Tag Archives: courage

As should we all


The last combatant of the Great War died today.
There have been warriors who died before this,
others who will die hereafter
and some unborn who still await their turn.
Who knows?
Well, I do, for one.

Weep for him then, he was real. He lived and died
and ended a tale writ in the blood of those now forgot.
No story was theirs of tactics and strategies,
principles and beliefs, rights and wrongs done by.
No photograph, no letter, no film, no story,
no dead soul could tell that tale as did he, living.
Who knows?
Well, you do, for one.

No one can cry enough for them of a thousand fields
nor curse enough those who put them there.
There has never been a great war, let alone a good;
there have only been wars of rapacious intent—
botched before, botched during or botched soon after.
Who knows?
Well, we do, for one.

It’s not the courage, it’s not the strength,
it’s not the sacrifice, the honor or the glory.
It’s not the fear, the joy, the love or the loss,
the guilt or the luck or the sadness.
It begins with obedience and it ends with endurance
and the rest be damned to hell.
Who knows?
Well, he did, for one.
Aye, weep.

November 11th, 2018 (Armistice Day in the US, Remembrance Day in the British Commonwealth) marks the 100th anniversary of the cessation of combat of World War I, The Great War, The War to End all Wars. In memory of that event I am re-posting this poem.

The last combatant of World War I, Claude Choules, died on May 10, 2011. That news, when it broke, focused my thoughts on the great admiration and compassion I hold for those who fight at times of war, and how it is matched by my disdain for those who cause and pursue armed conflicts wantonly.

Thank you for reading As should we all. 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 in Warwick, Rhode Island. 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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Ups, ups and more ups


There are no promises in life.
But there is a mercy in hope
and a simple majesty in being
where you find yourself to be—
if you embrace it.
As the guy with dementia said,
Sunup, wake up and get up: repeat!
Now that, my friends, is a friend.

swril2

Although I now live in the United States, I was born in Canada and occasionally listen to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in my car. It was there, on the tail-end of a segment about a gentleman from Ontario with worsening dementia, that I heard him talk about his ‘three ups.’ I have no idea what the story was about, but those words were like an explosion in my head and I knew that I had a stalled poem that was begging for some sense of finality, and that this was it.

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

The photograph was recently taken in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the largest of the Balearic Islands of Spain. 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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Detachment

IMG_1719a

She holds and twists her long-telling tale
of tangled and torn-at knots: blue ones, red ones,
yellow ones, green, her nails worn to the quick
sorting the strands of the rough fibers,
tiny dark stains bled into their ragged ends.

Blue ones, I think, for the oceans of ink wept
and yet to be written; red ones for the nights that
the sharp-tongues came out, yellow for a spot
to stand firm on. (The blow, it’s certain, is coming,
yet you stand there just the same.) And finally
green, dark green, that whispering green,
that green-green germ that grows inside you:
the one you eat whole and alive, else it eats you up
from the inside—because you planted it just for you.
That one.

up

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

The photograph of the river was taken in my home town of Putnam, just as the sun was going down. For more photography, 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 or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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Dignity

Blown by the chill wind, the blossoms were thick
in the air, the white petals flying and whirling,
building into soft and delicate snow-like drifts.
Along the street, her neighbors looked out,
knowing it would be their job to dig their way clear,
harumphing over the why of it.

On her way home she trudged through the drifts,
her face frozen, tears in her eyes.
Behind her, her scarf whipped anchorless,
as she desperately tried to hold onto
that last shred of spring she had left.

 

swril2

All springs of all types—physical, mental, moral and spiritual—abide with new life and hope. But still, much can be asked and hurt at such delicate moments…

The photograph is entitled Courage and was taken in my home town, Putnam, CT. For more photography, 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 or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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Vocatus

Crash
Down to the sea, always to the sea,
it always all leads back to the sea—
the bitter sea, the deep dark sea,
the lowest of echoes, the sea.
And so do I stagger
this crooked path of me,
bereft of discernment
to be as I ought to be.
Thus have I found me
as thou also dost see,
flowing deep down to the sea,
that sea—that wept on, wept out, cold, black sea—
bidden or not, I am there.

up

Bahá’ís will recognize the allusions in this poem to The Tablet of Ahmad:

Rely upon God, thy God and the Lord of thy fathers. For the people are wandering in the paths of delusion, bereft of discernment to see God with their own eyes, or hear His Melody with their own ears. Thus have We found them, as thou also dost witness. – Bahá’u’lláh

The Tablet of Ahmad was written for a great spiritual hero of the early years of the Bahá’í Faith, who, through the fire of his faith was transformed into a fearless lion of spiritual strength.  It is used by Bahá’ís in times of great sorrow or duress.

