Monthly Archives: June 2014

Mahvash Sabet’s “The Imaginary Garden”

There was once a woman
green as the spring,
who planted her hands in a garden.
And another woman,
red as her heart
who plucked light from the bars of a prison.
And now here I am
with my own patch of soil,
growing a garden
in this tiny cell,
with poppies of love for each pane.

You need just one flower–
that’s all it takes–
to open the windows of sight.
A single verse
is quite enough
to illumine the eyes with light.

So I’ll tie my bags to the foot of the breeze
and soar high up to the top of the trees
in my garden that grows inside.
And I’ll spread wings to reach you
and soar high to teach you
how windows can open wide.
You don’t need much:
one poppy is all
it takes to open to love.
One verse is sufficient
to fill the eyes
with that shining beam from above.

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Mahvash Sabet is a Bahá’í prisoner of conscience currently serving an unjust 20 year sentence in Iran. This is another heart-rendering poem smuggled out of her prison and translated and published in the west. Read more of her story from my post of her poem Fire.

Mahvash is not well and languishes in prison without proper treatment. Please pray for her strength.

Please consider purchasing Mahvash Sabet’s poetry as an act of solidarity in the fight for human rights: in the US, from Amazon; in the UK, directly from the publisher.

– john

This English edition of The Imaginary Garden is ©2013 by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, who adapted the original Persian texts into English; all rights reserved.

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A lesson in photography

IMG_7102_3_4

I sold my soul to the devil
and the devil wanted his back.
You, he said, you think you’re
so very smart? Smart this one
if you can. 
If I can.

Smart is like the sound of
boots crunching a rocky trail;
smart is like the groans and gasps
of some oddsome, burning tale;
smart is like the warm blue sky
lying down with cool water,
its reward to bleed its golden life
in its golden hour.

They told me, they said, to seek
the light, that it would be a comfort
to the lens. So it’s just me,
I suppose, in my oddsomeness
that I prefer to look for the dark:
less is more, more is less,
and black—well black—black
holds itself in everything.

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I went for a walk around Thompson Dam, a reservoir that is close to where I live. It should be only 8 miles, but I got lost a few times, so only heaven knows how far I really hiked. On the walk went with me Ernest Bloch, the great mid-20th century composer on the headphones, my camera in hand and the need for a poem I wanted to write. Some would say—and would perhaps be correct—that I got short changed. Perhaps…

Thank you for reading A lesson in photography. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken during my walk that day at Thompson Dam. The rest of the photographs I took on that hike can be found here at With Bloch at Thompson Dam. 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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Detachment

IMG_1719a

She holds and twists her long telling tale
of tangled and torn-at knots: blue ones, red ones,
yellow ones, green, her nails worn to the quick
sorting the strands of the rough, tough fibers,
tiny dark stains bled into the ragged ends.

Blue ones, I think, for the oceans of ink wept
and yet to be written; red ones for the nights that
the sharp-tongues are out; yellow for a spot
to stand firm on. (The blow, it’s certain, is coming,
yet you stand there just the same.) And finally
green, dark green, that whispering green,
that green-green germ that grows inside you:
the one you eat whole and alive, or it eats you up
from the inside out—the one you want so very much
because you planted it just for you. That one.

As much as it is to take her hands and gently warm
them to a stop, I don’t—I won’t—I can’t. They are
not mine to cut off at the wrists and let drop
to the river below, to let float downstream
bobbing up and down, waving goodbye,
trailing their rich, red hopes behind them.
They’re hers.

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I started thinking about what are the elements surrounding detachment when we need it the most? I decided they are the emotions we swirl in, the hurts we are forced to endure, the courage it takes to endure and finally our egos: that element that drives us to be who we are and what we are; to fight for the right to be us, but with which we have to juggle and manage, because our egos can step over the line from strength to betrayal if we are not careful.

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

The photograph of the river was taken in my home town of Putnam, just as the sun was going down. 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 Holy Mariner

the flood

When the Bosphorus blew and
the flood myth that grew turned
the black lake to the Black Sea,
no one whose world was lost then
could ever, thereafter, let it go.
So when Noah left Gilgamesh
to sail from Babylon
to Israel via Ur, He went
with the best of company:
each one teach one, shanna,
two-by-two, up the gangway
and into the belly of the beast—
Eden becoming Ridván.
From there the third dove
did not return, but flying on straight
to the rainbow, decided, instead, in love,
to lay down and let go of everything
it had once known, thereby proving
everything it needed to know.
Shanna.

