Laura’s “Five years ago”

I gardened all that day
weeding until my fingers hurt,
going inside three times thinking I was done
only to be drawn back out again.
She had been so sick for so long, but still…

I found myself sitting on a rock,
tears streaming down my face
when a cardinal perched in the tree beside me.
We sat there for many moments, quietly, together.
Yes, we each knew.

Recently, our neice, Laura, posted on Facebook a message about losing her mom, Sue, a dear, sweet lady whom we all adored, to cancer. Amazingly, that was five years ago this month. With very little massaging I knew her post would make a beautiful poem that could resonate with everyone who has lost someone they love. I hope you enjoy it.

Thank you for reading Five years ago. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at the new Twin Towers in New York, NY. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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The magic of old New Orleans

The heart of New Orleans is the French Quarter
and at its center is Jackson Square.
There on the steps of the Basilica
for the shuck of us rubes
goes on the spirited commerce in lost souls:
tarot dealers and voodoo cursers,
faith healers and crystal readers,
they all vie for the right to sell you
the sweetest of illusions, control.
God here, the devil there—
in New Orleans you’d be crazy
not to deal the One without the other.

Built in the middle of a swamp, New Orleans’ original district, the French Quarter was once a city of canals, like modern day Venice. From the 1600s and through the 1900s, New Orleans had one of the highest death rates in the world. Combined with the large number of slaves that were brought in from the West Indies and Africa, this second misery of enslavement added to the first of location to gave birth to the Death Cult/black arts/voodoo worship/deep Catholicism aura that still haunts the city. Walk around there, you’ll feel it.

Thank you for reading The magic of old New Orleans. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photo is a copyright free image of Jackson Square. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Too late”

We are now faced with the fact, my friends,
that tomorrow is today.
We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.
In this unfolding conundrum of life and history,
there is such a thing as being too late.
Procrastination is still the thief of time.
Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected
with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men
does not remain at flood—it ebbs.

This is a short, contiguous excerpt from the Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence speech given by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4th, 1967 at the Riverside Church in New York, NY. I have taken the liberty of arranging the excerpt as a poem. The title comes from later in the same paragraph as the selection.

Lyn, my dear wife, and I recently participated in reading this speech during a Connecticut “Veterans for Peace” commemoration. It is a beautifully written document: reasoned, passionate, humble, and deeply spiritual—one of the most insightful and compelling the Reverend ever gave.

What is most important is that it is just as relevant today as it was on the day it was given. The entire text of the speech can be found here. I hope you have the chance to read it in full.

Thank you for reading Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Too late”. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken near the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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To trust

It is what it is, it is said,
and so is, when it is,
the curse of the lazy,
the sin of the cruel,
or the pith of those
who are wise.

Such a slippery thing is ‘is.’
I know it, to say it, but
rarely have the courage
to knit ‘i’ and ‘s’ together—
to know it for what it is,
to let it all go unowned
and loved from afar.

Thank you for reading To trust. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at Buttonwood Farms in Connecicut. All of the sunflowers are sold and the profits donated to charity. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Bereft of discernment

Hundreds of years hence, they, then
will look at you and marvel
What could they have been thinking?
And you, your bones moldering
in your graves, what will you do?
As always, turn away, but
as like it will be to weep,
the better to hide your shame.

I am older now. Not, I believe, quite in my dotage, although to be fair, opinions differ on that point. But it is the prerogative of the old to look at the world around them and, judging death to be closer than further, to evaluate the world that they have loved and lived in.

Thank you for reading Bereft of discernment. The title of this poem comes from a passage of The Tablet of Aḥmad of the Bahá’í Faith:

For the people are wandering in the paths of delusion, bereft of discernment to see God with their own eyes, or hear His Melody with their own ears.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at my home in Connecticut. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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With a little love

Another day another day
another day since that day,
another day until this day
hope today come what may,
here today gone away.

This poem is for all those who, at the last, hang on to that last thing there is to hang on to, endurance. Please, my hearts, hang on.

Thank you for reading With a little love. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is of—for those of you who love such details—January 2021. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Words, they hear you say them

There must be a god power
under the darkened surface,
a subtext that can explode
letting lose the kiss of tears
that both break and make your heart.

So weep your river of woe.
Gather it into yourself
and float it down to the sea
where, for your humility,
you are gathered in and loved.
Such is the power of joy.

My love and empathy go out to those who endure, and then who endure some more, and who do so on the power and beauty of their faith.

I write little metered verse, but this one seemed to demand it. While I am hardly an expert in the subject, I think this poem is written mostly in iambic trimeter, a specific type of seven syllables per line poetry. If you think this is incorrect, please let me know.

Thank you for reading Words, they hear you say them. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is of the Quinebaug River, as it flows through Putnam, CT. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Phil Wilke’s “Elegy for a Toaster”

Toaster of warm, browned bread
You have made your last slice

Marbled rye, artisanal sourdough, English muffins
All have succumbed to your heart-warming glow

Raisin bread, my dear departed toasting partner,
You raised raisin bread to an artform

There are secrets that you and I will take to our graves,
Or in your case the Butte County landfill,
Like “l’affaire du Pumpernickel” with the fork and the outlet.
Neither of us covered ourselves in glory that day

Melter of butter, melter of hearts
You charred when ignored, like a scorned lover bent on revenge

Another will take your place, but you will be forever in my heart
May all your slices be medium brown, and
May your crumb tray be forever clean

Was there ever a poem more demanding of an “Amen!” than this one from my friend, Phil?

Phil Wilke is a radio station manager, an actor, a journalist, a great baker, a husband, a father, a dear friend, and one of the funniest, sweetest guys I know. (Phil: you’re not the funniest, sweetest guy I know, but you’re like, you know, in the medals, top three. When was the last time you heard anyone say that, eh?) He loves to tease me about being born Canajun, and I, him, about being a Murrican.

Phil writes too few poems, but when he does you can rest assured that they are absolute gems of humor, with real love, humility, and humanity hidden in them like pearls.

And just so we are clear: I taught him everything he knows about writing poetry. Just sayin’.

Thank you for reading Elegy for a Toaster. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Sadly, I do not have a photo of Phil’s kaput toaster. What you see above is the ever-faithful, chez Etheridge model toasting two slices of Old-Fashioned Sourdough, which, as you can see, since it has been treated kindly, still works. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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The murmur of the Nile, ever on


In Egypt, you more feel your way
through the beat of a song than hear it.
It is that wild thing you are after,
that joy of the moment held for its own sake
smoothing the blows into a throb you can live with
rather than pounding it out on your own.
It is like the tears running through the rhythm of your heart,
the ebb and flood of them the most ancient song
we sing of lives lived and life lived on
when it seems there is no reason left to listen.
But you do, because you hear that music.

This is a poem written about and for the dearest of all my friends, my “brother of another mother.”

Thank you for reading The murmur of the Nile, ever on. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Sadly, I do not have a photo of the Nile or Egypt in my collection, so I substituted one of Lake Tahoe on the California side. Certainly, it reminds me of the tranquility of the Nile. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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An issue of privilege

All I can say is this,
that you are dear and beloved of me
for who and what you are.

And while I see only the tiniest bit
of the beauty that is you,
that little glimpse blinds me
and I struggle to say more
then just my awe.

You may not believe any of this. That is OK,
I will wait to be proved right.
But at the very least believe in me and my belief in you,
for I believe in you with all my heart and soul.

Thank you for reading An issue of privilege, one of the more joyous poems I’ve written recently! I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in Sedona, Arizona. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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