That day Spaz tried to kill me

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It hurt, “hands-around-my-throat, can’t-breathe” hurt
I was laughing so hard. Finally I managed to get enough
air to gasp pleadingly for him to stop—and that is when he
flicked his box of popcorn in my face. If it had been funny
before, it was hilarious then and I remember ending up on
the dirty, ticky-tacky floor of the theater, thinking:
this is it/i’m going to die/it was fun while it lasted.
And as God is my witness, that only made it funnier.

It turns out that at that point he had already lived over
half of his life, while I only a third (thus far) of mine.
I ask you: what fairness is there in that?
But perhaps that is the point, my point, or his point to me,
because it has to be someone’s point. (I can hear him
laughing as I write this—my little buddy, still laughing.)
And as God is my witness, I would love to know
what it is that he is laughing about right now.

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Tony told me on our first meeting (we were in university together, taking our engineering degrees) that ‘Spaz’ was his nickname. I could go on and on about him, but the simple truth is that he was a wonderful person and I loved him very, very much. He was a good and dear friend and I cherish all those years we were together.

The tragedy is that we had not spoken since shortly after we graduated; my moving to Africa did that to many relationships. And yet, when I recently heard from a fellow classmate that he had died at the very young age of 40, still, I was very saddened by it. As my mother often said, “Only the good die young.” That’s not true, of course, but what is true is that we get to regret their passing for far longer than if they had not.

And that story about us going to a movie and me feeling I was going to die from laughing? Absolutely true. That was Spaz.

Thank you for reading That day Spaz tried to kill me. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at Wolf Den state park in Connecticut.  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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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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It goes with the territory

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I heard she made her kids promise to cremate her—
anything but anything not to go into that cold ground alone.
I remember, I was young, but old enough (and am now old,
but young enough) to know  how transitory it all was, even then:
how hot it was and she in just her bra, her kids looking scared
(something I was not used to and still wonder about)
while she smoked her long thin menthols and asked me
for a glass of ice water.

I wouldn’t, today, know any of my cousins (twice removed)
if I met one, nor have a clue, life being what it is, as to
their scatterings and shatterings, or what they embrace
and what they cannot. But I recall how slippery that glass was
with the condensation running down my back
and how the ice didn’t rattle as I handed it to her,
although it was a near thing. Now I rather think it might,
not that I care where they bury me.

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

The photograph was taken at Benjamin Franklin’s grave in Philadelphia, PA. 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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Soulfullness

IMG_0727The tiny of quantum holds us together,
while the huge of relativity pulls us apart.
The taut in-between is pure chaos,
and that surely is ours and ours alone,
our ‘I’ versus our selves. Choose wisely.

From dawn’s touch to dusk’s demise,
tiny grows to huge as vivid turns to gloom
in the day/night mapping of each day/day.
We are, at best, always on the tipping point,
drawn by strange attractors buried deep
in the bone, the past and the future.
And though pulled in, they have split us,
again and again and rent us apart
when we need us the most.
They say, in balance, to ‘live in the moment,’
but to be honest, sometimes I think
we have enough just to live in the scale.
Choose wisely.

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In the 20th century there were three great scientific breakthroughs that are both staggeringly profound and utterly beautiful: 1) the development of quantum mechanics, the study of the fundamental, subatomic particles that all creation is made of, 2) general relativity, Einstein’s geometric understanding of gravity in the space-time continuum, and, 3) chaos theory, the study of dynamic systems that are highly effected by initial conditions and which, while determined by those conditions, are yet not predictable over time.

The noteworthy point of these three theories is that the first deals with the infinitely small and the second with the infinitely large, scales of size which we can imagine but not experience. It is the third concept, chaos, that we can perceive and study on the human scale. We are surrounded by chaotic systems, the weather and the climate being the most obvious examples. But chaos hits even closer to home: chaotic driven processes build and operate our entire body, as indeed, they do for all nature. Chaotic systems seem random, but often are not; most tend to move toward centralized states referred to as ‘strange attractors.’

If you are as intrigued by this concept as I am, a very good book for the general public (no math needed) is Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick. I recommend it highly.

Anyway, back to the poem. As I was thinking of all this, I got to wondering how chaos could be conceived of in our emotional and spiritual lives…

Thank you for reading Soulfullness. 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 was taken at a farm stand in Pennsylvania.To see my photography blog, 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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Mahvash Sabet transferred to hospital

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All:

Mahvash Sabet is a Bahá’í prisoner of conscience immorally incarcerated in her native Iran because of her religion. She is one of seven such unfortunates who are referred to as the Yaran or Bahá’í 7. As many of you know I have had the honor of posting several of her poems on this site:

At Such a Time You’ll Come

Bear This in Mind

Lights Out

(For more of her incredible poetry, click on the Other Writers menu option above, or better yet, purchase her book Prison Poems, available at Amazon in the USA and at George Ronald in Great Britain.)

It is with heavy heart that I report that she has been transferred to Intensive Care as reported in this blog,  for, among other things (I understand she has tuberculosis of the bone), a broken but untreated hip fracture.

Please say a prayer for this long suffering and tormented woman and the well over 150 other Bahá’í  prisoners of conscience currently in Iranian jails solely because of their religious beliefs. Please.

Thank you.

john

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