9/11

In the perfect stillness, in the quiet,
over the waste, beyond the silence
you move. Movement is everywhere:
through the smoke, through the noise,
past the barriers and into the chaos,
even to this very day.

Say not There is no God but Allah!,
this day brooks no negation:
He is God!
And so with the blades of their lies
lodged deep in His back,
His Prophet weeps down upon you
and holds His arms out wide.
You, you innocents,
you are in your perfection, perfect,
and will remain that way forever,
of this there is no doubt—
even after we have long forgot you.

As the years slip by, the truth is we forget the victims more completely. We invoke their memories on each anniversary, it is true, but as a single identity: the victims of that day’s terrible acts, the reason and the justification of everything that came thereafter. But we do not remember them, the individuals, the people, those ones who, each and every one, had lives and loves and hopes and fears and plans, and who deserve to be remembered as individuals, not as any government’s or generation’s justification.

Now, as the years have gone by, another set of neglected victims emerges: the heroic first responders, whose fight for health benefits and support too often falls on dead ears and colder hearts. There is just no political hay remaining to be made from the day anymore, excepting, of course, the sound bites at the memorial service.

Just do not say that the attack of 9/11/2001 had a religious motive. That day was a heinous act of betrayal of the true, peace-loving nature of Islam by a band of despicable, evil people whose ego-driven lust of power and terror knew no bounds of decency.

Thank you for reading 9/11. This is a slightly edited version of a previous poem To this very day. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at my workplace. And yes, it flies today at half mast, as it should. 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 Works 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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A tale I was told, ‘it only needed the asking’


I was young, and Jewish, from the south, and IN LOVE
with a preacher’s boy—so naturally I ended up following
him to the small Baptist university his family chose for him.
(It didn’t last.) The point is that there, religion was mandatory,
so I took the course on The Old Testament,
in which the professor kept going on about Yahweh.

At first, I didn’t know what in the world she was talking about.
In Hebrew, YHWH is pronounced Adonai,
and I kept wondering how she couldn’t know that.
I mean, you think someone would explain it to her.


To my shame I do not know when and from whom I received this story. It was, I believe, in an email or a comment in response to one of my poems. If you are the original author, please accept my apology and contact me so I can grovel appropriately.

Yahweh was the national god of the Iron Age kingdoms of Israel (which was then known as Samaria) and Judah, and may have developed from El, the head of the Bronze Age Canaanite pantheon. After the return from Babylon, Yahweh had became monotheistic, the sole Divine Presence. The relationship of Yahweh to the tetragrammaton of YHWH, and on to the numerous names and titles of God used throughout Jewish history is a fascinating history that is too long and too complex to get into here. (But I urge you to follow the links…it really is interesting.) Christian bibles tend to translate YHWH as either Jehovah or Lord, although a modernist approach is to leave the tetragrammaton unchanged.

The point being, in Judaism, it is traditional to say ‘Adonai‘ for the word YHWH. But it is not that YHWH is pronounced as Adonai (which, by the way, strictly means ‘My lords’) it is a substitution made out of reverence and respect. Another is HaShem (The Name).

Thank you for reading All she needed do was ask. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in Acre, Israel, some years ago; the family was there as part of our Bahá’í pilgrimage. 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 Works 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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I am getting old

img_6911_2_3_4_5The oddness of it was not the shock of it
but the well of it I fell into—
that scent was all I could recall.
It was not a perfume, but a musk,
and that deep drink was more
then all the else I could remember.
That is, I suppose, not her truth,
but mine.

up

I have not posted anything for a long while, the main reason being my pre-occupation with completing my Master’s degree in Digitial Science from Kent State. I completed the last course over the weekend and am now free to get back to two of my favorite pre-occupations: poetry and photography. So fair warning: more poetry to come!

Thank you for reading I am getting old. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken on Long Island, New York, one beautiful New Year’s Day several years ago. 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 Works 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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Hats did

hats

Men cannot wear hats anymore.
Caps, yes, but caps are low brow,
a statement in a statement that no one
seems to care they are making.

But hats—men’s hats—they are the relic of
a choice that was once close and dear
but is now long and gone, lost forever.
No one sells them, no one knows how to block them
and nowhere, anymore, will you find racks to hold them.
And when men do try to wear them,
they never know when to remove them,
when to raise them and certainly not when to pull them down.
The art of it is clearly lost.

Still, they lasted longer than politeness,
you have to give them that,
if nothing else.

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I struggled with just the word ‘politeness’ and wanted, in fact, to use ‘common politeness’ instead, mostly because ‘uncommon politeness’ (think of the famous who detest each other, but who still make nice for the cameras) seems to be alive and well. However, it never scanned properly and in the end, you have to go with what comes well off the tongue.