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Wall, wall, reed wall, reed wall is generally the first line of the Babylonian version of the Flood Story. In fact, the first non-Biblical translation of the myth in the 1870’s rocked the Victorian age and was the opening salvo in the modern-day battle to contend that the Old Testament is not a history book, but one of spiritual metaphors. Since then, further research has proven that the Mesopotamian Flood myth far predates the creation of Genesis and firmly establishes that the story, which is so central to that entire region’s psychology and conscious, is most probably based on some real cataclysmic event of the long distant past.

A leading contender for that event in the creation of the Bosphorus seaway. It is speculated that the creation of this amazingly narrow, thread-like sea channel that cuts through modern-day Istanbul and connects the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, is the cause. Formed in 5,600 BC (agriculture had by then created villages and towns, but had not yet flared into cities and city-states) it is suggested that the Black Sea was then a fresh water lake which had much shrunk in size due to the lack of melt water from the glaciers which had long since retreated north. However, on the other side of the land bridge, the levels of the Mediterranean had grown much higher, again owing to the ending of the Ice Age. These dual-pressures finally and terribly exploded into the creation of the Bosphorus, which would have discharged into the Black Sea three times the flow of Niagara Falls for over three hundred years before levels equaled. The resulting constant growth of the Black Sea, and the pressure of a steadily advancing shore line could have, it is suggested, created the Flood myth.

A few notes: “shanna” (pronounced SHAW-naw) is the Babylonian word for “by twos” and is specifically used in the oldest version of the tale known. “Ridván” (pronounced RIZ-von) is the Arabic word for “paradise” and is used in the Bahá’í Faith in several contexts; in the poem it refers to both the Covenant and a state of spiritual bliss.

In the end, regardless of the story’s origin, the power of the Flood myth to teach the importance of obedience and trust in God, as well as a symbol of the eternal Covenant of God is undiminished.

Thank you for reading The Holy Mariner. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph of Lake Tahoe was taken from the Heavenly ski hill, observation deck and shows the Coriolis effect created by the wind swirling in the valley bowl in which the lake rests. 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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Perhaps

time
it is in the small hours, when
stumbling back to bed that
they come to you most often:
when will the dawn come and
will you rise to greet it?
Or that friend, will he come
to wake you and when will he arrive?
Or that glass, can it be filled
to finally slake your thirst?
But by then the clock far down
the hall is chiming its chimes
or ringing its bells
or moving ahead
and you’re already back, snuggled in,
asleep again, not that it matters,
if you don’t really want to wake up,
but still…perhaps, just perhaps.

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

The photograph is a still life of a clock I took in my home 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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Will

free

What do you do when you’re drawn to the do?
When somehow, somewhere, by someone, there’s
nothing that’s left that’s not been done before?
I mean, what’s there to be afraid of, except,
well—you know—you?

And yes, I know you’re tired, of course you are.
But you’re also all aflutter from the naughty
you’ve discovered, I can hear your pulse
pounding in your desire. But scratch all you
want dear, there’s more than warm blood welling
up from the bottom of this one. And speaking of
heat, I can see that you left the door open
when you went your way home, and curiously
that’s making the temperature rise even more—
it must be that bridge burning beneath your feet.

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

The photograph was taken in Sedona, Arizona, along the Oak Creek river, just north of town. I had stopped to take pictures of the canyon and quickly grabbed this shot when I had the chance. 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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Why, oh why

alone

You knew that if I had known, I’d have begged you to stay,
I’d have refused to believe that we were now through.
Why, oh why—why in the end—why did you go away?

Perhaps I wasn’t listening about what you had to say,
Or did you think it gentler leaving no hope to cling to?
You knew that if I had known, I’d have begged you to stay.

Who knew that for all I had, there’d be such a price to pay?
That day by day I was building a debt I’d later come to rue;
Why, oh why—why in the end—why did you go away?

My friends—didn’t they?—one and all, say I’d take it this way?
They knew me a fool for you and you feared that it was true,
You knew that if I had known, I’d have begged you to stay.

I know I wasn’t faultless, that I had at least some part to play
But I don’t know yet what I said or did, or didn’t say or do,
Why, oh why—why in the end—why did you go away?

If I smile it’s because you knew there’d be this day,
That it would end with a kiss and not a final ‘Adieu…’
You knew that if I had known, I’d have begged you to stay,
Why, oh why—why in the end—why did you go away?

 

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A villanelle is a highly restricted poetic form consisting of 19 lines set in a very precise manner with an exact rhyming scheme. Writing one is, believe me, a challenge, especially for someone who doesn’t tend to write in fixed form formats. But it was interesting experiment and I recommend anyone trying one as a stretching exercise.

You can, I might add, be comforted in the traditional love complaint topic. My dear wife, Lyn—despite, God knows, sufficient provocation throughout the years—has not and is not, I think, about to leave me. Or at least I don’t think she is! Hmm…

Thank you for reading Why, oh why. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in Putnam, CT on one of my early morning rambles through a local park. 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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