Tag Archives: fear

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.

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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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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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A quiet tale of a scalpel and a brush

You have a thief’s hands, you do,
a lover’s lips, a liar’s tongue
and a drunk’s sure hand for the cure.
How often I’ve let you make me,
severing lips from hope
and painting my eyes shut…

I know you, I do;
I know you as I know the way
pain runs sweet and slow
down my broken back;
I know you as I know the way
I drain and flow to your will,
wanting more, yearning less,
mute to you all the while;
I know you as I know the way
I lay helpless in your gaze,
searching for you, searching for me,
searching for the surcease of I-don’t-know-what,
but searching all the same.
We know, don’t we? We know.

Thank you for reading A quiet tale of a scalpel and a brush. 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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Ian Hamilton’s “The Garden”

Ian Hamilton is a poet from the second half of the 20th century who I greatly admire and whose poetry I love to champion. You can find a listing of more of his poems on the Book of Pain here.

The Garden

This garden’s leaning in on us, green-shadowed
Shadowed green, as if to say: be still, don’t agitate
For what’s been overgrown—
Some cobbled little serpent of a path,
Perhaps, an arbour, a dry pond
That you’d have plans for if this place belonged to you.
The vegetation’s rank, I’ll grant you that,
The weeds well out of order, shoulder-high
And too complacently deranged. The trees
Ought not to scrape your face, your hands, your hair
Nor so haphazardly swarm upwards to breathe
In summertime. It shouldn’t be so dark
So early.
All the same, if I were you,
I’d let it be. Lay down your scythe. Don’t fidget
For old clearances, or new. For one more day
Let’s listen to our shadows and be glad
That this much light has managed to get through.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “The Garden”. 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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Enough

I do not hold you enough,
except when the night comes rumbling in,
wetting and chilling the air before it.

I do not hold you enough,
except in my dreams
when they bend down all around me
and dredge the day more darkly.

I do not hold you enough,
except when I cannot wake to the dawn
and stay instead, frightened and fighting myself,
holding on to the warm smoke you’ve become,
like I’m some shaman begging his gods for healing.

I just do not hold you enough.

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Thank you for reading Enough. 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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Ian Hamilton’s “Poet”

‘Light fails; the world sucks on the winter dark
And everywhere
Huge cities are surrendering their ghosts…’
The poet, listening for other lives
Like his, begins again: ‘And it is all
Folly…’

I am less certain where or in what stage of his life that this Ian Hamilton poem comes from but it is a classic example of his style. Let me quote JRBenjamin of the Bully Pulpit in his response to another of Hamilton’s poems, as I think he succinctly captures an important element of the elegance of Hamilton’s style:

Man. He’s insanely good. It has something to do with his use of enjambment — you feel like you’re wandering through a remembered landscape. He also doesn’t overwork his stuff; the descriptions are sharp and to the point.

An enjambment, by the way, is breaking a complete idea over several lines of poetry without any punctuation in between. And yes, I agree; in Hamilton’s brief yet emotionally dense poems, his use of enjambment is nothing, I think, short of brilliant.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to: his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “Poet”. 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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Ian Hamilton’s “The Storm”

Miles off, a storm breaks. It ripples to our room.
You look up into the light so it catches one side
Of your face, your tight mouth, your startled eye.
You turn to me and when I call you come
Over and kneel beside me, wanting me to take
Your head between my hands as if it were
A delicate bowl that the storm might break.
You want me to get between you and the brute thunder.
Settling on your flesh my great hands stir,
Pulse on you and the then, wondering how to do it, grip,
The storm rolls through me as your mouth opens.

As many of you know, I have previously posted several of Ian Hamilton’s poems, and in fact, intended to stop at his Prayer. But I have continued reading his work and cannot stop myself from posting a few more of his poems that I have come to admire.

This is an incredible poem. It builds tension so quickly that it really does feel like a storm is coming. But it is the interaction between the two characters of ‘the voice’ and ‘the other,’ that is amazing here. The voice calling for the fearful other, the gentle touching, the clear insight into the fear that is felt. Obviously there is kindness, empathy, love and trust, but then, at the end, as with all of Hamilton’s poetry, total and complete honesty and the explosion of an unexpected reality of pain, sorrow and regret.

I am not sure what the storm really was, although I suspect it is Hamilton’s first’s wife’s mental illness. But it doesn’t matter. This poem is so cathartic in nature that it expands into all human existence. Anyone who has loved and felt the beloved’s pain understands this poem well. All too well.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to: his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “The Storm”. 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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Jogging

One pace, two pace, three pace on,
2k, 4k, 6k done—
bent, trying to catch a breath,
praying no one can see you,
certain you’re actually sweating blood.
You’d think, wouldn’t you, that you’d be faster
with the hounds of your soul
nipping at your ears,
but you’re not.
Funny that, huh?

It always catches me by surprise how quickly negative thoughts can sap your stamina and kill a good run. I have no cure for this, no remedy, not even any insight into how to block it. Generally I run as a cathartic act, to blow out the stress and pressure in my life. But sometimes…

Thank you for reading Jogging. 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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Fix

I took the stuff that makes
the light fail around the edges
and causes sound to disappear,
sealed it in a package,
wrapped it with a hug,
and flew it out to the coast,
letting it go, all of it,
praying to God my tears
didn’t ruin the return address
so that he could find his way
back home.

Please, can you fix him
so that he can be what he can be,
and not the junkie he’s become?
Please?

Thank you so much for reading Fix. 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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Chemo Café

All,

I would like to introduce you to a wonderful poet, Ms. Julia Dean-Richards. I have been following her poetry blog, aplaceforpoetry for some time now and wanted, out of my great admiration for her work, to highlight one of her poems, Chemo Café, an excerpt of which is below:

In this lively, loving place
anxiety etched on every face
my comfort is a cushioned chair
a pillow and designer hair.

I absolutely love this poem. I found the concept of treating a chemo therapy treatment center as a café as incredibly courageous and clearly coupled with a powerful, purposeful view of life and living. Julia has told me that the sessions are now long over and “there is nothing to worry about.” And while I am certain that her current health is the product of a professional and modern health system, I am equally certain that her health is also a product of her positive, committed view.

And incredible writing skills, of course!

My wife, Lyn, and I host a monthly interfaith devotional in our home. Everyone is encouraged to share a poem, story, prayer, idea, picture or image that encapsulates their understanding of the spiritual nature of the devotion’s theme. This past month the theme of the devotional was, “Into the Light.” I read Julia’s poem as my offering because I could think of no other poem that expressed such a wonderful sense of light and buoyancy.

While at Julia’s blog, please also check out Snailbeach Tails, her magical, illustrated book for everyone who loves stories.

Thank you for reading Chemo Café. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting both the Book of Pain and aplaceforpoetry. As always, I look forward to your comments as will Julia, I am sure, at her blog.

john

The comments are © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The excerpt from Chemo Café is © 2013 by Julia Dean-Richards and used with permission from the author; all rights reserved. Neither this excerpt from the poem or these comments that accompany it may be printed or distributed in any form whatsoever.

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