Tag Archives: grace

Mercy me


Back-and-forth 
is pessimistic,
I prefer to-and-fro,
best foot forward first.

But damn me if it’s not become
who I am anyway—
the worst of all my willies
amid the wonder of it all:
the failure of intention
before the gasp of redemption.
There, I’ve said it: God save me!

I try to take nothing for granted. I try to remember that whatever I have, whatever I am, where I am, who I am with—these are all gifts, and that the best stance that I can take is the only truly perfect human stance there is, humility. Not that it is easy or that I often succeed. Still…

Thank you for reading Mercy me. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the largest of the Balearic Islands of Spain. The young man was a marvelous, gifted musician and the setting perfect. 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 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: © 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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In a smithy

With the ore of your deeds
melted in the crucible of His Name—
with the heat of your desire
glowing from the fan of His Breath—
with the hammer blows of your heart
striking the anvil of His Will—
rest you not content, o smith,
for you have just begun your toil.

Quenched in the chill of separation,
annealed by the fire of faith,
tempered with the blows of duty,
forge you then the sword of your love
and there, upon the keen,
whetted edge of surrender,
sacrifice yourself, o smith,
for now you are finally done:
you know the one is only transmuted to the other
because the other is its twin.

Thank you for reading In a smithy. 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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Every truth

How much movement is there
in the stillness of a heron?
How much movement in the water below?
Heron and fish—stillness and movement,
how these lovers lead the other
in their perfect little dance
of need and surrender.

Listen, this is true:
I have sat praying,
knowing that anything I desired
could be mine,
if only I would deign not to wish it;
every truth is a paradox,
but no truth is a lie.

I drive an hour each day to and from work, with much of the journey being through rural Connecticut. There is one small lake that I pass that, for an entire season, an egret was using for its nesting and feeding. Every day I would look to catch a glimpse of it fishing and often reflected on its sense of patience and purpose. And while that scene and my meditations are the obvious source for the first part of the poem, the source for the second part is more difficult to explain.

Prayer is transformative, a creative act by and for the person saying the prayer. It is not that it is wrong to say a prayer asking for a specific outcome; it is wrong to say a prayer that is contingent on a specific outcome. God tests mankind, not the other way around. The more of the sense of control over our lives that we give up, the more we are actually in control of what matters in our lives.

And while that is a paradox, it is, I think, no lie.

Thank you so much for reading Every truth. 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, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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The math of love

We are more alive in the invisible than the visible.
There, the pluses and minuses of our hopes give more and take less
than in the physical, where divisions alone strive to define us.
Between every two points, we covenant, there is yet another:
To bite ’em, so proceed ad infinitum, as Swift said.

So let us do just that, and bite ’em, the possibilities I mean:
hearts can be broken with a smile, yes,
but in all our joys, all our futures are co-equal with the past.

So where does that put us? On some rising hope, I suppose,
back in the invisible from whence we started
perfectly, long, long ago. Remember?
You can never go anywhere you haven’t been before.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political essayist, poet and cleric. His most famous work is Gulliver’s Travels. The full text of the poem is from Poetry, a Rhapsody:

So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ’em;
And so proceed ad infinitum.

Not only is the verse fun and wonderfully satirical, but it comes from a particular perspective, a time when the art of science was awakening and when wonderful things that we take for granted today were first being discovered. Also,  note the 400 year pronunciation shift: in Swift’s time the word “flea” would have been pronounced “flay” and would have rhymed with “prey.”

In mathematics, the concept of infinity occurs often, most notably in number theory. For example, mathematics holds that there is no smallest negative number and no largest positive number. Moreover, between any two numbers there is always another. This I compare to, and is paralleled with, the Knowledge of God: infinitely broad, yet infinitely deep.

This thought, in turn, got me to thinking of the concept of love, and, well, as you can see…so proceed ad infinitum.

Thank you for reading The math of love. 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 truth we lie

I told a lie
and this is the truth,
I really wasn’t there.

I told the truth
and this is no lie,
I know I wasn’t there.

But here where we are
I want you to know
I am—it’s true—still trying.

So now do you believe me
when I earnestly tell you
that I am actually lying?

Knots is a book of poetry by R. D. Laing. A psychiatrist, although an unconventional one, Laing was fascinated by the complexities of emotional entanglement, the emotional knots we find ourselves in. In retrospect, the poetry is sad and disheartening, but it is well written and scathingly honest.

This poem was not written to be a Laing-like copy. But I confess to being drawn to poetry that explores the specific intensely. Having got to the age I am, I am more comforted by the hope and support of emotional honesty and the belief that despite our misfortune to be human, we can build divinely inspired relationships if we are humble enough and try hard enough.

Thank you for reading In truth we lie. 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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On this bridge, as far as I can see

Out of control, whirligig,
one round, two rounds, three rounds, stop—
the road a blur of nothing having happened at all.
Except (in a right world)
I’d be dead in the river below
instead of up here on the bridge
needing a smoke so bad
I thought I’d eat the pack.

But isn’t that the truth of it?
Because that’s when they nail you the hardest,
those pesky, insolent things,
those principles of your certainty.
Eventually they catch up with you
and stumble you like dozens of tiny hooks
bowing humbly at your feet,
each pointing their little barbs straight at you:
icy roads and too much speed,
truth and honor and lies—
and you ask yourself as you sit there,
Why did I ever think
I could get away with that?

In 1981 I was working as the site engineer at the construction of a gas transmission plant that I had designed in northern Alberta, Canada. Being December in northern Alberta, and especially then in the 80s, that meant that the world was made up of cold, ice and snow, and after that more cold, ice and snow.

That day was the last working day for the Christmas Holiday; we wouldn’t be back to the site until after the New Year. I was the last to leave and start down the rural, dirt road that had been cut into the forest to where the plant was located. I was en route to my apartment in Calgary in southern Alberta, but foolishly, while my friends in northern Alberta knew I was going south for the holidays, my friends in the south did not know when to expect me, if at all; I hadn’t really shared my plans with them.

Being excited at the thought of the vacation, I did not take into account what I was doing until I crested an icy hill. I am going way too fast, I thought, and I was. Going down the other side I had to tap my truck’s brakes to have any hope of making it around a bend at the bottom of the hill heading to a bridge that was over  a 20 foot drop to a rocky, fast and icy cold river below. When I did I instantly lost control. I can’t remember if or how I fought for control of the vehicle, but I do remember ending up swinging around in lazy circles in the exact same spot in the middle of a bridge—three times—and stopping looking exactly in the direction I should be going. How I wasn’t in the river below I still don’t know. After a few minutes, and yes, a cigarette or two (I’ve since quit) I put the truck in gear and drove on, slowly, shaken and thinking of what could have just happened, but didn’t.

To quote a favorite prayer: I beseech Thee to aid and assist me at all times and under all conditions, and seek from the heaven of Thy grace Thine ancient favor.

Thank you for reading On this bridge, as far as I can see. 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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One by one by one

Liar, beggar-man, thiefthat’s me,
a fugitive from sins long ago.
And while faith is a promise,
it’s not for the light of heart,
hence weepingdown and outfor the once
no more humble for all my faults
than I should be, but begging all the same.
Yes, you can trust me. Trust me.

Thank you for reading One by one by one. 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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