Behind us only justice

DSC05370If this is not the end then woe to us the fallen,
for the only comforts remaining are the lies
from the low and the ferment from the front.
So here we remain, toe-to-toe/heart-to-heart,
with no plans to connive nor options to pursue,
left only our apathy and hand-wringing.
We would bear witness to these truths—we would—
if we had a breath left to draw on; we don’t.

But if the scales are shifting (and I am terrified they are)
it’s because of the innocents we’ve sacrificed.
Yes, you can weep, but try not to complain,
it’s nobler that way and besides, there’s nothing wrong
with a knife in the back, as long as it’s not your own.


This poem grew from the seed of a line that was cut early in the writing:

I’m not wrong, but I’ll not insist on the right—especially as I am.

It, in turn, was a paraphrase of a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche:

It is nobler to declare oneself wrong than to insist on being right—especially when one is right.

While to start with an idea from a famous philosopher can be inspirational, in the end I thought it better to write bad Etheridge than imitate good Nietzsche.

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

The photograph was taken in Washington, DC at the Lincoln Memorial. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.


Photograph, poem and notes © 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, The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.


Filed under Poetry

8 responses to “Behind us only justice

  1. –we would–
    alas, we don’t

    Love it.

    • You are, clearly, a brilliant and tasteful critic with an intuitive and insightful appreciation of thoughtful poetry, and who will always, I assure you, be welcome to visit. 🙂
      All joking aside, thank you, you are very kind and I am glad you like the turn of phrase.

      • Why, thank you. Your brilliance is even more apparent now, BoP.

        BTW, I did not mean to reduce your wonderful poem to just those five words, but my device did not allow me to copy a larger portion.

      • Not to worry. I was pleased that you picked up on a part of the poem that I was a little worried would not come across correctly. Apparently it did, so believe me, I am grateful. 🙂

      • I did, John. And it does come across clearly.

        More so for me since I have in mind a similar, theme-wise, poem by Karol Wojtyla (a.k.a John Paul II), “The Armaments Factory Worker” which is an inspiration for my future blog post.

        Glad I found your site (through Pete Hulme’s lovely blog, a place where mystery continues to unfold like a growing spiral).

      • Wow! What a unique poem. Thank you! I have a friend at work who will, in particular, love this.

        And I agree, Pete’s blog is a lovely place for both mystery, clarity and true uniqueness! 🙂

  2. That’s brilliant! I really enjoyed reading it, and it made me think. 🙂 Excellent 🙂 thank you!