Tag Archives: actions

What matters

How did the formal dress of my mother’s day
decay into the shabbiness of my own?
Never would she have left the house
in less than a dress, good shoes,
hair done, hat and gloves,
a handkerchief tucked into her purse.

She would, I think, like me to dress her
more properly now: to weed her plot,
trim the grass, plant some flowers,
clean the headstone. Not to beautify
her—not anymore—but to adorn me.
To her it was not just what you wore,
it was how you wore what you were
that counted.

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, my generation took pride in ridiculing the 50’s as a time of great hypocrisy covered in a thin veneer of  politeness and decorum…a world in which racism was rampant (and it was), where war was considered romantic (it isn’t and wasn’t), where women were considered—if they were considered at all—subservient (big mistake that one) and where the overall, arching impetus of life was to show a perfect front, never mind the misery that was behind the facade.

Thus did the Flower Power generation excuse their own excesses as ‘breaking out’, ‘being free’ and ‘letting it all hang out’. Politeness and ‘the proper way’ became stock characters of silliness and hypocrisy. And yes, while the times they were a changin’—and there were things that needed to be changed—I have long given up the belief that everything that went out the door with the bathwater should have been got rid of.

From the ‘high’ of politics (i.e. publicly visible) to the ‘low’ of everyday interaction, rudeness rules. And the motto of the entertainment industry is, if it’s disgusting, slutty, petty or mean, it stars!

Courtesy is free and yet priceless. So is honesty, trustworthiness, humility, justice and kindness. And I’m greedy, I want them all.

Thank you for reading What matters. 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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Shouting

Say not a word, none is needed.
With a nod, a kneel, a stand, a seat,
a look, a touch, a smile—
with a step to the side and a seat to the rear,
this is you, say it loud.

Here is the real of it: these are the magics
we use to cast ourselves forward
in a world that does not want us.
The rest is the story we live with:
said yesterday, quoted today, repeated tomorrow,
they are the on-our-back claw marks
of what none of us can now recall.
If there is a meaning in it at all, it is this:
who we are, for all we are, is what we are—
and that can never be said, let alone known, only done.
And yesI knowjust how ironic this is.

The passage below is from The Horse, the Wheel and Language: How Bronze-age Warriors from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, by David W. Anthony. It is a book on the Proto-Indo-European language, the language that is the most distant mother tongue of the mother tongues now spoken by more than 50% of the peoples on Earth, including English. I was reading it over the 2012 Holiday week:

In the 1780s, Herder proposed a theory…that language creates the categories and distinctions through which humans give meaning to their world. Each particular language, therefore, generates and is enmeshed in a closed social community or “folk” that is at its core meaningless to an outsider. Language was seen…as a vessel that molded community and national identities.

It was the line “that language creates the categories and distinctions through which humans give meaning to their world” that caught my attention, as too the part about language “molding a community.” In my Faith it is said, “Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.”

It struck me then that our body language is as much a language that builds our community and our world as do words, and perhaps even more so, and how important this aspect of society is, as we build our personal, “spiritual folk.”

Thank you for reading Shouting magic. 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

PS: I usually write my poetry on a computer but this poem was started in longhand on a flight. I thought you’d appreciate seeing the insanity that is my thought process when I start a poem…

the first draft of this poem

the first draft of this poem

© 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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