Tag Archives: devotion

Closer to you now

The slow steady pace of the slow steady stars,
the mad heady race of the hands ‘round the face
of the clock that first ticked when you were born.
This is the beast that hid in the dark
to chase you and test you and often times best you,
never once ever letting you stop.
Stop.

In the shadows of the flickering candle
the beast stalks you slowly tonight.
The fluttering pulse at your neck,
the gentle rise of your breast,
the heat of your castaway breath…
I am closer to you now
than the blood that flows in your veins.

This poem dates from when I first met my wife. In the intervening years, ”time” is no longer quite the beast it was back then.  As we age we know that we face inevitable decline, but that is the nature of the journey, and it is a wonderful journey for all of that.

The final two lines are based on an Arabic saying, “God is closer to you than your own jugular.”

Thank you for reading Closer to you now. 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.

11.23.12

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Sullivan Ballou letter

Not a poem today, but a letter that is the essence of love and sacrifice. Written during the American Civil War, it is by Sullivan Ballou, a Major in the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers and to his wife Sarah, at their home in Smithfield, RI. I first heard it in the award winning Public Broadcasting Systems (PBS) series The Civil War by Ken Burns.

July 14, 1861
Camp Clark,
Washington DC

Dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. And lest I should not be able to write you again I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I am no more.

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but omnipotence can break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly with all those chains to the battlefield. The memory of all the blissful moments I have enjoyed with you come crowding over me, and I feel most deeply grateful to God and you, that I have enjoyed them for so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes and future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and see our boys grown up to honorable manhood around us.

If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I loved you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name…

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless, how foolish I have sometimes been!…

But, 0 Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they love, I shall always be with you, in the brightest day and in the darkest night… always, always. And when the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath, or the cool air your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again…
——————————————————————————–

Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the 1st Battle of Bull Run.

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Long ago

I learned about praying
that Fast day at the Hazíratu’l-Quds
when a young Persian fellow BOOMED OUT
(scaring me, frankly)
a beautiful, long chant in a sweet melodious voice
full of heart and longing and humility.
It was, he said later,
a prayer that he had memorized as a child
extolling administrative centers
and he had waited all his life
to be in One to finally say it.
Every prayer since then,
every one—
heartfelt, tired, distracted, strained,
remembered, read or forgot;
offering, begging, failing, hoping,
hurried, kissed, forgiven or not;
healthy, sick, family, friend,
steadfast (but usually not)
happy, serene, content, forlorn,
begging, crying, dying—
I’m there
at that table
waiting for the boom again.

This incident took place in March, 1982 at the Headquarters of the administrative order of the Bahá’í  Faith in Canada.

When I say that that young man’s voice boomed out, scaring me, believe me, I’m not joking. But bigger than this surprise was the beauty of his chant. Persian or Arabic chanting done from the heart and done well by someone who has a beautiful voice and has been trained for it, is one of life’s great pleasures.

Two points: a “Hazíratu’l-Quds” (hoz-er-attal-couds) is the designation given to a building that acts as a center of Bahá’í administration. Also, the Bahá’í Fast is a 19 day period which occurs between the dates of March 2nd and March 21st, ending on the spring equinox; during this period adults are expected to abstain from eating and drinking from sunup ’til sundown.

Thank you for reading Long 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.

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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It’s a start anyway…

It has been my hope for some time to start a blog on my poetry. Unfortunately, time always seemed to be the issue. Having finally come to the conclusion that time will always be an issue, I have decided to forge ahead and do what I can, when I can, as I can.

Henceforth, the title of the blog will be the title of the poem, but for this first post, the poem is in the body of the post.

Immolation

Fire is colored by unspent fuel
carbon, blood and sinew;
the hottest flame
can’t be seen
and burns the deepest in you.

Immolation was written in reaction to the on-going persecution of my Bahá’í brothers and sisters in Iran, but also, in part, to the entire history of religious persecution. I wanted, as briefly as possible, to sum up the intensity of the pain engendered, while at the same time describing the fortitude required by these heroes and the magnitude of the sacrifice that persecution endured for the love of God creates.

Thank you for reading Immolation. 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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