Monthly Archives: May 2014

Cycling

choice

By the time we hit the first hills
my hands were so cold I could feel
each tendon pull and hold. Come on,
I thought, you’ve too much meat on
the pedals to let them break you now!

Later, riding along the edge of
the valley in the golden light
of the setting sun—the barns red
on the green below, the horses dark
and lithe behind their white fences—
I felt the blood running down my back
and dripping from the saddle. Looking
down at the chain, it was not, I mused,
the lubricant I personally would have
chosen, but there was a certain delicate
voice to it, there was no denying that.

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Thank you for reading Cycling, and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in the Berkshires in upper New York state—an area otherwise known as the Poconos 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 fantasy is over, dear,

bugle

yes, over. The poisoned apple has lost its bite,
the spinning needle its thirst, the glass slipper
its soft, swift step. In the castle’s kitchen
the larder is empty, the chopping boards dusty,
the ovens gone cold…echoes reverberate where
chefs once turned spits and made fantastical
marzipan statues and petit fours. The grand hall
sits empty, the tables removed, the curtains
drawn and dark, the hearths empty of their roar.
And although the guests have long since left
and the orchestra is merely a forgotten melody,
an old couple sits there still, silently staring,
gazing into the gloom, remembering. There,
as bated as a breath and as winsome as a wish
they see the ghostly consort and his queen
dance into and out of the silvery night,
she the beauty of the ball, he the cup of her
largesse and they the stuff of some forever—
but still, soon, too soon, gone. Come my queen,
says the old man taking her arm, it is time.

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Another poem for my wonderful, beautiful and so patient wife, Lyn. How she puts up with me I do not understand.

Thank you for reading The fantasy is over, dear, and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is entitled Come blow your horn and was taken at 30 Rockefeller Square in New York City, where the Toy Soldier statues are a traditional part of the yearly Christmas decorations there. 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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What I owe

IMG_3563

Remember that stand of pines,
beyond the rocky hills by your house?
Meet me there. Or if not there, then
on that trail, down the river aways,
where the tall grass grows
and the bullfrogs roar in that
funny little way of theirs.
It’s where in the fall the geese come in
light and low at the end of their flight,
tired, not home, but closer.
You must remember it—
down at the end of the road,
past the gate, where the dirt path
rolls on into the old graveyard.
If, by then you haven’t got it,
you can have the rest of it there.

swril2

Thank you for reading What I owe, and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is entitled Long gone and was taken in a graveyard near Pomfret, CT. 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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Dignity

Blown by the chill wind, the blossoms were thick
in the air, the white petals flying and whirling,
building into soft and delicate snow-like drifts.
Along the street, the residents looked out,
knowing it would be their job to dig their way clear,
harumphing over the unnecessary why of it.

On her way home, she trudged through the drifts,
her face frozen, tears in her eyes,
her scarf whipping anchorless behind her
as she desperately tried to hold onto
that last shred of spring she had left.

 

swril2

All springs of all types—physical, mental, moral and spiritual—abide with new life and hope. But still, much can be asked and hurt at such delicate moments…

The photograph is entitled Courage and was taken in my home town, Putnam, CT. 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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At a cafe, watching

Have a seat

She plays, as all little girls do
when allowed to be themselves,
(by themselves, for themselves)
with an intense ferocity of will
that allows no entrance to her
fantastical: crayons to paper
with a non-stop dialog
of the ways, whys and whos
of her world.

She is my daughter. What’s more,
her sisters are my daughters
and her brothers my sons.
Her cousins, friends and schoolmates—
they too are my daughters and sons.
And all I want to tell them
is that I’m sorry, that I never meant
for it to be this way, that I had hoped
for better when I started.
But the fantastical—as real
as it is—admits no one,
and especially not us unbelievers.
So I pay my bill and leave,
not saying, of course, a word.

swril2

She was a darling child, caught up in her play so completely that it was fascinating just to watch her, her mother off to the side talking with friends. I thought, “There is great hope—despite our worst—yet for this world.”

Thank you for reading At a cafe, watching. 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 Have a seat and was taken in New York City on the steps of the Manhattan library. 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 princess’ story


My daddy was wonderful, she says.
I remember as a little girl sitting in his lap,
my head on his chest, loving the smell of
cherry pipe tobacco on his shirt.
He would read his paper and stroke my hair
and later, before bed, would brush it,
counting out each, one, two, a hundred.
When he checked in on me, I would
pretend to be asleep and not, as usual,
reading after lights out. He would gently
lift the bangs from my eyes and say,
Princess, enough! It’s time to go to sleep,
but still I would pretend, it was our little game.
Then, when I was fourteen and he showed me
it wasn’t a game anymore, I cut my hair
the next day, and when he got angry
I yelled back that it was because I never
wanted him to touch me again. I had never
seen him cry before and after that he never
saw me cry again, although we both did,
often, alone, but after a while I stopped.
I mean, why bother?

Today, my daughter also has beautiful hair
but I keep hers short too. And while she will
never know the smell of cherry pipe tobacco
rising from the heat of a heartbeat, she will
never be trapped in her own tower or be fooled that
the brave knight can’t also be the greedy dragon.
It doesn’t matter that the knight got lung cancer
and rode his guilt into the grave.
I still love him, but it doesn’t matter.

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The writer Tim O’Brien once distinguished between happened truth, when the events actually occurred, and story truth, where the events may have happened in parts to several people and which, at least, summarize the essence of a real experience or experiences.

The princess’ story is not, to my direct knowledge a happened truth, but it is a story truth. In fact, there are tiny bits of things I have picked up from several people in this poem.

As to its subject all I know is that there is too much abuse and pain in this world. We must make it stop.

Thank you for reading Short, very short, and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is entitled Rapids and was taken in Putnam, CT. 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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In the eye

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Haint blue to ward you, so true, so true,
haint blue to draw you, how’d-ye-do, how’d-ye-do!
It’s wicked them nights, could you? would you?
when you stare into the night, fall through, hope to,
believing you can, knowing you might,
a few, some do, new and renew, the morning,
the devil in you, undo, be done, haint blue:
writ there and then washed clean away.

upHaint blue is an azure paint that slaves and their descendants applied to doorways and windowsills to ward off spirits and is derived from Western African beliefs that water forms a divide between the human and spirit worlds. It is still practiced in the U.S.A. by slave descendants who live in the Georgia Sea Islands and who typically speak the Creole tongue Geechee, or it’s cousin Gullah in South Carolina. (From the article Cabin Fever, Smithsonian magazine, Oct 2013.)

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The practice is wide spread and carries on to this day in North Africa as well. I still remember the azure painted doors and windows of the brick and white plaster houses of Tunisia.

Thank you for reading In the eye, and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments. Please consider visiting my photography blog, the Book of Bokeh.

john

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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