Tag Archives: ego

When you walk alone

They say that sometimes at night
when your breath billows softly white
and the snow crunches loud in the silence,
when the pale moon hangs overhead, large and bright,

that on your dark trail you can meet the one
who will, with all the lies of the world
and all the fears in your heart,
tempt you and deceive you and break you.

I do not believe this.
I meet that one everywhere.

The Devil at the Crossroads trope is a persistent and imaginative theme in western literature and this poem came out of some pencil doodlings I was doing one day. But even as the poem developed, I knew its end truth: the demon is always me, my ego—and, in society—us, ours.

Thank you for reading When you walk alone. 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 New Hampshire one cold winter night. 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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And so bound

I bought a prayer rug in old Andalusia
but the years have not treated it well,
it lives now only to shame me.

Its pattern is faded, its edges are tattered
and its fibers are torn flesh from bone—
it breathes on, but only so to shame me.

I have wept on that rug, bled on that rug,
loved on that rug and died on that rug,
I have worn holes through it with my kneeling—
its suffering continues to shame me.

Woven of silk and darned with cotton
then fringed with sound and rhythm,
its warp is of hope but its weft is of weeping,
its beauty is perfect, never waning,
but still it lives on just to shame me.

So what am I?

I am ground, I am sky, I am ache, I am why
I am everything and all and nothing;
I am pride, I am breath, I am lift, I am heft
I am broken—because this simple, small rug,
so itself, so patient, taunts on
and continues so to shame me.

The idea of a Covenant, the process by which man relates to God, is an ancient religious idea within the Judeo-Christian-Moslem-Bahá’í tradition. In his masterful work, Wanderings: History of the Jews, Chaim Potok even describes an ancient Hittite idolatry covenant, showing how ubiquitous the concept was in the ancient world.

To me, the burning question is, “What exactly is the Covenant?” This is a question I still struggle with.

The reference to Andalusia refers to the portion of Spain that was once controlled by Islam during the Middle Ages and early Renaissance  and which was renowned in its day as a kingdom of tolerance, knowledge and enlightenment. Being a land where Islam was practiced, small prayer rugs would have been sold and found everywhere.

Thank you for reading And so bound. 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.

2012.12.06

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If only

Végre nem butulok tovább
is Hungarian for,
“I’ve finally stopped getting dumber.”
If only, I thought…

If only that were true I
would not fool me so often—
shame, double shame on me.

If only that were true I
would not calculate so dear
the zero sum gain of a
positive sum want.

If only that were true I
would, instead, invest in the
future and not in the past
and sum the effort
overcoming what is me,
knowing this to be
the final truth of the heart.

If only.

The quotation that starts this poem came from a posting on the excellent essay blog, the Bully Pulpit, about Paul Erdős, one of the  most brilliant and prolific mathematicians of the twentieth century. Erdős proposed the line as his epitaph, and really, how can you not admire someone with that sense of humor? Or honesty.

The title of this poem was my immediate reaction to the quotation. It still is. It probably always will be.

Thank you for reading If only. 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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Looking down

The road is not a metaphor
and I am no example.
I do not ride to learn or be anything,
or to meet anyone’s approval or goal,
not even—most especially—my own.

I ride for the rhythm,
the flow, the doing,
the hours-on heat glide of it:
the pedal stroke of a boy
who never lost sight of
doing just that, riding away…
not sweating it,
riding away,
left/right,
left/right,
on,
looking down.

The start of this poem was inspired by the opening sentence of It All Becomes Us by Bill Strickland in the August 2013 issue of Bicycling magazine: “The road is not an allegory.”

Every amateur cyclist loves to cycle; it’s too painful a process to repeat to the level where you are comfortable with it, if you don’t love it. But what is there to love?

Thank you for reading Looking down. 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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Atomicly

I thought You wanted
the fission of my pride—
the alpha crush of will
and the gamma burst of greed,
those half-lives of ego and conceit.
What You wanted was our fusion.

I didn’t mean it to be when I started it, but this poem ended up being an homage to a quotation from a poem written by Rabindranath Tagore, the brilliant and great Indian poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. It is from his book Fireflies, published in 1928:

While God waits for his temple to be built of love, men bring stones.

Lyn, my incredibly tasteful wife (in all things but john) bought me a small framed calligraphy collage of the quote and it hangs over my desk. It is a beautifully crafted piece, but does not, sadly enough, give any reference to its authorship—a tragedy really, as memory of such a writer should not slip from our conscience. (Thank heavens for the Internet.)

While my poem takes a more personal approach, my own assessment is that it is overlong, clumsy and a country bumpkin when compared to the pithy, terse and emotionally explosive Tagore poem. But on the other hand, there really is no comparison between the two, only admiration of mine for a master at his craft.

Thank you for reading Atomicly. 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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