Tag Archives: aging

Comes an age

While cleaning, I shifted
the cutting board and found
a chocolate chip, an escapee
from our last batch of brownies.
We’d quit sugar sometime after that,
on the day we heard that Glenn had died,
the same day we understood
Laura’s cancer was more advanced
than first thought. Or maybe
it was the day we heard that
Amber needed surgery and that
we needed to pray, a lot.
I can’t remember.
Still, it was delicious.

As Phil, one of my dearest friends noted, this poem is about memory and immediacy, the “zigzag, random syntactical firing, following the shiny object, jumbled train of thought” thing we all go through. Sometimes I feel like I’m a squirrel trying to cross the road.

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

The photograph was taken for this poem in my home. 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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The privilege

The snowstorm is since gone,
the driveway plowed, the sidewalks cleared
and the curbside gaps cut for each door.
I’ve shoveled out and cleared off the woodpile
and am lugging in the last load
when I glimpse him, 50 years gone,
standing there in the bitter white-on-white.

It snowed then, in that place, at that time,
in my mind, even more so than now:
mountains of the stuff so that it took
hours and hours to dig yourself out.
It was cold then, too—shivery, wet, break-your-back cold,
with the snow caking your mittens
and your arms leaden with the lifting. How I hated it.
But I did it.

So I wave to him, that little one
and smile as I lift the last of the firewood onto the porch.
I get it, dad, I get it.

What can I say? An absolutely true story, exactly as written. I was bringing firewood in from the woodpile after having cleaned up the snow from a recent snowstorm when my mind drifted back to snow clearing as a child those many years ago. So much has changed—so little has changed.

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

The photograph was taken at our home, but of a storm several years ago. 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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I am getting old

img_6911_2_3_4_5The oddness of it was not the shock of it
but the well of it I fell into:
that scent was all I could recall.
It was not a perfume, but a musk,
and that deep drink was more
then all the else I could remember.
That is, I suppose, not her truth,
but mine.

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I have not posted anything for a long while, the main reason being my pre-occupation with completing my Master’s degree in Digitial Science from Kent State. I completed the last course over the weekend and am now free to get back to two of my favorite pre-occupations: poetry and photography. So fair warning: more poetry to come!

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

The photograph was taken on Long Island, New York, one beautiful New Year’s Day several years ago. 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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Labour Day


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It 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
ballfield, “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 frenzied jocularity.

But it had been a dying practice even before I left. And now
the diamond is gone, the bleachers torn down and the park
that replaced it goes unused. The paper mill is shuttered,
a victim of the unions, the company, and the town. In fact,
I hear they’re going to tear the empty buildings down
and rehab 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

DSC05305

I heard she made her kids promise to cremate her,
anything-but-anything not to go into the cold ground alone.
I remember I was young, but old enough—
now think it through, vice versa
to know how transitory it all was:
the heat and she in just her bra, her kids looking scared
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,
nor have a clue, life being what it is, 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.

swril2

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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He was wearing his regimental tie

regimental tieI remember those cold, consistent Novembers:
the way the damp hung in the air and soaked into you,
the way the outdoors was quieter and indoors louder
and how you could know, but forget, what lay ahead.
Once, I recall, as a boy, I went with my father
to the Legion. There I met his friends, veterans all,
heavy drinkers of course, middle aged by then, and one,
an elderly man, a small, shriveled, gnome of a fellow
grinning in the corner and being plied with drinks.
A survivor of Passchendaele, whispered my father
as he introduced me and gave the man his offering.
Our last one. It was years before I knew what that meant.

I am now as old as my father was then,
and he is as old as that little old gnome,
and yes, as shrunk and shriveled and just as alone.
The Novembers too are, in balance, the same,
perhaps milder, perhaps damper, I’m not sure.
But I know this: I never once wanted to go back
to where I was born or to take my sons to a Legion.
Not once.

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The Royal Canadian Legion is a non-profit Canadian veterans organization founded in 1925. Almost every small town and village in Canada has a ‘Legion hall,’ a social club, attached bar and a display of war memorabilia collected from the members.

Passchendaele was a long and bloody Allied campaign of World War I that took place near the city of Ypres, in Belgium and was a classic battle of the western front of that war: mud, trenches, gas attacks, “up and over” the wire, no mans land, large numbers of men charging head on into machine gun fire, incredible kill rates…total estimates are a half million lives lost. It started in July of 1917 and ended ignominiously in November of the same year, failing to meet any of its strategic goals. Its value or waste as part of that war is still disputed, but one thing is clear: the horrific experience nearly consumed the entire contingent of many Canadian regiments and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment—where the old man of this poem served—in particular.

The photograph was taken at the top of Mount Wachussetts, in Massachussetts at the end of a particularly cold November, 2014. The memory of meeting that old man has been kicking its way into being a poem for some time, but it took 2014, the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, to bring it forth. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by 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: © 2014 by 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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The church on the hill


The Church on the hill

 

I went up the hill to visit the old man who lives there.
It’s been a long time, he said, Since I’ve seen you.
Yes, I said, I know. But I’d not forgot you.
Then, in welcome, he sang to me.
But what I had remembered as a youthful voice,
full of vigor and fit for forever, had turned into a croak,
a rasp, a sad affair of the heart.

When he dies, I thought, a little of me will die with him.
These bones go deep, he said with an effort,
proud yet, and then, How can you forgive yourself?
I thought about that as I kissed him goodnight
and laid him to rest, up there on that hill.
In nomine Patris, I said gently. In nomine Patris.


In nomine Patris (in NOM-e-nay PAW-tray) is the opening verse of In nomine Patris, et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen, the Latin used by Catholics to say the sign of the cross: In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Although raised a Catholic (I was even once head altar boy) I became a Bahá’í at 17. I had few occasions to visit a church after that, but one such occasion was the funeral of a friend’s brother. That church was up on a hill, but the hill of the poem is not a physical one.

My understanding of this poem has changed over time. My father, who is now 80-something-wonderful visited us some time back. I adore my father for the incredible man he is: the finest example of a Christian I know. But he is also very Catholic and while he has never challenged my conversion, I know it hurts him and worries him more. In re-reading this poem I realized that what I had also written about was our relationship: loving, strong, but with some hurt and some regret.

Thank you for reading The church on the hill. 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 is entitled, appropriately enough, The church on the hill, and was taken from a set of photographs shot in the Poconos. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

© 2012 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: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

2012.11.21

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