The title of the poem comes from the Latin inscription, “Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit” which means “Called or uncalled, God will be present.” It is a statement that Carl Jung discovered among the Latin writings of Erasmus, who declared the statement had been an ancient Spartan proverb. (The original Greek had, presumably, gotten a Latin education somewhere along its journey.) Jung popularized it and had it inscribed first over the doorway of his house, and then upon his tomb. “Vocatus” has been variously translated as “summoned”, “called”, “invoked”, and “bidden.”

Thank you for reading Vocatus. 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 Crash and was taken in Newport, Rhode Island. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph © 2014, poem and notes © 2013 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 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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In that softened night

The candle had burned on through the night,
it, the guitar and the chair, there
on that balcony the whole time.
And in that softened night,
in the magic of that light,
there were no sharp edges left to hurt them:
I saw a young man, all optimism and faith
made radiant by the glad bride beside him.
And she, adorned as she was
in the gown stitched by her mother,
was made more beautiful by the crown she wore:
they were doing God’s will together.

And it seemed to me then
that in that softened light,
they had danced that last night
to the strands of the silent guitar,
all the tumult left now far behind them.
I closed the door and the candle quietly puffed out.

First off, this story is perfectly true. When we (the boys and I) lived in Kansas City, Skip, my best friend then, and I used to sit out on the balcony of our apartment at night a lot…me smoking (don’t worry, I’ve long since quit) and the both of us playing our guitars late into the night.

I was at the time grappling with the idea of what to do about my first marriage. My wife and I were separated and she wanted to try and reunite, but I was struggling with what was the right thing to do. Skip, may God bless him forever, was doing what good friends should do but often lack the wisdom, skill and empathy to do well: helping me work through the process with grace, courage and honesty.

At the end, I clearly remember this one night, getting up and wondering what the glow was on the balcony. Opening the door, I realized that I had left the candle that was out there burning all night. Why, I do not know to this day: but the softness of that still life image of the chair, the guitar and the candle in the murky dark suddenly froze a final decision in me and I knew that, despite all the hope and effort with which it was started, my marriage was over.

Thus it was.

Thank you for reading In that softened light. 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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The knowledge of graves

Quddús, the Forever Youth laughs:
So along came they
to tear down My grave
and Me up along with it.
I wish I had a hundred such plots
so they could desecrate them all.
I’d say, ‘Look, there’s the hundred and first!’
and off they’d scurry to dig that one up too.
And then He laughs again.

But I know that place whereof He speaks.
It is a place of mystery
yet a spot of sweet clarity,
the conundrum at the crux of a knot.
There the worldly are lost,
the dead live on,
and the living, while living, are yet dead.
It whispers: how do I empty the blood
from my veins so that His flows there, instead?

Quddús is one of the Letters of the Living, a group of 18 individuals who were the first to believe in the Báb, the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith. Their role in the history of the Bahá’í Faith is somewhat analogous to the role of the Apostles of Jesus Christ in the history of Christianity.

Quddús was both the last and the youngest of the Letters of the Living, but not withstanding this is one of the most heralded because of His erudition, faith, leadership and courage. He was martyred at Shaykh Tabarsi, a small fort in the state of Mazandarin in Iran, where a small handful of untrained people—clerics and students for the most part—held off a regiment of crack troops under the most dire of situations for months, only to be betrayed at the end by promises of safety.

Special prayers of visitation are revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, for recitation when visiting the Grave of Quddús. Unfortunately in 2004, this Site was desecrated and destroyed by the Iranian government, an early step in their campaign that blossomed to further persecute the Bahá’í Faith in that sad state. While the Bahá’ís the world around were shocked and saddened by this sacrilegious and disgusting act, a small part of me was amazed that after 150 years Quddús still had the power to cause the authorities fear.

Thank you for reading The Knowledge of Graves. 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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