Tag Archives: generosity

What I owe

IMG_3563

Remember that stand of pines,
beyond the rocky hills by your house?
Meet me there. Or if not there, then
on that trail, down the river a-ways,
where the tall grass grows
and the bullfrogs roar in that
funny little way of theirs.
It’s where in the fall the geese come in
light and low at the end of their flight,
tired, not home, but closer.
You must remember it—
down at the end of the road,
past the gate, where the dirt path
rolls on into the old graveyard.
If, by then you haven’t got it,
you can have the rest of it there.

swril2

Thank you for reading What I owe, and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is entitled Long gone and was taken in a graveyard near Pomfret, CT. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 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: © 2014 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.

3 Comments

Filed under Poetry

A grasping man

I am a miser born, a greedy man,
the more I have the more I am,
the more I give the more I can
hold back the fear that I fear the most,
the covetousness of pain. My plan?
Feel it for a truth and bleed it,
just bleed it.

I have never described how this blog got its name. I was living in Tunisia and asked a friend, an elderly Palestinian Bahá’í named Rephai—now, sadly passed on to the next world—how to say the word “pain” in Arabic. He responded “Elam.” Why I asked the question, I can no longer remember. In any case, then and there I told him that I had decided, if I ever published my poetry, I would do so under the title of Kitáb-i-Elam.

Many books in the Bahá’í Faith are of the pattern Kitáb-i-Name. (To name two: the Kitáb-i-Aqdas—The Most Holy Book—and the Kitáb-i-Iqán—The Book of Certitude.) By noting this I am not in any way suggesting that anything I write would or could ever be remotely associated with such Writings. Books named in this style are the foundational Writings of my religion and I would not dishonor Them in thought or deed by comparison or imitation. But in homage to that naming convention, I chose to use the pattern and thus decided to use it for this blog.

Rephai stopped and looked at me and said in a very serious manner, “That is a very good name. But if you use it, make sure that your poetry is worthy of it.” To appreciate what he was getting at, you must understand that all Arabic speaking peoples have a deep and long historical love of poetry. Poems and poets are taken very seriously throughout the Islamic world and it is honored dearly. I knew Rephai was being very serious when he told me this, as an elder to a young man should give council.

Rephai, you dear man, I hope you think I have honored my side of the deal.

Thank you for reading Hold back nothing. 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.

Comments Off on A grasping man

Filed under Poetry

Seven rocks in the garden

I arranged in the garden, one rock each for the Seven of Tehran.
The first, the most beloved, rained down God’s mercy and
cooled the fired-up throng;
the second, clasping his brother’s corpse to his heart
rooted out their tongues with a poem;
the third in thanks shared sweets with his killer,
while the fourth scorned a rescue of lust and power.
The rest vied for the right to prepare the way, the one each for the other,
and so they died as they lived—united—chimed by a single blow.

But in truth, I lied to you,
it was eight rocks I arranged in the garden.
The last was a small, sharp-edged stone,
barbed on the top, cold to the touch
and set deep dark down in the loam.
I dig it up occasionally
to see if it is still there. It always is,
ground no smoother by its journey
but soldiering on as best it can,
trying to be patient, trying to be quiet,
trying to hear the call of its brothers.

This poem was written for the Seven Martyrs of Tehran, a group of prominent Bábis who were executed in Tehran, Iran, in February 1850. (The Bábi Faith was a precursor to, and evolved into, the Bahá’í Faith.) Their story is steeped in tragedy and beauty, and is remembered with great love and gratitude by the Bahá’í Faith today.

The seven heroes died fearlessly, willingly, content that their self-sacrifice was the noblest act they could perform for their Beloved. In dying, they were both humble in their poise and grateful in their hearts.

The significance of their public sacrifice cannot be overstated: they clearly represented the best that that society had to offer from both the clerical and merchant classes: men, who by the lofty standard of their conduct and the purity of their lives were recognized as outstanding citizens, honest, humble and trustworthy. Such, saw the people that day, were the souls that this new Faith attracted and which the current regime condemned. And while at first the general public were glad—near rabid glad—to see such paragons of wealth and power torn from their lofty heights for their base enjoyment, the demeanor and graciousness of the Seven Martyrs of Tehran soon stole the circus-like atmosphere from the crowd and proved to them what was being lost. The mob then went on to be not just abashed by the executions, but to become sympathetic to the Martyrs and their Cause and angry with those who had set up the spectacle for their gratification. Even one of the executioners was not immune to this effect: he left his post in shame and lived the remainder of his life in remorse for having participated in the act.

Mullá Husayn, another Bábi spiritual hero and martyr, Himself presaged the degree of sacrifice that would be necessary for the new Faith to flourish. Speaking in Tehran He had said, years earlier, “Our duty is to tell everyone about this New day. Many people will die for this Cause in this very city. But that blood will water the Tree of God, will cause it to grow, and shelter all people in every part of the world.”

The Seven Martyrs of Tehran were:

1) Haji Mirza Sayyid ‘Ali, the maternal uncle and guardian of the Báb, Founder of the Bábi Faith.
2) Mirza Qurban-‘Ali Barfurushi, a well-known mystical leader who enjoyed renown throughout Iran and included among his many admirers the mother of the Shah.
3) Haji Mulla Isma‘il Qumi, a trained Islamic cleric who had studied in Qum, Najaf and Karbala;
4) Aqa Sayyid Husayn Turshizi, whose youth, beauty, and demeanor dazzled the Shah’s representative to the executions; Aqa Sayyid Husayn was a mujtahid, an Islamic scholar, who had studied in Khurasan and Najaf and claimed that day the right to discourse with the most learned of the city to establish the truth of the Bábi Faith. He was refused.
5) Haji Muhammad-Taqi Kirmani, a well known Bábi merchant and a close friend to the uncle of the Báb, the first Martyr of the Seven.
6) Aqa Sayyid Murtada Zanjani, also a merchant and a brother of a martyr of another group of spiritual heroes, who died at a fort called Shaykh Tabarsi.
7) Aqa Muhammad-Husayn Maraghi’i (or Tabrizi), a servant of, and close friend to, Haji Mulla Isma‘il Qumi, the third Martyr of the Seven.

Thank you for reading Seven rocks in 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

© 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.

4 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Salt of the earth

Persians say that a salad is best made
by a miser pouring the vinegar,
a rich man drizzling the oil
and an insane man heaping on the garlic.
What I saw was a poor man
who sprinkled every grain of salt he owned,
joyously, on everyone’s plate.

This story comes from a Bahá’í conference that took place in Bukavu, Rwanda, a town along the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or what was then called Zaire. The main conference meal consisted of salad greens, roast goat, beans and manioc, the local term for the cassava tuber from which tapioca is derived. (Most Westerners don’t like manioc, but I developed a bit of a taste for it. But I’ll eat anything, so this was not surprising to my family.)

He was an elderly gentleman who, with a radiant heart, shared with us what we worried was just about all he owned, his bag of salt. As I look back on that day, I will never forget the look on his face or how he smiled as he sprinkled the salt on everybody’s plate. His face was lit so joyously and he acted with such generosity that all we could do was humbly accept his kindness.

Thank you for reading Salt of the earth. 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.

Comments Off on Salt of the earth

Filed under Poetry