Monthly Archives: March 2013

Julia Dean-Richards is a wonderful poet and a fellow PenDragon. To learn more about being a PenDragon, read on…

aplaceforpoetry

 Dedicated to my circle of delicious poets: John Etheridge (https://bookofpain.wordpress.com), Elizabeth Cook (http://serialoutlet.wordpress.com) and Jordan Roe (http://tierceandhum.wordpress.com)
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Working virtually
the PenDragons are poetry’s
rough hewn ships on the tide of life
casting inky anchors deep, 
diving minds for matter,
sifting happenings for collateral
worthy of our keep.
 
We make no promises
seaweed catches on our bows
best intentions dashed
by errant storm, becalmed
by sleeping muse,
yet still compelled, we push
through ode and villanelle
divining subtle truths.

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Us Anonymous

You and me, let’s do it, let’s start it,
Us Anonymous.
They’ll come, you’ll see,
every one of them, they’ll come.

We’ll launch with a desperate desire
because that’s the key to it, I think, desperation.
To celebrate, we’ll take every last, nasty thing
that we can be and pour them into some fireworks.
We’ll seal them up and prime them down
and launch them way up high.
When they explode (and count on it, they will)
every little part that we let go
will burn and glow in full public view
(painfully it’s true, but just for a moment)
before fading…leaving our dreams on the air,
dispersing everywhere.
Gosh, I can see it now, it will be beautiful.
It will.

Thank you so much for reading Us Anonymous. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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In this glass

Such a magical little thing is light
slipping quietly through clear water.
I wonder: what would we expect
if we could not expect,
(and expect to expect)
forgiveness?

The standard of conduct set by all the world’s major religions would be cruelly hard if not tempered with forgiveness. The standard expected by all the Messengers of God, and indeed the standard that They set in Their very own lives, resonates clear as the example that we should aspire to, and in aspiring to, being the best and the happiest that we can be. And yet, being human, only human—merely human—we will fail, and fail often. Forgiveness acts as the glue that holds our journey together, in the sense that it allows us to fail, but also then allows us to retry, and, hopefully, in the end, to succeed with whatever spiritual battle we are facing.

Thank you so much for reading In this glass. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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Weights

Weights on me, weights on you
weights in the fixed frames we’ve become:
smiles in blue, cheeks in red,
heartbeats in that odd shade of rapid.

But gone? No never,
that’s not the way it plays out, at least not for me.
It was and is a race where you chase only yourself,
which is wearisome, but apparently fun too—
because I never did learn to make it stop.
And if it makes you become who you are,
that’s only after it becomes what you’ve made it,
and that just seems so unfair:
half the time you don’t even know you’re in the running.

And what do so many folks drag along in this race,
even if they don’t know they’re set to lose?
But of course you know: weights on them,
weights on me, weights on the fix thereafter.
The odd thing is, that that’s the part that matters.

A friend once joked that I, like many others (mainly those raised as Catholics and Jews) are life long members of G.U.I.L.T: Group Under the Influence of Liturgical Training. Perhaps the old saying, “Many a true word is spoken in jest” is appropriate here.

Thank you so much for reading Weights. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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Another day of fasting

At the end of a day of fasting
it takes so little to satisfy me.
Is that the point?

When a lamp is lit the light must first
beg forgiveness of the wick,
the wick the forbearance of the oil,
and the oil the patience of the sun.
I know that without struggle there is
no merit in victory, but at night, still,
I lie awake thinking: without struggle,
how do we keep the night away?

I am foolish, I know,
I should leave it to our children
to figure it out. Now is rightly time
for me to beg the patience of my Sun
and turn off the light and sleep.
Tomorrow is, after all, another day of fasting.

The Bahá’í Fast—when Bahá’ís refrain from eating or drinking from sunup until sundown—lasts from March 2 through to the 21st. March 21st, generally the date of the Spring Equinox, is referred to as Naw-Ruz, or New Year, and is the first day of the Bahá’í Calendar. This holiday actually predates the Bahá’í Faith and is an ancient celebration held throughout much of the Near East, generally, throughout the area that once marked Alexander The Great’s empire.

At the beginning of the fast period, I had the pleasure of posting an incredibly beautiful poem called The Copper Tree Tops, by Lyn, my wonderful and long suffering wife. Today I get to bookend that effort with my own much lesser effort on fasting, Another Day of Fasting.