Thank you for reading Hats did. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

The photo is in the public domain. Poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 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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Behind us only justice

DSC05370If this is not the end then woe to us the fallen,
for the only comforts remaining are the lies
from the low and the ferment from the front.
So here we remain, toe-to-toe/heart-to-heart,
with no plans to connive nor options to pursue,
left only to our apathy and hand-wringing.
We would bear witness to these truths—we would—
if we had a breath left to draw on; we don’t.

But if the scales are shifting (and I am terrified they are)
it’s because of the innocents we’ve sacrificed.
Yes, you can weep, but try not to complain,
it’s nobler that way and besides, there’s nothing wrong
with being left to twist in this wind.

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This poem grew from the seed of a line that was cut early in the writing:

I’m not wrong, but I’ll not insist on the right—especially as I am.

It, in turn, was a paraphrase of a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche:

It is nobler to declare oneself wrong than to insist on being right—especially when one is right.

While to start with an idea from a famous philosopher can be inspirational, in the end I thought it better to write bad Etheridge than imitate good Nietzsche.

Thank you for reading Behind us only justice. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in Washington, DC at the Lincoln Memorial. 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 Works 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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A service I am now glad to repay

img_8357

Patrick died, years ago, in an alcoholic haze of shame, resentment and relief,
wondering, I suspect, where along the path it had all gone wrong,
yet knowing he had no answer. Long ago, he had befriended me,
and when I needed it—but did not expect it—he had been kind to me.
He was my friend.

Do I know as little as he then—me, now, with all my memories?
And will I, like him, question myself down to the grave’s edge?
Yes, probably—we all have our Irish to carry, we poor debtors, we do.
So goodnight, friend Patrick, I am here for you, let it go and sleep well.
You’ve earned it.

swril2

Many years ago, when I had just returned to Newfoundland from Africa, newly married and near broke, Patrick Kennedy hired me to a job that I loved and which set the course of my career. He was a jovial, friendly fellow (among other things, I recall we shared a love for Bruce Springsteen) who was always willing to talk, always willing to help, always quick with a laugh and a quip. To hear recently, after all these years, how bitter and tragic was his end saddened me very much.

John Waters is a well-known Irish journalist who got sober in 1989. He, better than anyone else, has captured the heart of what it is to be Irish:

“Drinking [to the Irish] is not simply a convivial pastime, it is a ritualistic alternative to real life, a spiritual placebo, a fumble for eternity, a longing for heaven, a thirst for return to the embrace of the Almighty.”

I grew up with alcoholics all around me and swore off drink when, at seventeen, I became a Bahá’í. For this and many things else, I have thanked God ever since. I know too well the devastation addiction brings.

Thank you for reading A service I am now glad to repay. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in 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 Works 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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Gone in the blood

IMG_6943I was ten and David, my cousin,
was a just-then-teen lost boy.
Lost he was to the parents who uglied him away,
lost again to the younger ones he tried to protect,
lost finally to the madness in his cytoblast,
which copied him/copied him/copied him on,
until it copied him into his grave.
Our Aunt Vi and Uncle George were childless
and loved us nieces and nephews like we were their own,
but David—he was David—special was little David,
so they took him in.
He would have been, I think, more like them
(and, most hopefully, sober like him)
if Goliath had not struck him down.

Wilfred was David’s younger brother and I’ve just spent
an hour sifting through the photos of his obituary.
Fifty-one he was, tired looking with fat jowls
and heavy, bloodshot eyes, a beer by his side
in every photo his family shared of him.
I don’t think that when we lost David
anyone would have said he was the lucky one.
But ‘lost’ is a relative place and once he was gone
he was somewhere safe where he could always be found,
which is not something that, to be honest,
could be said of the rest of us he left behind.

swril2

I once went on a hike with David down by the river near the town where we lived. It is a day that I remember vividly, from a time in my life when I have few memories. I have no specific memories of David being sick with leukemia, or of his dying, or of going to his funeral, or of everyone around me grieving. And yet, all of this must have happened. I can only surmise now, years later, that I just blocked it all out.

I know I admired David—he was older and therefore more daring, after all—but I also remember there always being a cloud of worry about him. Although I was young and knew no details, I was aware in a vague, whispered way that he did not have a happy home life and I knew that was a very sad thing.

God rest you all, my lonely, sad, lost cousins.

Thank you for reading Gone in the blood. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken on a walk in a local park one fall morning. The empty bottle had been left on the table exactly where I photographed it. By a person? Some people? It had been a party? Loud? Quiet? I don’t know. You never do. 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 Works 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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