Tag Archives: death

Where the light dazzles

Will-o’-the-wisp, why’o’why?
why this, why that, why her?
Seekers/dreamers/lovers
wander/wonder/ponder:
what is this Thing we are?

This poem is dedicated to my darling wife, Lyn. Still I find myself wondering sometimes, how can such a commanding presence be gone? And I have no answer.

The mandala in the photograph was painted by our daughter-in-law and two of our granddaughters on their patio. The center is a stylized “LDT” for “Lynette Deane Tolar.” It is ringed with the name “Bahá’u’lláh” repeated 9 times. It is a stunningly beautiful tribute to a stunningly beautiful woman.

Thank you for reading Where the light dazzles. 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.

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 Work 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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Her gifts

Each spring I’d say, I love tulips, why can’t we have some?
and you’d say, They’re a lot of work. They need to be planted
in the fall and the bulbs dug up in the summer to rest.

And I’d relent, that was fair, you did all the gardening.
So when I came around the corner of the house
and saw them blooming there, I wept.
Look love, I thought, this is the first spring you’ve missed!

Thank you for reading Her gifts. 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 copyright-free from the Internet. I thought I had taken photos of my darling’s tulips but can not, now, find them. More fool me. To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The image is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Transcendence

The touch is made first in the womb
and born in the gore thereafter.
Then comes the feedings, the colic, the changes,
the clothes, the tournaments, the boyfriends—
the days of your dreams wrapped up each year
and sealed to the heart with a kiss.

But then it’s that day after surgery and you are
in the shower with your frail, 85-year old mother
and she’s bathing her baby girl again.
And then, later, when it’s her in the bed,
and as the bed settles into the ground—
that is when you realize this is the closest you can get;
I am because we are.

Ubuntu, sometimes translated as I am what I am because of who we all are, or, as it is here, the more succinct I am because we are, is an ancient African word from the Nguni Bantu language meaning humanity to others or the simpler humanity. Computer nerds (like yours truly) will know it as the name of an open-source version of the Linux operating system.

There are many ties in families: blood, obligation, and love. All are important, but only pure love—love without reward or obligation—love for love’s sake—is transcendent above physicality.

Thank you for reading Transcendence. 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 the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. 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 Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The image is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Oh-so-softly

I am guilty—who do I blame?
I am old—who do I entreat?
I am torn—who do I thank?

There is, I suspect, in the shell of every need
the pith of an answer
and the crown of a desire rooted deep in pure release.
Not lost (not yet) but slipping,
just-oh-so-softly away.
Aye, slipping.

There comes an age when you are ‘older.’ Not ’25 is older than 20’ older but ‘old.’ You recognize that the majority of your life is behind you and that certainly the most dynamic, energizing part has slipped into the past.

This realization puts you in a reflective mood, looking back on your life. What matters is who you have been, and are, and the people you affected and who affected you. But it matters only in a reflective way, as a mirror reflects the world. The moment that is, is, and for right now, that is all you have. Not the past, not the future, but only the here and now.

Thank you for reading Oh-so-softly. 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 at Quaddick Park in Connecticut. 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 Work 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed is © John Etheridge,  https://bookofpain.wordpress.com. The image is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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I have, my love, but one wish

to live a life
in this world
worthy of you
in the next

Love transcends death, and lovers proceed united and bound through all the worlds of God. So it is I believe.

Thank you for reading I have, my love, but one wish. 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 a bookshop somewhere in New York, NY. 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 Work 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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Laura’s “Five years ago”

I gardened all that day
weeding until my fingers hurt,
going inside three times thinking I was done
only to be drawn back out again.
She had been so sick for so long, but still…

I found myself sitting on a rock,
tears streaming down my face
when a cardinal perched in the tree beside me.
We sat there for many moments, quietly, together.
Yes, we each knew.

Recently, our neice, Laura, posted on Facebook a message about losing her mom, Sue, a dear, sweet lady whom we all adored, to cancer. Amazingly, that was five years ago this month. With very little massaging I knew her post would make a beautiful poem that could resonate with everyone who has lost someone they love. I hope you enjoy it.

