Monthly Archives: November 2012

Long ago

I learned about praying
that Fast day at the Hazíratu’l-Quds
when a young Persian fellow BOOMED OUT
(scaring me, frankly)
a beautiful, long chant in a sweet melodious voice
full of heart and longing and humility.
It was, he said later,
a prayer that he had memorized as a child
extolling administrative centers
and he had waited all his life
to be in One to finally say it.

Every prayer since then,
every one—
heartfelt, tired, distracted, strained,
remembered, read or forgot;
offering, begging, failing, hoping,
hurried, kissed, forgiven or not;
healthy, sick, family, friend,
steadfast (but usually not);
happy, serene, content, forlorn,
begging, crying, dying—
I’m there, at that table,
waiting for that boom again.

This incident took place in March, 1982 at the Headquarters of the administrative order of the Bahá’í  Faith in Canada.

When I say that that young man’s voice boomed out, scaring me, believe me, I’m not joking. But bigger than this surprise was the beauty of his chant. Persian or Arabic chanting done from the heart and done well by someone who has a beautiful voice and has been trained for it, is one of life’s great pleasures.

Two points: a “Hazíratu’l-Quds” (hoz-er-attal-couds) is the designation given to a building that acts as a center of Bahá’í administration. Also, the Bahá’í Fast is a 19 day period which occurs between the dates of March 2nd and March 21st, ending on the spring equinox; during this period adults are expected to abstain from eating and drinking from sunup ’til sundown.

Thank you for reading Long 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.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012  by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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The candle

How have you made me?
Say not, With wax and wick and a taper trimmed.
For I am light and I am heat,
I am an evening spent alone
befriended by the memory of a scent.
And I am undone.

Your bright flame in my dark night
has unmade me, and in unmaking me,
has made me.
I, something, was nothing.
in becoming nothing, something,
my essence, to burn for you…
Some would call this sacrifice. Not me.

I am fascinated by the concept that true sacrifice—sacrifice made out of love—returns more than it gives up. The inspiration for the poem was a quotation of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Head of the Bahá’í Faith for many years. The full text is here, from which I took this quote:

“…ye must die to yourselves and to the world, so shall ye be born again and enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Behold a candle how it gives its light. It weeps its life away drop by drop in order to give forth its flame of light.”

What is our true destiny? That is the question the candle asks us. But where else would the light of truth and the heat of love come from, in this world, if not from us?

Thank you for reading The candle. 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.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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It truly doesn’t

I am empty, tell those with questions I cannot see;
I am replete, tell those with answers I cannot hear.

Try this:
tell them to go and live simply with what they now have.
Tell them to take their hurt and twirl and float arms open,
crucified on hope and drifting in despair.

Ask them:
is that me, out there, circling somewhere?
Is that me, eyes open, past all the answers?
Is that me? really me? truly me?

I-don’t-know-leave-me-alone-I-don’t-care-it-doesn’t-matter,
it’s just how and just why and for now, just forever.

This poem stems from a comment that my dearest friend, Sam, made about how tired he was with people nagging him for answers and advice, yet not listening to him when he gave it. A human enough foible, no doubt, but wearisome and tiresome to deal with all the same, especially when you are under stress of your own.

The comment was very uncharacteristic of him and I knew that it was said only in temporary frustration. At the same time, it hit me hard, as I was feeling the same sort of thing in my own life, but was not able to articulate it, and it resonated with me. Love, speak, guide, offer, teach—but do not try to own the outcome. In the long run, you own only yourself.

Thank you for reading It truly doesn’t. 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.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Solo goes solo with nothing

My oldest penned a story
about Solo the duck
who flees the certain safety of his flock.
Only eleven and already he knows
what it is that I cannot teach him:
writing from the heart gives, at its best,
a truth that we must learn to live with.

So listen now, son, this is for the future:
go ask the children,
seek from the mystics,
read from the poets
and learn from your lovers;
leave no mother, no father, no sister, no brother,
no anyone left unimplored.
Because in the end, if you’re lucky,
they will all break your heart with love.
Solo goes solo with nothing.

This poem was inspired by my son, Balsam, who wrote a short story entitled Solo Goes Solo With Nothing. I was instantly charmed by both the title and the story and wanted to capture the moment in a poem. I am not sure if ducks do gather in flocks, and if they do, certainly not like starlings; but I am certain that eleven year old children generally think they do.

Thank you for reading Solo goes solo with nothing. 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.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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You Ulysses

Collectam ex Ilio pubem,
collectam exilio pubem.

A people from Troy,
a people for exile,
and all of us now lost, lonely children.
You Ulysses, hero Ulysses,
you are the most wicked of all!
You call yourself a lover
but with your anger
you’ve built not one horse
but a thousand.
Now do you see
how you’ve breached the walls
you built to protect us?

