Tag Archives: giving

There

This do I know:
that there on that spot,
on that blessed, sweet spot,
on that spot of perfect, constant submission—
there she stands, and alone does she stand,
seen only by those who know her.
Of her, by her, due her—does she.

As I noted in Lucinda, the second Lenora, the original of that poem I cut into two poems and promised that when I next posted I would post that second poem.

There is that second poem and it is only about, and is all about, her, my wonderful, loving and generous sister.

Thank you for reading There. 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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Lucinda, the second Lenora

Being too much the devil
and too much the angel,
yet the soul of a wicked little brother,
I wish I had at the time known to ask:
what sin did ever I commit
to deserve the scourge of that girl?

We laugh about it now, those days,
before we Hanseled and Greteled away,
she to find her way back home
while I lost my way.

But now we look onto a hundred years or more
and know that the places may change but the paths do not,
no matter how often you wander them.
But it’s all right, it really is, the crumbs
are all dried and blown away or eaten by the birds—
there’s nothing left that’s not been given away, and anyway,
they were given gladly, long, long ago.

This poem is for my sister, Lucinda, better known as Cindy. (Her second name, Lenora, she shares with our maternal grandmother.) She will, I hope, forgive me for taking a poem from several years ago and re-writing it for this posting. In looking it over, I realized that the original was actually two poems rudely (foolishly?) pushed together. Despite its name, Lucinda, the Second Lenora is more about her and me together than just her, although, as in all things, I will always give her the lead. The other section of that original poem is now a poem all to its own and is called There;  it is all very much only about Cindy and I will present it when next I post.

I love my sister very, very much and can proudly say that I am fortunate to have grown up the younger sibling of a person who is as kind, loving, generous and as intuitive as she is. And if hard work is a virtue, surely she must be the most virtuous woman on the planet! Actually, in trying to come up with the single most best word to describe her (something I have thought long and hard on) perhaps the best word is one that is sadly out of fashion these days, ‘noble,’ for that is what she is: having the bearing and mien of wisdom and authority with the stamp of humility to make her kind nature shine through.

And this, mind you, despite the fact that as children we fought like wet cats and dogs (alas, too true) and that she, being the older, was the most wicked little manipulator and torturer that the good Lord put on this side of the Hundred Year’s War (alas, also true.)

Gosh what a wonderful, rich life we have lead!

Thank you for reading Lucinda, the second Lenora. 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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Morning coffee

Her balance is in
the flow of scent-whispered questions
which scorch the air around her,
the sparks from the caffeine
leaving your lips lonely and wanting more.
Not you, me, says that walk,
as she sashays out the door
leaving you wondering
and then wondering some more.
Not you—me.

This is the second collaborative poem of my poet’s circle the PenDragons. Read the first collaborative poem and more about the project in general here.

Thank you so much for reading Morning coffee. 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. Please, too, visit my fellow PenDargons’ sites: Julia Dean-Richards of A Place For Poetry (http://aplaceforpoetry.wordpress.com), Elizabeth Cook of Serial Outlet (http://serialoutlet.wordpress.com) and Jordan Joseph Roe of Tierce & Hum (http://tierceandhum.wordpress.com). All are excellent poets and they host excellent sites! I am honored to be in their circle.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge, Julia Dean-Richards, Elizabeth Cook and Jordan Joseph Roe; all rights reserved. The poems in this posting, and the notes that accompany it, may not be printed or distributed without the written permission of the authors.

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If you are reading this, then…

No cause is without its innocents,
its families loved and lost,
no truth lacks its heroes
nor doom denied its cost.

I don’t ask why, but how,
not where, but when,
for surely the irony of it
will break you:
brutal and bloody or
slow and steady,
yet gladsome all the same.
Who?

Truth be told, we are such pity inspiring creatures. So easy to hurt and to damage, so fast to fall when struck, so quick to damage when hurt. And we are so finely interconnected that when one is felled, the pain radiates outward like ripples in a pool, affecting all those who love the stricken.

Go to any Amnesty International meeting. There you will hear the heartbreaking stories of the tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience who are held, imprisoned, beaten, tortured and killed for their beliefs. There you will imagine how their families feel, how they live in fear and horror every day of their lives. My religion, the Bahá’í Faith, has not escaped this. There are, right now in Iran, nearly 100 of my fellow co-religionists in jail for no other reason than their religion.

And yet all these prisoners of conscience do it. Why? Surely there is nothing easier then recanting a belief, especially with your freedom or life being risked. But yet they hold fast and in the end, it is you and me who reap the reward for their strength and determination.

What is “sacrifice”? Surely it is to give up something of greater value for something of lesser value. But what if that act returns more than what was given up? What if it returns oceans of grace, mountains of love and an eternal sense of felicity? And not just to the recipient, but to the whole world? Is it still “sacrifice” or something far greater?

We must be diligent in our memory of the world’s prisoners of conscience and in our appreciation and understanding of their gift. And we must understand that it is they who change the world and make it into a better place. Them. Only them.

Thank you for reading If you are reading this, then…. 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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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.

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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.

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In a pentacle

Birch, maple, sycamore, oak and beech—
these I planted in a five-pointed star.
When I die, bury me there at their center, deep, unwashed,
alone and nude. Say no prayers.
In the summers, leave them to rustle their hopes over me,
in the falls, let them click and clack their magic.
Let me, as I lay there, hear their big hearts thrumming,
feel their hard bark stretching and taste their hungry roots delving.
People will picnic near us, unknowing and unafraid, not knowing why, but still…

After a dozen years sacrifice first the birch, then the maple,
but wait longer to harvest the rest.
Wait until my bones have moldered
and the roots have taken hold and ground me down to dust.
Wait until the trees are massive, with royal thick trunks seeking the heavens
and tall green crowns gracing the ground.
Wait until it is a spot renowned for its beauty, its peace, its tranquility;
wait until it is forgot, and lost, grown over, where people come no more.

Then cut us down. Chop us up and stack us neat to dry.
Build a fire pit and burn us there.
Let them—they who hear us—come to talk with us and laugh and play.
We, for our part, will spark and sputter and risk our embers to rise.
We will crackle and thrum, we will roar for them, we will whisper
sweet tendrils of scented smoke deep into their hearts and minds,
binding them.
We will do everything in our power to stay for them—until we can not—
and then when we go, ever so sadlygladlyboth,
we will go hand-in-hand with the wind.
Except, and this is the law, nothing can be made or destroyed.
They’ll know that by then. You’ll see.

A pentacle is an amulet used in magical evocations. I used it because the concept of turning oneself into wood and being burned seemed a very mysterious and Celtic-like motif of transmutation, and the pentacle is a very Celtic symbol.

some pentacles

some pentacles

Of course I was not really interested in the foolishness of actual ritual magic, but in using it as a metaphor for the real magic of touching hearts, of reaching out to people and with humility, sacrifice and love, affecting their lives. In a certain sense, that is what a poem is, a magical spell, an incantation to create meaning, launched to a life of its own.

I am grateful to an Iranian friend for the Persian metaphor of a tree that shows its humility by bowing closer to the ground the older it gets.

Thank you for reading In a pentacle. 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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