Tag Archives: acceptance

Do you?

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I work with several wonderful reviewers on some of my poetry. One, KB, from The Mirror Obscura (a site that I highly recommend by the way—KB is an incredible poet) had suggested the poem may be too prosaic.

On the other hand, the  fantastic Julia Dean-Richards from A Place for Poetry (a fellow PenDraggon; I have linked to her deeply moving work before, here and here) liked it, but then did two things that saved it: 1) she cut it’s length, making it briefer and more to the point (never a bad thing), and 2) changed the font size of certain phrases.

The result seems—to me anyway—to leap from the page and become even more intense then I had written it. Unfortunately, my blog theme does not allow me to change the size of a font so I opted to post an image of the poem that preserves the exotic formatting.

Thank you for reading Do you? We 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

© 2013 by Julia-Dean Richards and John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license for this poem is: © 2013 by Julia Dean-Richards and John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Alas for we who remain

Thy barefoot lovers who steal shoes
from their brothers
are not thieves—they are Thy signs.

Thy true parents who abandon the trusts
of Thy bounty
are not remiss—they are Thy lights.

Thy sincere ones who forswear every act
in Thy service
are not lapsed—they are Thy guides.

But alas for we who remain.
You—You created this paradox
for us, didn’t You?
Even with all of Your knowledge
it is only through You
that we can have any hope in us.

…we must sacrifice the important for the most important.‘Abdu’l-Bahá

It is a simple question with no easy answer: how do those who sacrifice themselves for their ideals justify their act to those who depend on them? How do we understand martyrs?

To be honest, I struggle with this one too.

Thank you for reading Alas For We Who Remain. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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A peaceful forest

Across the broken back of the old stone wall
the tree lay crashed, staunch, fallen.
Two hundred years seed to crown—
twenty years dying, dead, done and down,
with what? twenty more to be gone?

A silent forest is a terrible thing
full of musk, chaos and rot
it is hard to feel young in a forest.
But if you close your eyes,
and listen, just listen,
you can hear it if you try…
and there is a measure of solace in that.

This is a simple poem for a simple truth: I was driving one day and in a quick glimpse, saw a mighty tree fallen across an old, typical, New England, free-stacked stone wall. The one had broken the other and I thought to myself, “There must be a poem in that!”

I hope you agree.

Thank you for reading A peaceful forest. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Ian Hamilton’s ‘Prayer’

Look sir, my hands are steady now,
My brain a cloudless day.
Is that the sound of breakfast down below?
To eat again seems possible.
To breathe?
No problem, Lord, I promise. I’m OK.

I have, for some time now, been posting some of Ian Hamilton’s poems; Prayer is the fifth and the last in this series. It is his last poem, written as he was dying of cancer in 2001.

Having read the entire collection of his poems, which are few in number, but each powerfully written, I am personally convinced he is the finest poet of the second half of the 20th century. This is obviously a very audacious assessment; but whether you agree with this or not, I am certain that you will enjoy exploring his oeuvre.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to: his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s ‘Prayer. 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

Comments © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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Hamlet

And then there was Hamlet,
correct when he was wrong,
wrong when he was correct
and slipping beyond his decisions:
I surrender, therefore I am—
that’s the rub of it.

This is the third—and with a sigh of relief, you say—last of three poems in my “Keep on thinking” series inspired by contemplation of the famous, “I think, therefore I am.” philosophical postulate. The first poem in the series is Philosophy, and the second poem in the series is Overrated.

The poem refers to the most famous of William Shakespeare’s soliloquies, the opening of  Act 3 scene 1 in Hamlet, the lines of which are said by the main character as he enters the stage:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub…

It is, of course, sheer hubris to link to anything written by Shakespeare, let alone perhaps one of his best works, but if one is going to be utterly rude and hitch one’s wagon to a star, make it a bright star, say I!

Thank you so much for reading Hamlet. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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Thinking

Descartes said, I think, therefore I am.
It follows then, that when I am not, I will no longer.
In truth, it’s long been overrated.

This is the second of three poems in my “Keep on thinking” series, inspired by contemplation of the famous, “I think, therefore I am.” philosophical postulate. The first poem in the series is Philosophy, and the third is Hamlet.

The poem hinges on a bit of a double entendre, which, to be honest, I am a little proud of. Both, however are serious suggestions  for reasons already outlined in my first post.

In the last line, “the idea” can refer to the noun, in the sense that “these things we call ‘ideas’ have long been overrated.” And, of course, it can also mean that the idea of ‘I think, therefore I am.’ is overrated. It’s your choice on how to read the poem: the one, the other, or both.

In any case, have fun doing so!

Thank you so much for reading Thinking. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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Philosophy

René Descartes said, I think, therefore I am.
It follows then, When I cannot, I am no longer.

This, then, is good, for it is our final act, our last submission.
It is when we—at our end—learn to be what we should most be,
but seldom are, that for which we are unique.

For we are the ones who know that we know what we know
and what we do not. (Or at least we think we do.)
And yet, even in thinking this, we persist in the sweetest of our vanities…
thoughts come, thoughts go, patterns build and patterns fall
but fools we, we live on in pure free-fall,
caught in the folly of free thought,
me and mine alone.
Therefore, I.