Depending on your background, collectam ex Ilio pubem/collectam exilio pubem (a people from Troy/a people for exile) is either a Latin grammatical mistake or a very good pun. Since the Romans thought of themselves as the surviving exiles from Troy, I thought of it as the start for a poem.

Homer’s epics The Iliad and The Odyssey (and the other fragments we have of the story—for example, the trick with the Trojan horse is not from Homer) are some of the oldest epic poetry we have and are so fundamental to our sense of cultural self that they are still a source of inspiration.

Being a parent is not easy, but everyone does as best they can. No parent is perfect and your ability is often a reflection of how you were raised as a child. So in the end, we are all, sometimes, lost, lonely children.

Thank you for reading You Ulysses. 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.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Upon a time

I used to go swimming in Africa
to defy the water demons there—
bugs, worms, hippos and crocs
and test if they were near. I’d think,
Hey Mr. Hippopotamus, where are you!?
Will you take me in your jaws
and roar me loudly home?
Come on Mr. Hippopotamus,
surely you’re not afraid!

I know it all seems so silly now.
Yet there are times when on the road cycling,
as the sun starts pulsing through the trees
and the light starts dancing on the edge,
that all I can hear is my muffled heart, in rhythm;
it gets colder and everything goes dark
and I start flailing to and fro
looking up and around
holding my breath,
treading water
and waiting,
just waiting…

Africa is beautiful, tragic and wonderful. Years ago I went there to live—first in Rwanda and then in Tunisia—for my religion. I am a Bahá’í and in my religion, the place you go to serve is referred to as your “post.”

I really did go swimming in Africa while I was in Rwanda, something ex-patriots seldom do because of the water born diseases and dangerous animals there. It was at Lake Kivu, high up in the hills (called locally moraines) where the dangers, although lessened, were still real. We stayed at a small, simple hotel run by an order of Belgian nuns; the area is close to the famous mountain gorilla habitat, although on that trip we did not go searching for them. I fear that after the Rwandan genocide, the hotel and a chance for a like experience, are now gone.

Thank you for reading Upon a time. 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.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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One by one by one

Liar, beggar-man, thiefthat’s me,
a fugitive from sins long ago.
And while faith is a promise,
it’s not for the light of heart,
hence weepingdown and outfor the once
no more humble for all my faults
than I should be, but begging all the same.
Yes, you can trust me. Trust me.

Thank you for reading One by one by one. 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.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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The mirror

An image lies only shallowly on its face,
unlike life, where depth lies in everything completely.
Everything and all, and all that we reflect
is emptiness and foam and silent regret,
depth without—none within,
depth within—none without,
magic,
an illusion casting an illusion of an illusion.
Can you see it?
This complexity, a conundrum and a simile,
is a conundrum and a simile in itself.

Few people appreciate the scales involved in an atom. Consider a hydrogen molecule, which is a single proton/electron pair. Electrons and protons are very, very tiny when compared to the size of the atom they form. In fact 99.9999% of the volume of a hydrogen atom is vacuum. The implication of this is astounding: the vast majority of everything we thing is “solid,” of everything we think of as “reality,” is actually nothing, an illusion of our gross level feelings and susceptibilities.

Then, to this, add the concept of a mirror image. Where exactly is that image?

Thank you for reading The mirror. 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.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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As were they

Thus
they burn madly
before glowing and then fading—
never let them fade far from me!

Fires come, souls go
receding,
sparks caught up light in the wind,
dancing so…

Have you ever met someone so filled with spirituality that they seemed on fire? They seem, somehow, light, as if the physical gravity is fighting against the spiritual lift to take them away.

Or have you ever lost someone who was deeply spiritual and close to you? They seem to slip through your fingers, even as you yearn to hold on to them because you need them so badly and love them so dearly.

Thank you for reading As were they. 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.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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It’s a start anyway…

It has been my hope for some time to start a blog on my poetry. Unfortunately, time always seemed to be the issue. Having finally come to the conclusion that time will always be an issue, I have decided to forge ahead and do what I can, when I can, as I can.

Henceforth, the title of the blog will be the title of the poem, but for this first post, the poem is in the body of the post.

Immolation

Fire is colored by unspent fuel
carbon, blood and sinew;
the hottest flame
can’t be seen
and burns the deepest in you.

Immolation was written in reaction to the on-going persecution of my Bahá’í brothers and sisters in Iran, but also, in part, to the entire history of religious persecution. I wanted, as briefly as possible, to sum up the intensity of the pain engendered, while at the same time describing the fortitude required by these heroes and the magnitude of the sacrifice that persecution endured for the love of God creates.

Thank you for reading Immolation. 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.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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