It’s long been said


Poems have conversations between themselves
about us behind our backs, and what’s worse,
with total strangers. Yes, they lie meekly
enough on the page where we place them
but this is all a sham, because among themselves
they bunch into cabals and define us and measure us
and to be honest, find us generally wanting—
although wanting of what they’re not sure.

It’s best to let them go. That’s what I do.


Words know that we isolate and abuse them,
split them and twist them and sneak them in wrongly.
They know when and how they’re hard done by
and that they get old, become jumbled and confused,
get left places where they ought not to be
and are ‘re-purposed’ out of retirement,
when they should have been left alone.
Then too, they get lonely and search for
solace and meaning between where they are
and where they aren’t, but mostly where
they should be (but again aren’t) and how,
to their mind, they’ve lost their purpose in life.

It’s best to let them go. That’s what I do.


When you think about it, words don’t sum up very well,
that’s the forté of numbers. But don’t tell words that
because poems have words and words have letters
and letters are really very jealous of numbers.
It’s got to do with numbers being exact and complex
despite their simplicity—and with those fancy infinities.
Letters, on the other hand, are inexact and simple,
despite their complexity, and are fixed and bound
in their snobby little groups.

Let them go, let them all go. That’s what I do.


Thank you for reading the three poems that make up It’s long been written. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed them and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Allow me to invite you to my photography blog, the Book of Bokeh.


© 2014 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: © 2014 by John Etheridge,


Filed under Poetry

16 responses to “It’s long been said

  1. Barbara Minor

    thanx John….I am a number person and find words very painful to use correctly…you know…that spelling and grammar thing. I love this poem and find it very amusing….enlightening even. Never thought about words and how they would feel, behave, or need a rest!!!

    • Barbara, funnily enough (for a poet) I too am primarily a numbers person and was always good at math. That may be the cause of my sneaking suspicion that my words always betray me later.

  2. And yes, I’ve waited and waited and waited…. That’s funny how words and numbers are jealous of one another, infinite in words, infinite in numbers but here are numbers that are written in funny words such as X, V, C, I … good to hear that your are back.

    • Seeker, thank you very much! It had been so long since I posted anything I couldn’t tell if it was ready. The poem did take an ironic turn at the end, didn’t it? Odd. I think you too are a photographer? At least you enjoy images and pictures. Allow me to invite you too visit my new photography blog, the Book of Bokeh.

  3. Reblogged this on The Seeker and commented:
    An amusing poem between letters, words and numbers. Enjoy.

  4. Oh, this is utterly confounding! My words, my slaves, rebelling against me!

  5. This poem is wonderful, John. I love the way you have written it! I am re-blogging it. Thank you so very much.

  6. Reblogged this on Adeeyoyo's Blog and commented:
    Wonderful poem from the Book of Pain’s John Etheridge.

  7. Absolutely brilliant. Letters are jealous of numbers: that is fantastic.

    I somehow know exactly what that means, and can sense some of the implications of that idea in how our lives work. The inexactitude of speech; the rigidity of numbers.

    Well, I’m going to need to return to this one soon. As usual, well done.

    • JR, Always a kind and encouraging word, thank you so much. There is probably three poems in one here…but for the life of me I couldn't get the energy to see if they should or could be separated. No doubt my words are gossiping about that right now with some of the readers that drop by.

  8. glad adee pointed me over…i like your personification of words and poems….ha and the jealousy of numbers….i like the interactions in this….cool write…

    • Brian, Denise at adeeyoyo was very kind to re-blog the poem and I am glad that you enjoyed it. I promise to not be jealous of the conversation you had with the poem without me! There’s a lot of that going around… 🙂 Drop back often, please.