That's me in the spotlight

Strong walls and empty halls,
rubber bands and hooks—softness;
brick and mortar, blood and bone,
eye and ear and mouth.
There is a left here, but no right
and every up has its matching down:
a grip, a hold, a lunge, a fall,
tumult in the night.
Smile and tear, laugh and bark,
tomorrow—there’s always tomorrow—
wait and see, hope and pray,
little patience and little else.

Me looking at me
looking at you looking at me,
while the heat builds all the greater
from the forgotten whence
to the unknowable hence, on.


Thank you for reading Self-portrait, and please forgive me if you think it pure hubris. 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 That’s me in the spotlight and was taken at my home in Putnam, CT. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

Thank you for reading Self-portrait. 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.


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, The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.


Filed under Poetry

16 responses to “Self-portrait

  1. Pingback: Self-portrait | the Book of Bokeh

  2. It looks perfectly you ‘

    (yes, this is the first time I’ve seen you).

    I like the picture…and the poem.

    Thanks for sharing you with us.


    • Casey, thank you so very much for dropping by and reading my poem. I am very honored. Please feel free to return and if I may, also to point out my other, photography based, blog: the Book of Bokeh. Again, thank you so much!

  3. John, great poem. I am envious. I have been trying to do a self-portrait piece for a long time. I don’t think there is any hubris in it–painters did and do it all the time. It is hard to accomplish with language. >KB

    • KB,

      Thank you! When it is you that says that you are envious, I know it is a good poem! Isn’t it funny how the concept of doing a self-portrait used to be done so much more and with such bravado, and is now so seldom done, especially in words?

  4. philwilke

    I like it but I think you’re being too hard on yourself. I love the photo, and love the design flourish separating the poem from the narrative.


    • To be honest, even I was having problems sometimes figuring out where the poem ended and the comments started! Should have done it long ago…don’t know why I didn’t!

  5. Christine Kalafus

    “There is a left here, but no right..” is such a smart phrase, weighty and thoughtful.

    • Christine, thank you so much! Glad you liked it. On my side, I can’t wait each Monday for a post from you. Knowing you’re in trouble when you get a cupcake named after you? Priceless!

  6. Bro! This is … luminous. That is the first word that came to me. The image at the top illuminates you, this poem illuminates you and your good heart. This is one of the pieces that blessed me: “Smile and tear, laugh and bark,
    tomorrow—there’s always tomorrow—wait and see, hope beyond hope …” Peace, T

    • T, thank you friend! “Luminous” is one of…and perhaps the finest…compliment I have ever received on a poem. Thank you so, very, very much!

  7. Intelligent writing and compelling photography, thank you for sharing!

    • Holly, that is incredibly kind of you and I appreciate your dropping by the Book of Pain. I loved your site too, although I would never have the courage to give up some cupboard space…ANY cupboard space, in my kitchen! Again, thank you!

  8. So good. So, so good. The second stanza takes it a direction I would’ve have foreseen.

    • JR, thank you! It was an interesting (as in the reputedly Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times!”) poem to write. Not easy, but oddly compelling.