Tag Archives: depression

First


You need an odd number of transitions
to have an even number of passages—
life’s hilarious that way.

Even and odd, over and on,
it’s a mystery how it all hangs together:
how tension works and release comes,
how rhythms are the heart of us
and we the heart of our rhythms.
So become: suffer, weep, despair, rise or fall,
it really doesn’t matter. But be.


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

Recently, I reviewed and archived all my poems on the Book of Pain. Some, I realized, were really two poems in one, this being such an example from a poem originally entitled Over and on; the other portion of that original work is now posted as A mathematical kōan.

The photograph was taken in my hometown of Putnam, Connecticut; it is one of two ‘road’ images, one each for this poem and its sibling. 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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All grown up



My sons keep themselves awake at night,
their future the warp and their fear the weft
of a blanket that dares them to sleep,
because it wants to drag them down
into their darkness, gasping.

I hear this, I see this, I know this, I care;
I raised them, I love them, I do.
And it’s not that I want to, or don’t,
or should or shouldn’t or won’t,
it’s their time, not mine;
so for me, I’m sorry,
but at night,
I sleep like
a stone.

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

The photograph was taken at the Fundació Joan Miró museum in Barcelona, Spain. I cannot remember the artist’s name, but it was from an installation entitled Scars. 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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Repeat, as necessary

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Just a little hibernation—
that and some mild exhaustion,
nothing more, really.
Thanks for asking though.
And you?

 

swril2

 

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

The photograph was taken during a walking day in Boston. What caught my attention is the surprising richness of the tones/details (not to mention the old bubblegum) of something one tends to just usually overlook—the place where you step. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge and Héloïse Haven; 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 and Héloïse Haven,  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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A lesson in photography

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I sold my soul to the devil
and the devil wants his own back.
You, he said, you think you’re
so smart? Try this one!

But it’s no good.
Smart is the sound of
boots crunching a trail
and the sighs you make
hearing that oddsome tale;
smart is a warm blue sky
lying down with cool water,
its reward to bleed its golden life
in its golden hour.

They told me, they said, to seek
the light, that it would be a comfort
to the lens. So it’s just me,
I suppose, in my oddsomeness,
that I prefer to look for the dark:
less is more, more is less,
and black—well, black—black
holds itself in everything.

swril2

I went for a walk around Thompson Dam, a reservoir that is close to where I live. It should be only 8 miles, but I got lost a few times, so only heaven knows how far I really hiked. On the walk went with me Ernest Bloch, the great mid-20th century composer on the headphones, my camera in hand and the need for a poem I wanted to write. Some would say—and would perhaps be correct—that I got short changed. Perhaps…

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

The photograph was taken during my walk that day at Thompson Dam. The rest of the photographs I took on that hike can be found here at With Bloch at Thompson Dam. 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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I just can’t till this land no more

Ghosts - Bodie State Park, CA
I just can’t till this land no more,
I just can’t till this land.
It’s a barren land, this land I hoe,
seeded with the salt of tears.
I stand on this land and it pulls me down
yearning to swallow me whole.

Here the wind whispers to the plow,
the plow to me and I to the yoke back:
You live only to die, to reap what is sown
and to gnaw the bitter root.

Carry on.

swril2

There are times when, out of desperation, fear, hope or love, we try to hold on to things and to control them. But they cannot be held, cannot be controlled and it is futile to try—they only strangle in your grip.

Santayana said, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. If there is humor built into Nature, that is it.

The photograph is entitled Ghosts and was taken in the ghost town of Bodie in Bodie State Park, CA. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

Thank you for reading I just can’t till this land no more. 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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Storm spotting

I can’t believe you can’t hear it,
the highs and lows merging,
twisting tauter and tighter, gathering,
a specter on the horizon, spinning closer.

And pray what you hope,
in the calm before this storm
you don’t even have the energy to dread it.
Because it’s there, right there,
it’s always been there,
it’s the soul of that edge, that whisper, that there.
So you scramble as you can
through the thick viscous air, thinking:
when it grabs you,
when it spins you around and tears you apart
and crushes you down like the flotsam that you are,
this time it will be worse,
this time it may not end,
this time they may never find you and bring you back again—
this time you may not even find yourself.

And so each time after, I wonder:
is that the me, that was me when I went flying?
Or is that some other storm-tossed me
that I wouldn’t have known then,
don’t know now—don’t want to know now—
and won’t truly know until
the sky comes tumbling in again?

Depression is not an easy thing to deal with and bouts of severe depression are incredibly hard, first on the one who is suffering, but also on their family and loved ones. If you suspect it may be a problem in your life, if a sense of any degree of sadness or emotional dullness is affecting your relationships or quality of life in any degree for more than just a few days, please seek assistance.

