Monthly Archives: July 2013

I am no handyman

He would sit rubbing his balding head,
staring at the broken part, pondering,
certain that no power supply, no heating coil,
no if-you-built-it, I-can’t-fix it thing
could hide its mysteries from him.
Once I watched him build, all by himself,
a set of dovetailed cupboards in our furnace room—
each shelf level and every support square
on walls and floorboards that weren’t.
It took two shots, but he got it right.

It was the doing of it that he loved,
the way mechanical things surrendered to his will
that in the end separated us. I’m just different.
My father could fix anything—but not me.

I was on an Independence Day ride with a friend recently when we got to talking about our fathers. (On long rides, cyclists have to be imaginative to keep the conversation going.)

Interestingly, both of our fathers were handymen and could build or fix anything. More importantly, however, we also agreed that for the two of us, it just made more sense to get someone else to do it right from the very beginning: it saved the time of the initial attempt, the cursing of the assured failure and the eventual call to the professional to come and do an even bigger job then before we started messing with it. And besides, living this way leaves more time for cycling, and to be honest, it really is all about the cycling.

But one thing my friend said caught my more serious side…that our father’s were great handymen not just out of need (although there was that) but because they loved doing it. “There’s a poem in that,” I thought at the time; I hope you think me right.

Thank you for reading I am no handyman. 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 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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La Jornada del Muerto

Everybody walks the path of the dead,
some more often than others.
There are those who would extol it
for its majesty, its core of brutal simplicity,
but not me—some deserts are just too deep:
the sere of the sun,
the drudgery of the trek,
the pitilessness of the far-off horizon…
death is not swift here, it prefers to linger
and slither along beside you, judging.

So don’t ask the weary foot sloggers
the why of their tears—they don’t know,
nor the how of their laughter—it isn’t.
Just let me say this as surely I can:
of all that is beauty,
of all that makes beauty sweet and sad,
to me, they are, there, on that trail,
the most beautiful that can be.

La Jornada del Muerto actually translates as “the single day’s journey of the dead man.” I exercised some poetic license to translate it as “the path of the dead.” It originally referred to a 100 mile stretch of totally barren dessert along the route the 17th century Spanish Conquistadors used to travel from their headquarters in what is now Mexico to the furthest northern limits of their North American empire in what is now New Mexico.

I first read about La Jornada del Muerto while my wife and I were driving through New Mexico, en route from Kansas to El Paso, Texas to meet our just-born first grandson. He is a strapping and handsome brute today and a wonderful and kindhearted young teenager (we, of course, take all the credit for this without having done any of the hard work to make it so) which gives you some indication of how long an idea can sit with me before I deal with it in a poem.

The poem was written with the trials and tribulations of a very dear friend who is courageously fighting depression clearly in my mind and deeply in my heart. Que tengas buen viaje!

Thank you for reading La Jornada del Muerto. 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 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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Looking down

The road is not a metaphor
and I am no example.
I do not ride to learn anything
or be anything, or to meet
anyone’s approval or goal,
not even my own—
most importantly not my own.

I ride for the rhythm,
the flow, the doing,
the heat: hours in/days on,
the pedal stroke of a boy
who never lost sight of
looking down and doing
just that, riding away…
not sweating it, just
riding/riding away,
left/right,
left/right,
on, looking down.

The start of this poem was inspired by the opening sentence of It All Becomes Us by Bill Strickland in the August 2013 issue of Bicycling magazine: “The road is not an allegory.”

Every amateur cyclist loves to cycle; it’s too painful a process to repeat to the level where you are comfortable with it, if you don’t love it. But what is there to love?

Thank you for reading Looking down. 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 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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Do you?

up

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I work with several wonderful reviewers on some of my poetry. One, KB, from The Mirror Obscura (a site that I highly recommend by the way—KB is an incredible poet) had suggested the poem may be too prosaic.

On the other hand, the  fantastic Julia Dean-Richards from A Place for Poetry (a fellow PenDraggon; I have linked to her deeply moving work before, here and here) liked it, but then did two things that saved it: 1) she cut it’s length, making it briefer and more to the point (never a bad thing), and 2) changed the font size of certain phrases.

The result seems—to me anyway—to leap from the page and become even more intense then I had written it. Unfortunately, my blog theme does not allow me to change the size of a font so I opted to post an image of the poem that preserves the exotic formatting.

Thank you for reading Do you? We 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 Julia-Dean Richards and 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 for this poem is: © 2013 by Julia Dean-Richards and John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Alas for we who remain

Thy barefoot lovers who steal shoes
from their brothers
are not thieves—they are Thy signs.

Thy true parents who abandon the trusts
of Thy bounty
are not remiss—they are Thy lights.

Thy sincere ones who forswear every act
in Thy service
are not lapsed—they are Thy guides.

But alas for we who remain.
You—You created this paradox
for us, didn’t You?
Even with all of Your knowledge
it is only through You
that we can have any hope in us.

…we must sacrifice the important for the most important.‘Abdu’l-Bahá

It is a simple question with no easy answer: how do those who sacrifice themselves for their ideals justify their act to those who depend on them? How do we understand martyrs?

To be honest, I struggle with this one too.

Thank you for reading Alas For We Who Remain. 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 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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Over and on

To have an even number of passages
you need an odd number of transitions—
life’s funny that way.
Even and odd, over and on,
it’s a mystery how it all hangs together:
the way tension works,
the way release comes,
the way these rhythms are at the heart of us all.

Consider square roots of negative numbers
(an impossibility, but stay with me on this one)
called ‘imaginary’ numbers, ‘i’ for short.
(Catch that—now they’re personal.)
But the biggest surprise is the concept of nothing: nada, zippo, nil.
Zero is neither even nor odd, nor over nor on,
it is more “what-it-is” than “what-it-is-not.”

And what it is, is emptiness and doubt,
a breath so deep that the pain has no release
and becomes its own expanding universe, while you,
you’re just left hanging there by your own diminishing beliefs,
so that you become (over and on, on and over)
an odd looking for an even or an even looking for an odd,
or an ‘i’, whichever happens to come first.

If mathematics is the fundamental descriptor of existence, shouldn’t you be able to relate it to emotions? If cyclic movement governs ever act in the universe, from the twang of the elemental strings that make up the constituent parts of atoms on up to the movement of galaxy clusters, shouldn’t this be reflected in the way we relate to each other?

By the way, the original impetus for this poem, although it turned much more serious, was the humerus  Québécois expression: chaque torchon trouve sa guenille, or, to each cloth its rag. A ‘torchon’ (a ‘male’ word) is a cleaning cloth, while a ‘guenille’ (a ‘female’ word) is a total rag, the filthy, worn, dirty one hidden beneath your sink for the worst messes.

Thank you for reading Over and 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.

john

© 2013 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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A peaceful forest

Across the broken back of the old stone wall
the tree lay crashed, staunch, fallen.
Two hundred years seed to crown—
twenty years dying, dead, done and down
with what? twenty more to be gone?

A peaceful forest is a terrible thing
full of musk, chaos and rot.
It is hard to feel young in a forest.
But if you close your eyes, open your ears and listen,
just listen,
you can hear it if you try…
and there’s a measure of peace in that, too.

This is a simple poem for a simple truth: I was driving one day and in a quick glimpse, saw a mighty tree fallen across an old, typical, New England, free-stacked stone wall. The one had broken the other and I thought to myself, “There must be a poem in that!”

I hope you agree.

Thank you for reading A peaceful forest. 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 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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