Tag Archives: dead

Here, for you

IMG_5663On the day my parents renewed their vows
I was empty and tired—all I could think of was,
now you know
.

Around and around it went, inside my head,
crowding out whatever the priest,
who hadn’t known them then, was saying.
Now you know, I thought, what the reward is
when 
the burden of new
is balanced by 
the weight of certitude:
how soft it is to fall in love,
how rough those years are to carry.
Now you know as I know,
like I know now, as you knew then.

I remember standing there,
looking down at my father’s casket as it
hovered over their double plot and thinking:
there’s not much, but there is this—I made it.

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Even into the 1960’s, Newfoundland, my birthplace, was similar to the religious separation of Northern Ireland: Catholics and Protestants did not mix or socialize, and they certainly did not trust one another. Thus, my parents wedding in the late 1940’s (my mother was Protestant and my father Catholic) was a shock to the community in general and the two families in particular. It was made worse when, years later, so as to instruct her firstborn in Catholicism (a promise she had made when she married my father) my mother first took lessons in the church, and then to complete the unity of the family, converted to being Catholic.

And although with the years such religious ignorance faded and died, for much of their early marriage they both bore the brunt of religious prejudice—much from the Catholic Church itself and more from within their own families. I believe that the greater part of who I am and what I am is in honor to their decision and I am grateful that at their end I was able to stay faithful to their love and courage and bear witness to it.

This is (thus far at least) the last of a trilogy of poems about my father’s passing. I hope you have enjoyed them.

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

The photograph was taken last year in Newfoundland from my father’s hospital window. Sadly, it tells you what the weather in Newfoundland is usually like: dreary. Luckily, the kindness and generosity of the people there make up for it. 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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Not by half

Building detail

I would like to write a poem about the death of Mírzá Mihdí, the Purest Branch,
who burst open the doors of his prison and broke the shackles of an empire.
It would tell of his mother’s grief, his sister’s misery, his brother’s pain
and of course, his Father’s love…

But most of all it would tell of the seven, small, shiny, black beach rocks
with worn, rounded corners found in his pocket and which comprised
all that he possessed in this world. “Where did you get them?” I’d ask.
“What was it about these seven that caught you and held you so that
you’d leave them behind? What were you trying to tell us?”
And then I’d tell of his Father releasing His son from his duties
that hot afternoon, knowing in advance what would happen to him:
that he would go to pray on the windswept prison rooftop;
that he would become enraptured in his meditations;
that he would forget the skylight was there;
that he would fall to his doom and lie there, pierced and broken;
that he would beg leave to offer his life as a ransom,
thereby opening the doors of Reunion;
that He, the Father, would accept, and that, days later, when He placed
His son in the grave, an earthquake would shake the ground so that
He would reveal, thereafter, When thou wast laid to rest in the earth,
the earth itself trembled in its longing to meet thee.

I would like to write such a poem, to eulogize one so perfect, befittingly,
but I am not, I know, good enough to reach into my soul to find it.

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Mírzá Mihdí, whose title was “The Purest Branch,” was the youngest son of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, and His wife, Navváb, to survive infancy. His death happened as described here: falling through a rooftop skylight in the early evening while enraptured in prayer and then offering his life so that the throngs of pilgrims who longed to visit His Father in His incarceration in the prison of ‘Akká—then the penal colony of the Ottoman Empire, but now a small city in Israel—could do so. Previously, pilgrims who had traveled the 1,500 miles on foot from Iran would either be turned back at the city gate, or if they managed to be admitted to the city, would be frustrated to enter the prison. Now, they would be allowed, finally, to enter and tarry therein. Mírzá Mihdí was but 22 at the time of His passing.

I saw the seven, black, shiny beach rocks when I was on pilgrimage to the Bahá’í Holy Places in Israel. I do not think any one thing on that journey moved me more than those simple little stones, except perhaps walking into the prison and suddenly realizing what the roped off spot below the skylight was.

