Tag Archives: gratitude

Here, for you

IMG_5663On the day my parents renewed their vows
I was empty and tired—all I could think of was,
now you know
.

Around and around it went, inside my head,
crowding out whatever the priest,
who hadn’t known them then, was saying.
Now you know, I thought, the reward when
the burden of new is balanced by
the weight of certitude:
how soft it is to fall in love,
how rough those years are to carry.
Now you know as I know,
like I know now as you knew then.

I remember standing there,
looking down at my father’s casket as it
hovered over their double plot and thinking:
there’s not much, but there is this—I made it.

up

Even into the 1960’s, Newfoundland, my birthplace, was similar to the religious separation of Northern Ireland: Catholics and Protestants did not mix or socialize, and they certainly did not trust one another. Thus, my parents wedding in the late 1940’s (my mother was Protestant and my father Catholic) was a shock to the community in general and the two families in particular. It was made worse when, years later, so as to instruct her firstborn in Catholicism (a promise she had made when she married my father) my mother first took lessons in the church, and then to complete the unity of the family, converted to being Catholic.

And although with the years such religious ignorance faded and died, for much of their early marriage they both bore the brunt of religious prejudice—much from the Catholic Church itself and more from within their own families. I believe that the greater part of who I am and what I am is in honor to their decision and I am grateful that at their end I was able to stay faithful to their love and courage and bear witness to it.

This is (thus far at least) the last of a trilogy of poems about my father’s passing. I hope you have enjoyed them.

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

The photograph was taken last year in Newfoundland from my father’s hospital window. Sadly, it tells you what the weather in Newfoundland is usually like: dreary. Luckily, the kindness and generosity of the people there make up for it. 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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The fantasy is over, dear,

bugle

yes, over. The poisoned apple has lost its bite,
the spinning needle its thirst, the glass slipper
its soft, swift step. In the castle’s kitchen
the larder is empty, the chopping boards dusty,
the ovens gone cold…echoes reverberate where
chefs once turned spits and made fantastical
marzipan statues and petit fours. The grand hall
sits empty, the tables removed, the curtains
drawn and dark, the hearths empty of their roar.
And although the guests have long since left
and the orchestra is merely a forgotten melody,
an old couple sits there still, silently staring,
gazing into the gloom, remembering. There,
as bated as a breath and as winsome as a wish
they see the ghostly consort and his queen
dance into and out of the silvery night,
she the beauty of the ball, he the cup of her
largesse and they the stuff of some forever—
but still, soon, too soon, gone. Come my queen,
says the old man taking her arm, it is time.

up

Another poem for my wonderful, beautiful and so patient wife, Lyn. How she puts up with me I do not understand.

Thank you for reading The fantasy is over, dear, and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is entitled Come blow your horn and was taken at 30 Rockefeller Square in New York City, where the Toy Soldier statues are a traditional part of the yearly Christmas decorations there. 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.

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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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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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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 to give
until there was nothing left to lose,
me to search the woods semi-blind,
until I lost what she had found.
But now we are past all that and together
we look into a hundred years or more
and know that although the places change,
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, anyway, and 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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