Thank you for reading Five years ago. 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 at the new Twin Towers in New York, NY. 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 Work 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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Bereft of discernment

Hundreds of years hence, they, then
will look at you and marvel
What could they have been thinking?
And you, your bones moldering
in your graves, what will you do?
As always, turn away, but
as like it will be to weep,
the better to hide your shame.

I am older now. Not, I believe, quite in my dotage, although to be fair, opinions differ on that point. But it is the prerogative of the old to look at the world around them and, judging death to be closer than further, to evaluate the world that they have loved and lived in.

Thank you for reading Bereft of discernment. The title of this poem comes from a passage of The Tablet of Aḥmad of the Bahá’í Faith:

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.

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 at my home in Connecticut. 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 Work 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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A river flows to the sea

Sometimes, clearly,
it is a mercy.
Othertimes, un-clearly,
it is still.

Recently, a nephew of ours had a health scare. He is, thankfully, out of danger now, but the event got me thinking…

Everyone dies. When that time comes, some who are elderly or infirm are ready, even eager to go; others die untimely, leaving heartbreak and sorrow in their wake. But no matter how or when, the idea we need to hold onto is that the event is, in its own inscrutable and mysterious way, the mercy of God. And in our sorrow, we must allow that thought to comfort us. I acknowledge this is not easy to do, especially when the death is of someone we deeply love, and even more so if they are still young and full of potential. But what is the alternative? Anger? Depression? Doubt? These are poisons to be fled. In the end…

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

Thank you for reading A river flows to the sea. 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 Scituate, RI. 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 Work 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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As my friend lay dying

I looked and there on his wall, from his photos,
we all stare back: him/you/me/we: all of us,
emergent from chaos, unpredictable yet bound,
looping up from within and flinging ourselves forward,
ever forward—reborn with each and every labored breath,
scrabbling for what comes to mind.

Until, I suppose, like him soon enough,
we can’t, or don’t, or won’t, or shan’t,
although I believe we do, even then, beyond, think I mean.
We’ll see. Anyway, this is what I saw so clearly, then,
as my friend lay dying before me.

A dear friend who was, when I first conceived of this poem, dying, has since passed on to his richly deserved reward. He was a dear soul, a dedicated Bahá’í, and the patriarch of a large and loving family.

The question of free will—who we are and what is reality—is of great importance to me. I had been reading Michael Gazzaniga’s Who’s in Charge (highly recommended, by the way) and the issue was, and remains, much in my mind. This is the issue: where does the physical, deterministic brain end and the sense of the ephemeral self start?

Thank you for reading As a friend lay dying. 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 Killingly, RI. 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 Work 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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A service I am now glad to repay

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Patrick died in an alcoholic haze of shame, resentment, and relief,
wondering, I suspect, where along the path it had all gone wrong,
yet knowing he had no answer. Long ago, he had befriended me,
and when I needed it—but did not expect it—he had been kind to me.
He was my friend.

Do I know as little as he then—me, now, with all my memories?
And will I, like him, question myself down to the grave’s edge?
Yes, probably—we all have our Irish to carry, we poor debtors, we do.
So goodnight, friend Patrick, I am here for you, let it go and sleep well.
You earned it.

swril2

Many years ago, when I had just returned to Newfoundland from Africa, newly married and near broke, Patrick Kennedy hired me to a job that I loved and which set the course of my career. He was a jovial, friendly fellow (among other things, I recall we shared a love for Bruce Springsteen) who was always willing to talk, always willing to help, always quick with a laugh and a quip. To hear recently, after all these years, how bitter and tragic was his end saddened me very much.

John Waters is a well-known Irish journalist who got sober in 1989. He, better than anyone else, has captured the heart of what it is to be Irish:

“Drinking [to the Irish] is not simply a convivial pastime, it is a ritualistic alternative to real life, a spiritual placebo, a fumble for eternity, a longing for heaven, a thirst for return to the embrace of the Almighty.”

I grew up with alcoholics all around me and swore off drink when, at seventeen, I became a Bahá’í. For this and many things else, I have thanked God ever since. I know too well the devastation addiction brings.

Thank you for reading A service I am now glad to repay. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in my home in Connecticut. 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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