“The Last Day of November” by Jack Ridl

Jack Ridl


My wife is at her spinning wheel. She
first cleans, dries, and combs the fleece,
then dyes the wool. She will spin yarn to make

a shawl, stocking cap, socks. She disappears
into her gentle quiet. I am a third of the way
through reading four books, but I don’t want

to read any of them. I want what I know you
want: to be happy, actually happy, to love
in a happy world. Today there was yet another

school shooting. Some students felt it coming.
Three kids who thought they were grown up,
dead. One more thought likely to die, did. The

others will live. The news dares to say recover.
Tonight we played Christmas carols for the first
time this season. Yes, ’tis the season. This morning

surgeons at three different hospitals awakened
assuming yet another routine day of rounds and
operations. When they were seventeen, did they

imagine advent would offer them the inevitable
impossibility of saving the assumption of a future,
that they would never again be able to say, “Happy

Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah,”
“Happy New Year” without being caught in an ambush
of memory? Tonight thousands of parents will be unable

to sleep, or tomorrow, or on into ever. Teachers
who each day hope it will not, cannot happen again
will think again about construction or an office job.

And guns? They will sleep in the garage, a cabinet,
on the top shelf. They will rest and be at the ready.
No, I don’t want to read; I don’t want to hear again

about God’s mercy, the peace that comes from above
or meditation, Calvin’s endlessly facile legacy of blame,
the need for prayer and legislation. I am tired of pursuing

happiness. I want to breathe it in as ubiquitous as air.
And while we’re at it, I want the curriculum revised
to teach sentimentality, that it is not any more false

feeling than the unguarded synapses in the shooter’s brain.
Scholars, put away the safety of secondary sources. Sit
with your students, abandon the inhumane hideaway of

objective distance. Throw open your hearts. Let sentiment
break our shielded souls before another rifle and surgeon’s
words have to. My wife never asks for the meaning. She

sits in silence at her wheel twisting a lamb’s wool into
yarn to knit whatever it takes to keep another warm.
Our dog is asleep, head on his paws. The twin sister cats

curl together. I’m not going to pick up my books. I’m
going to begin to trim the tree wondering how many
five-year-olds will sit on Santa’s lap and when he asks

“What do you want for Christmas?” will answer, “A gun.”

from Poets Respond
December 5, 2021


Jack Ridl: “The news story is the school shooting just outside of Detroit. Our daughter is an art teacher. Her room is the first room after the huge entry at the school. Not a day goes by that this father doesn’t fear for her. She tries to believe all her students would never carry out a killing.” (web)

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