saint Peter and the Goldfinch attended to by Naomi Shihab Nye in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. More than 90 of his students are now publishing. Billy Collins selected his chapbook Against Elegies for the Center for Book Arts NYC Chapbook Award. Recipient of the Gary Gildner Prize for Poetry, Ridl started a blog in response to the 2016 election, a blog now read world-wide.