Monthly Archives: September 2013

Ian Hamilton’s “The Birds”

She saw it from a distance seem to burn
Along the branches of her orchard trees,
Then disappear. All afternoon
She had kept watch. The smaller birds,
Assembled on the bitten lawn
In perfect rows, had waited with her.
Soon, she consoled them, soon.

Their claws stretch and unstretch, deep in the ground.
Between the broken trees, there are avenues
That flutter as she talks and seem to run
To the horizon without moving.

She stalls above all this and seems to see
Black on the whitest hill, the furthest tree.

This is another sample from the work of the brilliant late 20th century poet, Ian Hamilton, a poet for whom my admiration and awe continues to grow the more I read him.

This time, a more enigmatic poem. The tone is vintage Hamilton but the focus, while softer, has the same deep emotional impact mined from the same dark brevity. It is easy to get lost in the ‘she’ of the poem. Who is she? Why is she there? What is she doing? And then, with a gasp, what is she?

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to: his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “The Birds”. 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

Comments © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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Let go

Sweetest to my lips is Your Name,
deepest in my heart, Your Voice;
closest to my hope is Your Mercy,
strongest for my courage, Your Memory;
hardest on my fear is Your Justice,
nearest to my serenity, Your Forgiveness;
dearest to my patience is Your Own,
heaviest on my mind, Your truth.

Breathe deep, let go, breathe deep,
repeat…
for when the page before me dries
and I have let go all that I have learned,
I will write this poem down, I promise,
I will write this poem down.
Let go.

Thank you for reading Let go. 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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Pure Plato

Blame Plato with his shadows on the wall.
There was a firmness to it and it was my way
to have it that way: done right, right away.
All blood in the bone I know and honestly,
what couldn’t be justified with that?
But now that I am here at the end,
as God is my witness, it has humbled me.

Where do you let go of the water that’s flowed
when the water that’s flowed has gone dry?
How do you say yes when you’ve always said no
and you don’t even know the why?
And when do you stop paying
when the loan is past due—
the principal gone missing,
the interest a debt double owed?

Idon’tknow/Idon’tknow/Idon’tknow/Idon’tknow
and I doubt if I ever will—
too many nights have passed me by
here in the dark of my cave.
Tell Plato to play out the shadows on his.

This poem banks on the reader knowing Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which holds that there is often a deeper reality to what we perceive is happening.

I think we all feel, as we get older, like one of the prisoners freed from the cave who can, with age, better perceive the forces, effects and consequences of their own life. It is not always necessarily a happy thing to know, but at least it is the best truth we have. At least to that point; at least as best we can see it; at least as sure as we can feel it. Life moves, it all moves, we move with it and we carry on.

Thank you for reading Pure Plato. 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

PS: Sorry that I have not been posting much of late. You may be thinking that all the big words in, and the length of, the long essay for my previous 9/11 post tired out my poor, wittle brain, and you may just be right. But I am also very busy these days with an evening course that I am taking from Kent State, and until today, Lyn and I have had the bounty of hosting our daughter and granddaughter…which has just been a wonderful, marvelous time. Oh, and I bought a new banjo. Hey, life.

© 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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What matters

How did the formal wear of my mother’s
generation decay into the shabbiness
of my own? Never would she leave
for mass in less than a dress, good shoes,
hair done, a hat and gloves, a handkerchief
tucked into her purse.

She would, I think, like me to dress her
more properly now: to weed her plot,
trim the grass, plant some small bright
flowers, clean the headstone. Not to beautify
her—she’s beyond all that—but to adorn me
with my actions. To her it did not matter
what you wore, its how you wore
what you were that mattered.

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, my generation took pride in ridiculing the 50’s as a time of great hypocrisy covered in a thin veneer of  politeness and decorum…a world in which racism was rampant (and it was), where war was considered romantic (it isn’t and wasn’t), where women were considered—if they were considered at all—subservient (big mistake that one) and where the overall, arching impetus of life was to show a perfect front, never mind the misery that was behind the facade.

Thus did the Flower Power generation excuse their own excesses as ‘breaking out’, ‘being free’ and ‘letting it all hang out’. Politeness and ‘the proper way’ became stock characters of silliness and hypocrisy. And yes, while the times they were a changin’—and there were things that needed to be changed—I have long given up the belief that everything that went out the door with the bathwater should have been got rid of.

From the ‘high’ of politics (i.e. publicly visible) to the ‘low’ of everyday interaction, rudeness rules. And the motto of the entertainment industry is, if it’s disgusting, slutty, petty or mean, it stars!

Courtesy is free and yet priceless. So is honesty, trustworthiness, humility, justice and kindness. And I’m greedy, I want them all.

Thank you for reading What matters. 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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