October 4, 2021

Jack Ridl

ON FINDING A WREN BELOW OUR BEDROOM WINDOW

It would have lived had where we sleep
still been the woods that now begins
thirty feet or so from the window.

It lay in the palm of my hand. Its head
sloped away from its wing and 
opened the calm pink of its neck.

I think of our daughter. I think of
my wife. I think of it all as I lay
the wren under a layer of mulching

leaves under the bird feeder, the leaves
entering the alchemy of compost,
what we and all there is can become.

Above her soggy last nest, and a darkened
space, the feeder is sunflower-filled. I walk
back into our house, go to the window.

Chickadees, white-throated sparrows,
a cardinal are back at the feeder. Later
today I will need to fill it again.

from Rattle #72, Summer 2021

__________

Jack Ridl: “My father was the head basketball coach at the University of Pittsburgh. After failing to make it as a writer of songs, I thought, ‘Why not poetry? Same thing, right?’ I was introduced to the poet Paul Zimmer and brashly asked if he would help me out. He asked to look at some poems I was lugging around. After reading a few, he said, ‘Sure, I’ll help you out. We will, however, start all over.’ I gulped, said okay, and asked what I should pay him. He said, ‘Ya know what I’d really like instead of cash? I’d like to be able to go to your father’s locker room any time I want, before and after a game.’ I was dumbfounded. That’s where I grew up. Nothing full of wonder there. It was my first lesson in vulnerability and exploring the unknown, but of course I didn’t realize it. He then said, ‘I’ll tell you when I think you’ve written a poem.’ After six weeks, not a word about what I gave him being a poem. Then six months. Then a year. I asked if I should quit. He said, ‘If you want.’ Coach’s kids don’t quit. Two and a half years later, Paul looked up from what I’d handed him, smiled, and said, ‘You wrote a poem.’ That was 50 years ago. I can’t imagine having a richer life.” (web)

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