“The story,” as Tolkien said, “grew in the telling.” This is the first of three poems inspired by contemplation of the famous, “I think, therefore I am.” philosophical postulate, my “Keep on Thinking” series, as it were. (The second is Overrated, and the third is Hamlet.)

The genesis of the poem was the realization that thinking is a biological based process; when the soul/mind linkage is severed, what then does one do in the next world? And what does that say about life beyond this one?

Frankly, I don’t know. It is hard, if not impossible, for a physically bound construct, even one which is spiritual in its most basic reality, to conceive of the conditions of the next world, one that is beyond the physical one. We just don’t have the capacity. And surely anything we can conceive is merely our imagination and again—this is an imagination tainted with only experience in the physical realm. Hardly something to be trusted in its prognostications.

Having decided that one cannot think of what it is like to not think, I started to question the whole concept of thinking at all. If it is something that we cannot take to the next world, can we not then decide that giving up our thoughts, as we approach the meaning and the existence of that final door and what is beyond it, is a good thing?

We are, in the end, sadly ever so attached and proud of our ability to think. But it has become, in the 20th century and beyond, and in our hubris, something that we are too proud of, too much in love with, too assured that it is ours, ours, ours, and ours, ours, ours alone. Little do we think, as wonderful as it is, from whence our ability to think and to reason comes from. We think that in developing it we own it, that it is ours, we can do with it what we want, when the truth is that our capacity to think is an inherent part of us and a gift of our very nature.

But then to counter this this comes the epitome of the self-centered approach: to think away the Source of our ability to think, to decide that in fact it is the random gift of a benevolent universe (or random luck, take your pick) and therefore, to decide, if there be gods in this universe at all, then it is we. No, sorry, that’s not for me.

Thank you so much for reading Philosophy. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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Every truth

How much movement is there
in the stillness of a heron?
How much movement in the water below?
Heron and fish—stillness and movement,
how these lovers lead the other
in their perfect little dance
of need and surrender.

Listen, this is true:
I have sat praying,
knowing that anything I desired
could be mine,
if only I would deign not to wish it;
every truth is a paradox,
but no truth is a lie.

I drive an hour each day to and from work, with much of the journey being through rural Connecticut. There is one small lake that I pass that, for an entire season, an egret was using for its nesting and feeding. Every day I would look to catch a glimpse of it fishing and often reflected on its sense of patience and purpose. And while that scene and my meditations are the obvious source for the first part of the poem, the source for the second part is more difficult to explain.

Prayer is transformative, a creative act by and for the person saying the prayer. It is not that it is wrong to say a prayer asking for a specific outcome; it is wrong to say a prayer that is contingent on a specific outcome. God tests mankind, not the other way around. The more of the sense of control over our lives that we give up, the more we are actually in control of what matters in our lives.

And while that is a paradox, it is, I think, no lie.

Thank you so much for reading Every truth. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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To see all the better

As you go, raise up, old friend,
your lamp higher. And if in so doing
the shadows cast darkest at your feet,
well is that not but the way of the world?
You said yourself that we are meant to stumble
the many noble paths as we walk them.
Now is just the time to laugh about it.

This poem was written for a dear friend, Carl Russo, just after his passing. I met Carl and his wife Jane when they came to our home some years before to repair our piano.

A Vietnam veteran, Carl had, like so many before him, suffered emotionally after his tour of duty; his post war years were marred by excessive drinking and drugs. He fought his way out of this morass with hard work and a deep probing questioning of God in general and Carl’s place in the spiritual world in particular. He was a great reader of Buddhism and we often discussed spiritual matters late into the night.

Just before Carl passed away (from pancreatic cancer, probably developed from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam) he was able to re-discover his Jewish faith and to be re-enrolled in his birth religion. It brought him a calmness and serenity as the time for his leaving this world came closer.

Whenever I think of Carl I see him as the Happy Buddha, content at the end, knowing the door was opening, not closing, and not at all regretful of going through it. I clearly remember him in our last meeting a few hours before he passed away; he smiled deeply and warmly and thanked me profusely for our friendship. The cares and woes were gone and a new adventure was beckoning. No wonder I felt his laughter as he went.

Thank you for reading To see all the better. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Zodiac

The planets, the moons, the stars,
what a desperate set they make!
They turn, they wheel, they dice, they deal
and never do they know
how easy it is to slip by them—
to deny them—to just go on and ignore them.
Each night it’s the same, if you’re lucky,
to the right and straight on ’til morning.

The astute of you will pick up on the Peter Pan reference: “Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.”

People think they are in control of their lives, but they are not. People are in control of their actions, but the forces that impinge on us are beyond our ability to control, coerce, and often, understand.

The source of all good is trust in God and contentment with His holy will and pleasure.

That does not mean that people are not responsible for their actions. But so much of life is beyond that limited degree of control. Illness, the way people appreciate your efforts, the way they treat you…you may be able to influence such things in a positive direction, but you cannot force them to be what you want.

And in some tragic ends, there are those who even chose the hardest and saddest of all options: opting out.

Thank you for reading Zodiac. 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

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

6 Comments

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