Monthly Archives: September 2015

An early fall walk in the evening

IMG_6684What I remember best is the sharp smell of wild grapes
carried aloft in a warm updraft, their sharp tang a hint
of the coming winter, when their leaves will be withered
and the vines hard and dry, their hopes gone and the roots
hidden in sleep. I know they don’t, but I wonder—do they
dream, longing for a wet spring and a warm summer sun?

Do they yearn for another year, to bear again their bitter fruit?
Do they think about waking, and then, knowing that they are awake,
do they bask in the knowledge that they are the good creation of a
good God, aright in their place and placed aright by love’s design?
So much living, I think, for such a little tang on a last warm night,
there and then gone in a quick waft of air. Was it ever there at all?

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It was actually on a bicycle ride when the scent of wild grapes hit us, so it is a small exercise of my artistic license to switch it to the simpler idea of a walk. It so happened that just after the grapes we climbed a miserable hill, the kind that is fun to mock afterwards but which you dread before you go up it—the long, steep and panting kind. But still, I was grateful: that hill afforded me a lot of time to think about those grapes.

Thank you for reading An early fall walk in the evening. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is of some wild grapes in the fall, taken at the Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts. To see my photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh blog.

john

Photograph, notes and poem © 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: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its copyright owner.

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C’était à Amboise, en Touraine, en France

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There t’was in Amboise, in Touraine, in France
while wan’dring alone, cool and carefree,
that my lover found her soul, as if by chance,
in that place of art, the Martinerie.
Bold and beautiful, brave and full of light,
she saw those tapestries as I see her:
images aglow, images aflight,
images of love, an oath to concur.
Am I that knight errant her patience sought,
my soul to join hers in that holy grail
pledged immortal by that picture she bought?
I fear for my worth, but I dare not fail.
A gift of love is a gift given free,
but the greatest of gifts is the gift that is she.

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Today is Lyn’s and my wedding anniversary, and I cannot think of a better day to re-share this sonnet.

Before we were married, Lyn went on a biking vacation in France. While there at La Galerie d’Art de la Martinerie, 7 bis. Rampe du Chateau, Amboise, en Touraine, en France (tel 47.57.37.51) she bought a beautiful rendering of a tapestry that was an homage to Saint Martin of Tours—he who cut his military cloak in two to give half to a beggar. It so touched me when I saw it that I wanted to describe it, and through it, us, in a poem.

Eventually we had the poem scripted by a professional calligraphist and it is mounted in the same frame with the picture. It hangs now in our bedroom and I have promised our daughter that it goes to her after us. Some things should never end…

Thank you for reading C’était à Amboise, en Touraine, en France. 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

Photograph, notes and poem © 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: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its copyright owner.

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Labour Day

upIt was, I recall, one of only two days a year the mill shut down.
To celebrate their right, the unions would parade wearing caps
of folded newsprint and then host games and races at the local
ball-field, “Come one, come all.” Later, there’d be a boiled dinner,
a dollar a plate. If you knew the who, there was always a case of beer
hidden somewhere, which explained the over loud jocularity.

But it had been a dying practice even before I left. And now
the baseball diamond is gone, the bleachers torn down and the park
that replaced it goes unused. The mill is shut down too, a victim
of much wanting more: the unions, the company, the town. In fact,
I hear they’re going to tear down the empty buildings and rehabilitate
the land, make it like all of it—none of it—was ever there.

Perhaps if they do I’ll walk down to where it was by the river—it always
was a pretty river—because I’ll be one of the last to remember:
the log booms and the spring jams, the sulfur mounds, the chip piles,
the railroad, the loud machines…the men with their wicker baskets
hurrying to beat the whistle. What I didn’t know then…

Maybe, as I stand there, I’ll pick up a rock and skip it across
the water and yell, Hey salmon, it’s your turn again, good luck!
Just don’t forget to give thanks, always give thanks, you have
to give thanks for what you’ve got.
 And remember, much wants more—
that’s the simple why of the world—much wants more, every time.

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I was speaking to my father last year on Labour Day (note the British spelling) and about how it had been a very special day in my little town of Grand Falls, Newfoundland, Canada when I was growing up. The local industry was a newsprint factory (the paper for the New York Times was, for example, made exclusively there) and the right to form unions had been a long, bitter and necessary battle to fight and win. Men were proud of their unions and proud of the prosperity it had bought.

And now? In the modern world, management has won. Labour Day is just an end of summer vacation day where the name, the rights and the history of it are no longer appreciated. My point is not to comment on the status of modern labor rights, but to lament the loss with the past, however good and bad it was.

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

To see my photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh blog.

john

Photograph in the public domain; notes and poem © 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: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its copyright owner.

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