It is indeed a privilege and an honor to take part in the fast. I can honestly say that the effort required, which honestly is not a lot, is far outweighed by what one gets in return: a sense of accomplishment, of joy and of humility.

Thank you so much for reading Another Day of Fasting. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address,https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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Worthy

Anointed for faith and fidelity,
they are gone now astray
and around the pit they stagger,
those lusty ones, our idols,

bloodied, battered and broken.

And so in our holiness we scream
for another yet another and another—
because the dark that is coming is getting darker.
And though we swing and dodge as we may
and prove ourselves worthy with each new failure,
it never seems to matter,
for as sure as there is faith in tomorrow,
we must protect ourselves, today.

This poem is based on:

As the new millennium approaches, the crucial need of the human race is to find a unifying vision of the nature of man and society. For the past century humanity’s response to this impulse has driven a succession of ideological upheavals that have convulsed our world and that appear now to have exhausted themselves. The passion invested in the struggle, despite its disheartening results, testifies to the depth of the need. For, without a common conviction about the course and direction of human history, it is inconceivable that foundations can be laid for a global society to which the mass of humankind can commit themselves.

This passage is from the Statement on Bahá’u’lláh: His Life and Work, issued to mark the 1992 centenary of the passing of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith.

Thank you so much for reading Worthy. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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Morning coffee

Her balance is in
the flow of scent-whispered questions
which scorch the air around her,
the sparks from the caffeine
leaving your lips lonely and wanting more.
Not you, me, says that walk,
as she sashays out the door
leaving you wondering
and then wondering some more.
Not you—me.

This is the second collaborative poem of my poet’s circle the PenDragons. Read the first collaborative poem and more about the project in general here.

Thank you so much for reading Morning coffee. 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. Please, too, visit my fellow PenDargons’ sites: Julia Dean-Richards of A Place For Poetry (http://aplaceforpoetry.wordpress.com), Elizabeth Cook of Serial Outlet (http://serialoutlet.wordpress.com) and Jordan Joseph Roe of Tierce & Hum (http://tierceandhum.wordpress.com). All are excellent poets and they host excellent sites! I am honored to be in their circle.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge, Julia Dean-Richards, Elizabeth Cook and Jordan Joseph Roe; all rights reserved. The poems in this posting, and the notes that accompany it, may not be printed or distributed without the written permission of the authors.

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The flow

A small girl, her cotton nightdress
flapping behind her like wings
alights atop the banister…
Not me—you, her poise seems to say,
and with the balance in her flow
proceeds from whence she came,
down and away—
and away and away and away—
into the night, free.

I am a member of the PenDragons, a  poetry circle where we sometimes share poems in development to get a second opinion prior to publication. This particular poem is the first of two (the other will be the next posting I make) developed as a challenge to the circle and based on this first draft of an idea:

The flow is the balance,
through windswept corridors
and over rocky shores
where back currents whisper
quietly in your ear,
“not me–you,” it kisses
softly and recedes from whence
it came.

This rough, yet evocative, image-poor idea sort of took off from there and split into two more concrete poems fairly quickly. I have been tussling with them since the first few go-a-rounds trying to firm them up and, for better or worse, they are now complete.

Thank you so much for reading The flow. 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. Please, too, visit my fellow PenDargons’ sites: Julia Dean-Richards of A Place For Poetry (http://aplaceforpoetry.wordpress.com), Elizabeth Cook of Serial Outlet (http://serialoutlet.wordpress.com) and Jordan Joseph Roe of Tierce & Hum (http://tierceandhum.wordpress.com). All are excellent poets and they host excellent sites! I am honored to be in their circle.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge, Julia Dean-Richards, Elizabeth Cook and Jordan Joseph Roe; all rights reserved. The poems in this posting, and the notes that accompany it, may not be printed or distributed without the written permission of the authors.

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Every truth

How much movement is there
in the stillness of a heron?
How much movement in the water below?
Heron and fish—stillness and movement,
how these lovers lead the other
in their perfect little dance
of need and surrender.

Listen, this is true:
I have sat praying,
knowing that anything I desired
could be mine,
if only I would deign not to wish it;
every truth is a paradox,
but no truth is a lie.

I drive an hour each day to and from work, with much of the journey being through rural Connecticut. There is one small lake that I pass that, for an entire season, an egret was using for its nesting and feeding. Every day I would look to catch a glimpse of it fishing and often reflected on its sense of patience and purpose. And while that scene and my meditations are the obvious source for the first part of the poem, the source for the second part is more difficult to explain.

