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 whos, ways and whys
of her world.

She is my daughter, as are her sisters,
as too are my sons, her brothers,
and all the young I can imagine.
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.


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.


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

5 responses to “At a cafe, watching

  1. John, a great write an even better read. >KB

    • Thank you, KB! Not the deepest thing ever written, but I am very happy with it. At one point I almost abandoned it so as to re-write the idea of every child being our own children in light of the awful things happening in Nigeria…but what is happening there is too raw and painful (not to mention too huge) to try and wrap my words around. Now I am glad I didn’t, although I would still like to find some words about Africa…

  2. Wow. Flows, w a narrator who recognizes the glory in the child, and holds the children in a non-religious, sacred, way. Really wonderful, john.

    • Thank you T! She really was a darling and I was amazed at watching her intensity of concentration. I never raised a little girl and my 3 granddaughters are, sadly, too far away for us to be actively involved with raising them. One of the great sadnesses of our lives, really.