Tag Archives: despair

Doesn’t it?


IMG_2161_2_3_4_5
I was promised more than this, I’m certain.
Go to church/listen to me/’cause I said so—that’s why!
But these tropes are all a debtor’s bargain, a fool’s bet—
the carrot and stick that was a moment of repose
with years yet to fade away: heart and hope,
a hand to hold and no one left wanting.

All the talking, would, I thought, have been done by now,
the lessons heard and learned with everyone’s pride still intact.
I bought it all, I sold it all and am ashamed to say that I wanted it all.
Surely that counts for something.

 

swril2

Thank you for reading Doesn’t it? 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 Acadia National Park in Maine. 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.

Advertisements

16 Comments

Filed under Poetry

It’s long been said

I

Poems have conversations between themselves
about us behind our backs, and what’s worse,
with total strangers. Yes, they lie meekly
enough on the page where we place them
but this is all a sham, because among themselves
they bunch into cabals and define us and measure us
and to be honest, find us generally wanting—
although wanting of what they’re not sure.

It’s best to let them go. That’s what I do.

II

Words know that we isolate and abuse them,
split them and twist them and sneak them in wrongly.
They know when and how they’re hard done by
and that they get old, become jumbled and confused,
get left places where they ought not to be
and are ‘re-purposed’ out of retirement,
when they should have been left alone.
Then too, they get lonely and search for
solace and meaning between where they are
and where they aren’t, but mostly where
they should be (but again aren’t) and how,
to their mind, they’ve lost their purpose in life.

It’s best to let them go. That’s what I do.

III

When you think about it, words don’t sum up very well,
that’s the forté of numbers. But don’t tell words that
because poems have words and words have letters
and letters are really very jealous of numbers.
It’s got to do with numbers being exact and complex
despite their simplicity—and with those fancy infinities.
Letters, on the other hand, are inexact and simple,
despite their complexity, and are fixed and bound
in their snobby little groups.

Let them go, let them all go. That’s what I do.

up

Thank you for reading the three poems that make up It’s long been written. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed them and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Allow me to invite you to my photography blog, the Book of Bokeh.

john

© 2014 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: © 2014 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

16 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Ian Hamilton’s ‘In Dreams’

To live like this:
One hand in yours, the other
Murderously cold; one eye
Pretending to watch over you,
The other blind.
We live in dreams:
These sentimental afternoons,
These silent vows,
How we would starve without them.

John Benjamin of The Bully Pullpit (an excellent social commentary and human reflective blog, by the way—highly, highly recommended) suggested that one of my poems, My Epitaph, reminded him of the Hamilton poem Biography. (Having since read that poem I am red cheeked that anyone would favorably put one of my works in the same sentence with it.) What a compliment…thank you again, John!

In any event, intrigued—since Ian Hamilton was not a poet I was familiar with—I ordered his Collected Poems from Amazon. (Sadly, it is no longer in print, but luckily, I was able to score one of the few paperbacks available on the afters market.)

IanHamilton

And what a treasure this little volume of poetry is! Hamilton’s output was small; at one point he characterizes it as ’50 poems in 25 years’ although by the end of his too short, cut-by-cancer life he had written a few dozen more. But still, although a small output, it is a major one: each poem is a finely faceted jewel, beautifully and painfully wrought from the purest sense of intensity and human emotion. I am in awe of his ability to see so close and so honestly to the heart of a matter and to allude to it so quickly, yet sum it up so perfectly.

His was not an easy life. I’ll let you read the details via the Wikipedia link, but suffice it to say that I believe this poem In Dreams was written about dealing with the mental illness of his first wife.

As to his standing as a poet, I am not even sure that he would have even characterized himself, at least at first, as a poet. He is better known as a critic, editor and biographer. But surely the proof is in the work itself. His poems may be few in number and they may all be brief in character, but they are simply exquisite in composition. There are other poets of the second half of the 20th century who were more famous in their lifetimes than Ian Hamilton, but none were better and none deserve more fame than he, as we continue on into the 21st century.

This will be the first of a few of his poems that I will present to show more of his genius. But I highly recommend you finding, if you can, your own copy of his Collected Poems. It is so well worth the effort!

