Suite for Another Day in the World

“Suite for Another Day in the World” by Jack Ridl is reprinted with permission from Wayne State University Press, publisher of “Saint Peter and the Goldfinch,” a 2019 book of poems by Ridl.
166

By  Jack Ridl

Illustrations by  G. Odmark

I – Everything Bloomed Earlier This Year

While another fissure cut
off another wall of ice,

all the earth’s water rising,
our magnolias, lilacs, redbuds,
azaleas lifted

their color into the sun
and tonight’s forecast-
frost.

We will cover the forget-me-nots

and the cluster of peonies
her grandmother
first planted
in her hidden garden.

We’ll drape
a sheet over the haphazard
assemblage of crocuses,
daffodils, and jonquils.

The lily of the valley’s sprawl
will hold

against the cold.

In the basement,
where it’s just warm enough,
the spiders will hang their
webs.


II – The Snow Has Been Gone a Week

The sky is a scrim
behind the dark-barked
trees, their branches

waiting in the negative
space of air. This light
lingers in the stark
limbs, along the way
of spring’s occasion
of crocus and violet. I

think feathers, abandoned
nests, letters with no
envelopes, and a new lamp.

On the counter beneath
the kitchen window
the cat sleeps curled

into herself, parenthetical
between this melt
and April’s onion snow.

 


III – Sparrow

I have no idea if you are lark,
java, white-throated, vesper,
song, or saltmarsh sharp-tailed.

I have Sibley’s guide, Peterson’s,
and one for our area. But even if
I memorized your markings,

you would not be the bird sitting
on the lowest branch
of the old beech
outside our bedroom window.
I want

to cross this space into the world
you know: the branches where
you perch,
the ground where you search
the air…


IV – Again the Squirrels

The squirrels are hanging
from the feeder meant
for the morning
arrival of grosbeaks, finches,

chickadees, the assertive
jays. The feeder clangs,
dangling,
and I try to sit
zazen, feel

the startled
beat
of my silly heart
wanting to slam
the door
sending
black tails, gray tails
sailing

from their clutch
of the ebony, oiled
sunflower seeds.
“Only for the birds,” I chant.
“Only
for the birds,” my mantra
mocking
myself, my morning, my

monotonous hope
that the day will unfold into
something other
than its inevitable
chatter, its necessary way
of forcing us
to interrupt.

I will wait

for night,
for the moon’s light
draping across our eyes, for

a rainfall that mutes it all.


V – Maybe

It’s another morning, the sun
pulled slowly hand over hand

to sow its earth-bound light
dappling the grasses,

fuzzy whites, lady’s mantle,
lamb’s ear, and lying across

the variegated leaves, hexing
what we think we see. Besides

the lily-padded pond, the frogs
with ever-croaking gulp swallow

the light’s arrival. On the porch
the dog at peace between
his paws.


VI – The View from the Porch

The gray squirrel takes its circular
route up the maple, out on a
limb, leaps

to a branch on the white
pine, onto
the curly willow, back down and

around the trunk, stops
to scratch,
then heads across to the garden.

A red-winged blackbird balances
on the top of the pink azalea,

its last blooms landing amid
the swatch of maidenhair ferns.

The hostas are rising, their leaves
green and blue-green and
widening

as if receptive to any ant or rain.
My grandmother spent
fifty-three

years on the porch, in her chair —
a pot of tea, biscuits, currant

jam, her Pall Malls, and a fresh
deck of cards to fill her day

with solitaire. She talked to
herself as if collecting those

who walked by. “Will she ever
get rid of that hat?”
“It’s Wednesday

so there’s the lousy liquor in
his bag.”
Our pansies are getting leggy.

The shaggy irises are blooming.


VII – The Cat and I Watch the Morning

 

It’s what we do. Each morning.
The cat still sleeping on the
sill, tail

twitching. Standing at
the window,
I sip my coffee, new-brewed and

caramel-creamed. Within
the sprawl
of this light, I want to turn
and say,

“Watch how the light
moves across
the liriope, sharp-cutting
in shafts

through the winter leftovers of
brown and yellow, how it lies

on the platter-leaved butterbur
drips down the fragile dangle

of coral bells and
columbine, settles
into the full dark of the
hemlock.”


VIII – Stopping at the Window to Watch the Squirrels

It is early Monday morning
and it is
gray. And it is January, a
gray early
Monday in January. There
is snow

on our borrowed bit of earth.
Most everyone is working or
going to work or coming
home. Out

the backyard window, through
the stagger
of hemlocks, blue spruce,
and white pines, the juncos,
wrens, finches, and redpolls,
nuthatches, and chickadees rise

and dive like lost kites on
a wind-filled day, then dart
within the tangles
of branches
to the feeders hanging,
perhaps
high enough, perhaps
low enough,

a sprawl of dropped black-oil
sunflower seeds
dappled among the fallen
pinecones. We
no longer go to work. We keep
the feeders full and fill
our cups with coffee,

hot and tempered
with cream. ≈

Jack Ridl is the author of seven published poetry collections and professor emeritus of English at Hope College.

He is the recipient of several national awards, including the Chapbook Award from The Center for Book Arts in New York City.

He lives in the Douglas area with his wife and their Spinone Italiano dog, Vivian.


By  Jack Ridl  |  Illustrations by  G. Odmark

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