Tag Archives: despair

Doesn’t it?


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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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