And so thus did I, and so still do Baha’is from the world over, go to that Spot, we for whom the doors of Reunion were, on that fateful day, flung open…

Thank you for reading Not by half. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The quotation from Bahá’u’lláh is quoted by Shoghi Effendi in This Decisive Hour: Messages from Shoghi Effendi to the North American Bahá’ís, 1932–1946 (Wilmette, IL, USA: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 2002) 64.12: 47.

The photograph was taken in ‘Akká during our family’s pilgrimage there. 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.

The quotation from Bahá’u’lláh is quoted by Shoghi Effendi in This Decisive Hour: Messages from Shoghi Effendi to the North American Bahá’ís, 1932–1946 (Wilmette, IL, USA: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 2002) 64.12: 47.

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Nod ‘good morning’ when you get to Bodie

In praise - Bodie State Park, CA They walked, they talked, they loved and they hated,
spread gossip (or at least listened), grew up, fell down
and mostly, but not always, got back up again.
Were pushed and were pulled, were driven and drove back,
were smacked and slapped down—often and hard—
but learned to keep their peace about it, or else.
Some bickered, some didn’t, some drank, some wouldn’t,
some forgave, most couldn’t, but they all cried and laughed
and got together on Sunday to sing for His Grace to be
abounding, with, on a good day, some extra for the heathens.
Barbers and butchers, buyers and sellers,
leeches—practiced with the bone saw, who’d as soon
kill you as look at you—barkeeps, gamblers,
gunslingers and whores: most came west because of the War,
the rest because the best had fallen there.
But in that when—and here in this place—they all came together,
scrabbling for a life, sweating and crying,
birthing and dying, and no one,
not one today to remember them, any of them,
not a soul to give them voice.
And yet here we all are
and here we all live,
together in this quiet, empty ghost town,
living on the edge of whenever.

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Bodie is a wild west ghost town in the Bodie Hills, which are east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County, California. Located at an elevation of over 8,000 feet, the summers are dry and cool and the winters bitter cold, conditions that help keep the town remarkably well preserved. The reasons for its abandonment over the years are many, but all tied to gold and silver mining and the economic boom and bust of Victorian aged California. It is recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark and by California as a California Historical Landmark designated as Bodie State Historic Park. The photograph is entitled In praise and is one of two sets of photographs about Bodie that you can find on the Book of Bokeh site, here and here.

Thank you for reading Ghost town. 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.

As I noted above, 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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I remember him best shyly smiling

Another good man has gone
to his good grave, his dim days
dim now no more. Below the blue sky
the green bush trims the stream
while the water shushes over
the old dam. In the cool shadows
fat speckled trout glide to and fro
and hide from us just beneath the foam.
We do not fish, not here, not anymore,
that world is long gone and so nearly
too are we. But he is still there,
of this I am sure, waiting and smiling
and fishing evermore, he is there—
I am sure.

This poem is dedicated to Mark Higgins, my father’s dearest friend who died in April, 2007;  he was 81 years old.

When I was growing up Mark was very much an uncle to me and I loved him very much. He was a quiet, sweet, gentle man, a logger by trade who was happiest in the woods, fishing, hunting and trapping. He built his own home in the forest and logged his own firewood, as well as fish for his winter supply of cod which he would split, salt and dry. One of the happiest memories I have is accompanying my father and Mark on just such a late summer fishing trip and working myself exhausted catching enough fish to make him proud.

Mark and my father spent much time together over the years. They were both humble, quiet, Godly men. They were human, of course and could and did laugh and shout and have fun, and Lord knows the two of them could enjoy a drink, or many. But in the end they were both most comfortable in each other’s company because they both loved the quiet of the woods, the hushed sound of their own conversation and the simple joy of being with a friend that they could trust and in whom they could believe in and depend on.

I believe there is a special world after this one and a person as special as Mark is there for his just reward. I imagine him waiting for us by my favorite fishing spot, not catching the “big ones” but just waiting there, saving the big ones for me.

Thank you for reading I remember him best shyly smiling. 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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