And if you are battling depression, God bless you and keep you strong.

Thank you for reading Storm spotting. 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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La Jornada del Muerto

Everybody walks the path of the dead,
some more often than others.
There are those who would extol it
for its majesty, its core of brutal simplicity,
but not me. The sere of the sun,
the drudgery of the trek,
the pitilessness of the far-off horizon
some deserts are just too deep.
Death is not swift here, it prefers to linger
and slither along beside you, judging.

So don’t ask the weary foot sloggers
the why of their tears—they don’t know,
nor the how of their laughter—it isn’t.
Just let me say this as surely I can:
of all that is beauty,
of all that makes beauty sweet and sad,
to me, they are, there, on that trail,
the most beautiful that can be.

La Jornada del Muerto actually translates as “the single day’s journey of the dead man.” I exercised some poetic license to translate it as “the path of the dead.” It originally referred to a 100 mile stretch of totally barren dessert along the route the 17th century Spanish Conquistadors used to travel from their headquarters in what is now Mexico to the furthest northern limits of their North American empire in what is now New Mexico.

I first read about La Jornada del Muerto while my wife and I were driving through New Mexico, en route from Kansas to El Paso, Texas to meet our just-born first grandson. He is a strapping and handsome brute today and a wonderful and kindhearted young teenager (we, of course, take all the credit for this without having done any of the hard work to make it so) which gives you some indication of how long an idea can sit with me before I deal with it in a poem.

The poem was written with the trials and tribulations of a very dear friend who is courageously fighting depression clearly in my mind and deeply in my heart. Que tengas buen viaje!

Thank you for reading La Jornada del Muerto. 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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breath

as sun sets
moon bares witness the hour;
chill earth grins.

I love well written haiku; thus I am often frustrated with the frivolous and imprecise way they are developed in English. The web sites available on the Internet with pages of haiku-like poems written as odes to the luncheon meat Spam attest to that. People tend to think that all they have to do is write verse in 5-7-5 syllables and they have a haiku. Not so. This poem was my first attempt at a serious haiku.

First of all, breath has a kigo, a defined word or phrase that symbolizes or implies the season of the poem. It also has a kireji, or cutting word—in this case ‘hour;’. It separates the stream of thought in the poem and builds a parallel between its two halves.

breath does not conform to the 5-7-5 syllable convention for a reason: this is not exactly the pattern which truly defines a haiku, because it does not allow for the brevity of thought that is the essence of the original style.

First of all, there is the fact that English is a terser language than Japanese. The English word ‘milk’, for example, has one syllable; in Japanese it has three syllables.

Moreover, in Japanese, a haiku calls for a structure of 5-7-5 on. An on is similar to a syllable but they are not the same thing. Long vowels and double consonants each count as double on and the letter ‘n’ at the end of a word counts as one on also. In fact the word ‘on‘ itself (pronounced ‘oh’ and then with a drawn out nasally ‘n’) counts as two on. Or consider this example: in English the word ‘delay’ counts as two syllables; in Japanese this would be three on because of the long ‘a’ sound.

By some standards, the recommend length of an English poem, to achieve the equivalent effect of Japanese—and thereby overcome the natural terseness of English and the effect of counting on—is twelve English syllables; usually, but not necessarily, in a 3-6-3 pattern. And while I am not so rigid as to suggest this has to be a ‘rule’, I do believe that limiting the syllables by some amount for an English haiku does give it more gravitas.

But if terseness is one of the issues that make English haiku differ from Japanese haiku, content is the main one. In Japan, haiku are deep, emotionally vibrant poems. Consider, for example the haiku old pond written by Japan’s greatest haiku poet, the 18th century poet Bashō, and perhaps the most well known Japanese haiku of all time. A word by word translation is:

old pond . . .
a frog leaps in
water’s sound

An alternate translation, supplied by Wikipedia, which preserves the syllable count in English at the cost of taking greater liberty with the sense is:

at the age old pond
a frog leaps into water
a deep resonance

In Japan, haiku are not throw away jokes. They are serious poems dealing with serious issues and while I am opening myself to criticism as being a purist, I think that is what they should remain, independent of what language they are written in.

Thank you very much for reading breath. 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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Surely, it’s both

In a walk-by-eavesdrop
I heard a son ask his father
why water was incomprehensible.
Walking on I thought to myself,
surely he means incompressible,
but you never know, not really.
Because when you think about it
(55 or 60% or so, lower when we cry)
it’s both.
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it,
why we learned to laugh?

Thank you for reading Surely, it’s both. 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

© 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.

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