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s ‘In Dreams’. 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

Comments © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

8 Comments

Filed under Poetry

To the test

At the end, all we had was hope,
flickering like a taper in the night.
First it began to waver, then to stutter,
next to gutter—finally it gave out with a puff.
The sandstorm then fell upon us like a ravening wolf,
tearing out what little heart we had left.
Outside, we could hear them, calling out loud:
Surely the Book of God is sufficient unto us!
Above, dispersing on the air and adding to the stench,
was that second volley of seven hundred and fifty rounds.
up
This poem is about the Martyrdom of the Báb, the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith, an event which took place in Tabriz, Irán on July 9, 1850. But it is also about a geo-political reality that affects us today, the splitting of Islám into two branches, Sunní and Shí’ah, and how these two historical events are intertwined.

Both stories are complex, but I will try to keep the explanation short. I should state at the outset that, like Christians are not Jews, Bahá’ís are not Muslims. Let me explain: Christianity is its own independent religion, as is Judaism—yet the Founder of Christianity was born a Jew and Christians believe in, and accept, the Divinity of the Jewish Prophets; as a Bahá’í I believe in, and accept the Divinity of the Prophet Muhammad, and Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith was born a Muslim. But I am not a Muslim. The Bahá’í Faith is, like Judaism, Christianity, Islám, Buddhism and Hinduism, an independent, world religion.

The poem is written from the view of the followers of the Báb, and how they must have felt in those last few hours as His death grew nearer. He and a companion were martyred when They were hanged by Their wrists in a doorway and executed by a single volley from the 750 muskets of an army regiment. The sandstorm that followed—the storm and all the events of that Day are corroborated by European diplomats in the city at that time—was sufficient to make it seem as if permanent night had fallen on the noonday sun. (A fuller version of the story can be found here on the interfaith site, BeliefNet.com.)

The linkage of the Martyrdom of the Báb to the split of Islám into it’s two main branches is more complex. To understand that, you have to understand how Islám was divided at all.

At root was the question of succession to the Prophet Muhammad, the Founder of Islám. Sunnís believe that the succession was properly followed through the election of a series of Caliphs, starting with Abu-Bakr, a wise, elderly man, a long time personal friend of the Prophet and an an early convert to Islám. Such a process of succession would have been typical in any major clan decision in Arabia at that time. Hence its quick acceptance by the majority of Muslims of the day.

The second Caliph (this is important when it comes to the explanation of the Shí’ah branch of Islám) was ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, a fiery, driven person who was also an early convert to Islám.

Shí’ahs, on the other hand, contend that Muhammad had publicly designated His son-in-law, Alí, as His chosen successor at a sermon given in the last year of His life at the pool of Khum. Moreover they believe that shortly before His passing, Muhammad asked for writing materials to be brought, so that He could dictate His last wishes with regard to succession, but that ‘Umar interdicted that command, saying that the Prophet was delirious from His illness and that, “The Book of God [referring to Islám’s Holy Book, the Qur’án] sufficeth us.” This act, Shí’ahs contend, scuttled hope for a unified Islám, caused the separation that still effects us today and ensured that ‘Umar himself would one day secure the leadership of Islám, especially since Abu-Bakr, the first obvious choice, was an elderly man.

Today, the Sunní branch occupies the western portion of Islám, up to the northern two thirds of Iráq. The Shí’ah portion occupies the remaining one third portion of Iráq and continues on into the east, through Irán and into Afghanistan. Pakistan and into the Pacific, however, reverses this trend and is mostly Sunní. The division point between the two branches explains the current inter-Islám warfare that goes on in the south of Iráq and, therefore, much of the current political turmoil in that country.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, son of the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, and Himself the Leader of the Bahá’í Faith after His Father’s passing, states that the musket bullets used by the regiment to kill the Báb were made from the statement made by ‘Umar as Muhammad lay dying. He means, by this, I think, that the statement, “The Book of God sufficeth us,” (or the Book of God is sufficient unto us as it is cast in the poem) is corruptive in that it put ‘Umar’s personal will over the Will of God. Moreover, the method used—to dignify and justify such an act with reference to the Book of God—is particularly wrong as it coats ‘Umar’s ambition with a false sense of purity and holiness. In so doing, and in this context and at this extreme measure, it is a betrayal and attack on the ancient and enduring Covenant by which God directs man. The consequences of that one act, in its introduction of disunity, still resonate within Islám and the world today.

In the end, what more heinous act can be committed by man than to willingly reject God’s Messenger to this world? And what more terrible way to do that than to coat the act as one performed out of piety and faith?

If you have made it this far, I sincerely thank you for reading To the test with its overlong explanation. 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.

1 Comment

Filed under Poetry