Category Archives: Poetry

Christmas 2 a.m.



There, in the glow of the tree,
near the stockings hung with care
and under the mistletoe, we float,
all of us, ghosts in the air,
swaying to the carols
in our long-gone everywhere,
voices-over-voices away…

And all the aches are abated,
and all the doubts are done,
and all of it matters no more
because it all will soon be gone.
So dance/just dance,
let us swirl this one more time,
for here, for now, for there, for when,
it is enough. Just dance/just dance.
I will.


I love the Holiday season and have very fond memories of family and friends from over the years. This year is no exception and, in fact, will be particularly special: for the first time in over 30 years, we will be celebrating it with my wonderful and beloved sister and brother-in-law.

To all my friends out there who are gracious enough to spend moments of your precious time reading my poetry, thank you, and no matter what your background is, or country of origin, or religion, may God bless you and the light of unity and peace shine on you and yours now, and forever. As Tiny Tim said (in imitation Cockney accent if you can), God bless us, every one!

See you sometime in 2019…

For other, previous Holidays poetry, may I suggest:

Holiday traditions

Until we’re all together again

Seasons (by Tierney Tolar)

Thank you for reading Christmas 2 a.m. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at Old Sturbridge Village, a living museum of the 1850’s in Massachusetts. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 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 creator.

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All grown up



My sons keep themselves awake at night,
their distress the warp and their fear the weft
of a blanket that dares them to sleep,
that eagerly waits to drag them down
into their darkness, gasping.

I hear this, I see this, I know this, I care;
I raised them, I love them, I do.
And it’s not that I want to, or don’t,
or should or shouldn’t or won’t,
it’s their time, not mine;
so for me, I’m sorry,
but at night,
I sleep like
a stone.

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

The photograph was taken at the Fundació Joan Miró museum in Barcelona, Spain. I cannot remember the artist’s name, but it was from an installation entitled Scars. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 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 creator.

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Life lesson


You struck the keys,
but did not push or pull them;
you hit the beats,
but smudged the rests between them;
you sang the strains,
but feared to lift and soar them.

What surprised me the most
was learning the lesson
you did not mean to teach:
it’s better to flub some notes,
if you play them with a passion!

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

The photograph is of Lyn’s family heirloom piano, a heavy beast of a brute that she loves. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 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 creator.

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Gadfly


If you could slow and watch a penny drop,
see it spiral on its way down,
look at it flash from both sides ’round,
listening before it hits the ground…
then you might have time enough to think,
That’s what I’ve been doing wrong, all along!

I would laugh but for the tears:
more compassion—not less—especially for those
who deserve it the least,
they who I would despise the most.
For I am an ocean and they are not
and their bitter drop would be as nothing to me,
while my surge, will I hope, drown them,
or so it is I believe.

I am the gadfly that spurs your noble steed to action.
– Socrates, paraphrased, at his trial, per Plato in the Apology dialog

I recently posted Pain in a Blind Eye, a poem that captured my distress at the recent murders which took place in a Jewish Synagogue in Pittsburgh. That event, and too many others like it, had left me rudderless and unable to cope with it. It was not until I read Pete Hulme’s Everybody Means Something blog that I started to get a glimpse of what was wrong. He says there, The wider we set our compass of compassion, and the deeper our wisdom becomes, the less likely are we to be fearful, threatened and reactively aggressive. When something disturbing happens and it’s a drop in the ocean you feel no fear. When something happens and it’s a drop in a thimble, all hell spills out.

In that one passage, he helped articulate a response that I was groping for but could not form, a balance that I needed but could not achieve. Our society is so divisive and polarized, the forces of disintegration and disunity so immense, the perpetrators of fear and hate so brazen and bold—it is all too easy to wearily succumb to them. But not if you can be an ocean of compassion to their anger and their tragedy.

To have compassion is not to forget, to condone, leave broken or let remain unpunished. It is a concern for the sufferings of others—all others—and that starts with striving to understand and to forgive.

PS: If you read Pete’s original post you will note that I even stole his ‘an important penny dropped’  line as a metaphor for seeing both sides of a situation. It turns out that I am as grateful as I am despicable, but there you go—I’ve said it before: originality is merely undetected plagiarism. 🙂

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

The photograph was taken on my phone. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem, and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 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 creator.

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Pray

She wept the river that runs to the sea
to bring the fishermen home, says one.

And when, says another, the sun would not rise,
it was she who swallowed the night.

Yes, yes, says a third, the world had grown wicked
and no wind was strong enough to break it.
With one exhale, she cleansed the town,
so the bread of the poor could leaven.

They nod as one, We’ve heard this too,
surely it must be true!

What would we do without her?

Recently, I reviewed and archived all my poems on the Book of Pain. This poem grew out of a discarded portion of a draft for It’s theirs, after all, and paid for. In re-reading that early version, I realized it could stand on its own. I hope you like it…

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

The photograph was taken at the Musée de la Mer on the Île Sainte-Marguerite, the largest of the Lérins Islands, just off the coast from Cannes, France. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

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,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Thanksgiving Day blues


I pulled a roasted turkey from under my coat,
a bowl of gravy too;
a plate of mashed potatoes slid down one sleeve,
candied yams down the other;
rolls and cranberries came from out of rear pockets,
a veggie casserole from under my sweater.
The pies—there were three—I kept hidden,
tight under my hat.

So please, Mr. Crazy-man
with that rage behind your gun
and all your whispers and your doubts,
don’t kill us, we don’t want to die just yet/not yet.
Listen: I am your brother
and I love you with all the depth and breadth
of everything I have to offer.
So please, sir, sit and eat, before you do something
I know I already regret.

The world is rife with worries and terrors. But within the United States, the situation is aggravated by the fact that it is so easy—too easy— to legally obtain a high caliber, fully automatic weapon with a large magazine. All in the name of logic-defying ideology. Recent years, and in particular, recent months, have seen too many incidents of senseless, public mass murder. I am learning that the only way to hold onto my humanity and not fall into a well of despair is to strive to develop a sense of compassion for the ones who feel driven to do such awful deeds.

Given that we will soon be celebrating Thanksgiving Day—in the United States the most family-oriented holiday of the year—I thought a poem summing up my thoughts would be timely. I hope you like it.

Thank you for reading Thanksgiving Day blues, the title of which is an homage to Auden’s Funeral Blues. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The image is Norman Rockwell’s iconic Freedom From Want. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

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. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Shame at the grocery store


There were too many simple carbs in her cart,
too much fat, too many nitrates, too much salt—
and all of it bound up with too many additives
to keep everything “wholesome” and “fresh.”
Too few vegetables (and those canned)
no whole grains, no fruits, no greens,
and her toddler mixed in for minding.
Typical.

That child, for his part, was too demanding
of this too-fun thing and that too-treat thing
and had managed to fuss much of it into the cart.
But then his mother went full-on melt-down
and yelled at him to SHUT IT OR ELSE!
because she had to decide what to return,
there not being enough stamps on her EBT card.

Later, as I walked to my car
I saw her holding her child and weeping—
all-in, no-holds-barred, shaking and shuddering weeping.
I only tore my gaze away
when I saw the little boy’s eyes tracking mine.


It is my great fear that instead of eradicating racism in our society, we have bolstered it with its new flavor, classism. Ask any single, struggling mother of any color how our society treats her and you will hear stories that too eerily mirror the way visible minorities have always been—and are still being—treated. We were supposed to be getting better, not worse…

The events in this poem did not happen, at least when I was involved, but are still very much true-to-life.

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

The photograph was taken in a local grocery store. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

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,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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