Prayer is transformative, a creative act by and for the person saying the prayer. It is not that it is wrong to say a prayer asking for a specific outcome; it is wrong to say a prayer that is contingent on a specific outcome. God tests mankind, not the other way around. The more of the sense of control over our lives that we give up, the more we are actually in control of what matters in our lives.

And while that is a paradox, it is, I think, no lie.

Thank you so much for reading Every truth. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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In exile

I wish to God I knew where I was.
Not the Black Place—although my desires often blind me;
not the Ancient Place—even though I age faster every day;
not the Fearless Place—where courage cannot take me;
nor even the Remote Place—despite anger chaining me afar.

And certainly it is not the Most Great Place,
whereby I do not mean the cell that was cleaned,
painted and aired…
I’ve been there and only felt Your presence dimly.
No, I mean the Other Spot,
the Prison where Your companions go,
still, even to this day,
but outside which I sit, yearning,
hoping to find the way.

Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, was, for the forty plus years of His Ministry, and until His passing, a prisoner and an exile, first at the mercy of the Iranian government, and then under the ever more fearful eye of the waning Ottoman Empire. The story of His successive banishments under these twin ruling powers is the historical backdrop of this poem.

It commences in 1852, with Bahá’u’lláh’s imprisonment in the Síyáh-Chál, literally the Black Pit (the Black Place of the poem) a loathsome and disgusting jail converted from an abandoned water reservoir. Released in 1853, He, despite being sick and in poor health, was exiled with His Family from Iran to Baghdad (the Ancient Place of the poem) and then called on to Constantinople in 1863. In the poem, Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire—and now Istanbul—is referred to as the Fearless Place because it was here that Bahá’u’lláh resolutely refused to curry favor and beg for sympathy with the government officials of the Empire, as was expected of all prisoners. Instead He stated that He had put His faith in God and trusted in Him, further stating that nothing any man could do could curtail or thwart the Will of God.

As a result of this stance, Bahá’u’lláh and His family were further exiled to Adrianople and arrived there in the waning days of 1863. Adrianople—now Edirne—is one of the remotest parts of Turkey in what is actually Europe, and is referred to in the poem as the Remote Place, the furthest point from His home of Tehran that Bahá’u’lláh would travel.

But the most difficult place of His exile was set in 1868 when He and His entourage were forced to relocate to ‘Akká, in what is now Israel, a penal colony and known at the time for its pestilential airs and filthy conditions. Upon arrival there Bahá’u’lláh designated the prison where they were incarcerated as the Most Great Prison (the Most Great Place of the poem); it was in this city, and despite the loathsome conditions under which they lived, that His Mission reached its zenith. Bahá’u’lláh officially remained a prisoner until His death in 1892. However, after years of His living among the local populace, such was the admiration that was esteemed to Him that He was, by then, able to rent a home in the countryside and be surrounded by the gardens and verdure He loved most.

The last place mentioned in the poem, the “Other Place” is harder to describe. In one of His prayers revealed specifically for the Fast, Bahá’u’lláh first talks of ‘Thine ardent lovers…they who have been so inebriated with the wine of Thy manifold wisdom that they forsake their couches in their longing to celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy virtues, and flee from sleep in their eagerness to approach Thy presence and partake of Thy bounty.’ Later He goes on to say, ‘These are Thy servants, O my Lord, who have entered with Thee in this, the Most Great Prison, who have kept the fast…’

On the face of it, this prayer was written when Bahá’u’lláh was, with His companions, incarcerated in the prison in ‘Akká and He is extolling their fortitude and grace. But there is much more, I think, to this prayer then this single face.

The prayers of Bahá’u’lláh were written for all peoples of all times, and so as I was reading this prayer, I felt that there must be a dimension of the words that went beyond referencing a purely physical spot at a specific point in time. In the end, I came to believe that it is possibly for anyone today, who approaches the Fast with a sufficient degree of humility and submission, to meet with Bahá’u’lláh in a spiritual ‘Most Great Prison’, a place where one is held captive not by chains, but by love, to become, in effect, out of devotion to Him, a thrall to His Will. The irony of this is deliciously sweet to a poet: to find the true freedom of love is to yield the bondage of will.

Or so I think; for while I can believe in such an “Other Place” I have never been there except for a few fleeting minutes. But, if you will, please forgive an old poet his chance to dream…

Thank you so much for reading in exile. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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