Monthly Archives: March 2014

Vocatus

Crash
Down to the sea, always to the sea,
it always all leads to the sea—
the bitter sea, the deep dark sea,
the lowest of echoes, the sea.
Thus do I wander aimlessly
this crooked, slippery path of me,
bereft of discernment as I am
to be as I ought to be.
Thus have I found me
as thou also dost see,
flowing deep down to the sea,
that sea, that bitter, cold sea—
bidden or not, I am there.

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Bahá’ís will recognize the allusions in this poem to The Tablet of Ahmad:

Rely upon God, thy God and the Lord of thy fathers. For the people are wandering in the paths of delusion, bereft of discernment to see God with their own eyes, or hear His Melody with their own ears. Thus have We found them, as thou also dost witness. – Bahá’u’lláh

The Tablet of Ahmad was written for a great spiritual hero of the early years of the Bahá’í Faith, who, through the fire of his faith was transformed into a fearless lion of spiritual strength.  It is used by Bahá’ís in times of great sorrow or duress.

The title of the poem comes from the Latin inscription, “Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit” which means “Called or uncalled, God will be present.” It is a statement that Carl Jung discovered among the Latin writings of Erasmus, who declared the statement had been an ancient Spartan proverb. (The original Greek had, presumably, gotten a Latin education somewhere along its journey.) Jung popularized it and had it inscribed first over the doorway of his house, and then upon his tomb. “Vocatus” has been variously translated as “summoned”, “called”, “invoked”, and “bidden.”

Thank you for reading Vocatus. 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.

The photograph is entitled Crash and was taken in Newport, Rhode Island. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph © 2014, poem and notes © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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The well of fire

Explosion
I am frozen at the event horizon and the crush has begun:
heart, will and mystery stretching out between two infinities,
thread-like, from brazen hope to broken will.

But even here all is not lost. There is a mercy for the fallen
who are drawn in joyfully, weeping with the wonder of it,
landing (if you can call it landing at all) with an implosion
more felt than loud, but real all the same.

It’s an eternity, that stop—there on the edge— the frontal wave
of a heartbeat that never echoes again. But that is, in truth,
the event itself. Wait for it.

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Black holes are singularly (pun intended) interesting things. In a black hole, the event horizon is the point at which the gravity becomes so intense escape is impossible, even for light, hence the name. Moreover, time gets wonky around black holes. If you were to cross the event horizon of a black hole feet first, to an outsider you’d appear to hover on that edge forever, while to yourself you’d appear to become like a piece of spaghetti, as the gravity, being more intense at your feet than your head, stretched you out. And yet—and this is what made Stephen Hawking so darn famous in the first place—black holes leak energy. In fact even tiny amounts of matter falling to the core release horrific amounts of energy and black holes can have laser-like beams of energy and matter shooting out of them for thousands of light years.

It’s a hell of an analogy to work with!

Thank you for reading The well of fire. 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.

The photograph is entitled Explosion and was taken in the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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The Copper Tree Tops

The Radiant Sun bursts forth
Reflecting on the tree tops
Electrifying their pose with a copper glow.

The Fast begins.
I have prepared my body
With an abundance of food and water.
I have prepared my soul
With an abundance of prayer and meditation.

The Sunlight envelops all the trees
From the top to the base… and all
That is in its path. The copper glow
Has transformed into a clear, warm Light.

The fast continues…
The Will of God encircles me.

Clouds rumble across the sky
As midday bells chime.
They act as veils dulling the Light
And the hues of the trees seem less clear.
Yet, the bell tones re-energize the amity.

My body is hungry. I know this will pass.
The corners of my lips feel sticky.
I cherish the opportunity to splash water against my mouth
While saying my ablutions.

It is mid afternoon.
The Light has changed angles.
New and different shadows appear on the ground.
Shadows that are unhindered by leaves
That will soon encompass the branches.

The hunger pains have passed into nothingness.
My head, on some days at this time, feels strangely foggy…
On others, strangely vibrant.

It is a few minutes before sundown.
The trees stand strong and silent
Urging me to cast-off my doubts and join them.

During those last moments,
We are on fire again.

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Again this year I am very proud to post this poem by my wife, Lyn. It is during the Fast, the period from March 2 through to the 21st, when Bahá’ís refrain from eating or drinking from sunup until sundown. If you have never participated in an extended period of fasting, it would be natural to fear the process, thinking it to be a physical misery. It is anything but.

The point of fasting is not, in any event, the physical process itself. This is, I believe, true of the fasting tradition for all religions: the 28 day Muslim fast of Ramadan, the 40 days of Lent for Christians, or the 25 hour fast of Yom Kippur for Jews. The physical discipline is meant to act as a lens and allow you to concentrate on the spiritual process that is the heart of true fasting: obedience to the Law and disciplining oneself for control over your actions. But while this is, in itself, meritorious, there is even a sweeter reason to fast: it is an act done out of love for the Founder of your religion. And this love, this transformative force, is the very heart of what the religious experience is all about.

Lyn’s poem dates from 2006 and the story she tells of the early dawn light, copper coloring the tops of the tall trees outside our kitchen window, and then illuminating them from behind at sunset, is absolutely true…and particularly noticeable at this time of the year. Every year the beauty of it grabs us more and more. Alas, the church up the street, which does have a carillon (bells played with a keyboard-like instrument) no longer has anyone to play them and we miss their gentle, clear, clean rhythms. But all things, it seems, change and grow older…

Thank you for reading The Copper Tree Tops by Lynette D. Tolar. It is used with her permission. 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

The Copper Tree Tops by Lynette D. Tolar © 2006; all rights reserved. Notes © 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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The Letters of the Living

Burst


There, then, on that Purest Spot,
with the night pregnant with the day,
Shiva the Destroyer lifted up
and threw down on the knee of His love
the entire world and the heavens thereof,
breaking them then, all that lay therein
so that they fell, cast deep into darkness and doubt.

There were left but Twenty still living:
the First, the eighteen and the Second,
witness unto Himself. What Word
in that day did those eighteen say
so that the reunion could finally begin?
“Yea!” they cried, voices flung in abandon,
high unto the heavens.
“Yea!” they cried, necks bared to the blade,
arms lifted taut with joy.
“Yea!” they cried and thus they died
leaving only their echoes to recall them.
But here in my place, God help me,
I think I hear them still.

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This is a poem that is steeped in the history of the Bahá’í Faith and the allusions will be unclear to non-Bahá’ís, so let me explain very briefly:

Much like John the Baptist came first to prepare the world for Jesus Christ, the Báb (“the First” in the poem) came to prepare the world for Bahá’u’lláh (“the Second” in the poem), the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. The first eighteen brave souls—martyrs all, as was the Báb Himself—who declared Their belief in Him are referred to as the Letters of the Living.

This concept of “living”  i.e. spiritual rejuvenation through belief in a new Manifestation of God, is developed also in the first stanza, where Shiva—a Hindu deity—fulfills one of the roles of God and “destroys” the world (everyone is metaphorically dead upon His arrival) and then transforms it, through giving “life”, i.e. spiritual rejuvenation through faith in Him.

Thank you for reading The Letters of the Living. 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.

The photograph is entitled Burst and was taken in Washington, DC on Memorial Day, several years ago. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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Fragments: The Forest Edge

KB, of The Mirror Obscura, is a poet who can write long, detailed and intricate poems of great insight and depth, and darling little poems of such sweet delicateness that it takes your breath away. Here is an example of the latter.

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