Tag Archives: growth

All grown up



My sons keep themselves awake at night,
their distress the warp and their fear the weft
of a blanket that dares them to sleep,
that eagerly waits to drag them down
into their darkness, gasping.

I hear this, I see this, I know this, I care;
I raised them, I love them, I do.
And it’s not that I want to, or don’t,
or should or shouldn’t or won’t,
it’s their time, not mine;
so for me, I’m sorry,
but at night,
I sleep like
a stone.

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

The photograph was taken at the Fundació Joan Miró museum in Barcelona, Spain. I cannot remember the artist’s name, but it was from an installation entitled Scars. 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 Work 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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Entropy


The jet plumes tore across the azure sky
straighter than any arrow had a right to.
I remember I was just married, a father,
grappling with a turbulent life. Today,
looking at that sky, I realized I was 30 years on
and hadn’t so much sailed, as aimed, like those lines,
which were blurring, even as I watched them.
Back then I had needed the world to move it!
but had expected it to do so without me,
so that when I was done
I’d have all those savings in hand,
not the wisps I am left now holding.
What a fool I was, and me, a poet too. Imagine.

Of all my early engineering subjects (computer nerd was something I was lucky enough to grow into later) I recall that entropy was the most mysterious and interesting. A measure of molecular disorder (i.e. randomness), it is an idea with specific and calculable effect on thermodynamic systems (think heating systems and air conditioners), but also, general effect in physics (forcing time to only move forward) and, therefore, life—all life, all when. (I said it was mysterious.)

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

The photograph was taken just outside of where I work in Rhode Island. They are the plumes that recalled to my mind the idea of a poem that had interrupted my sleep the night before—thereby saving it from extinction. 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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Soulfullness

IMG_0727The tiny of quantum holds us together,
while the huge of relativity pulls us apart.
The taut in-between is pure chaos,
and that surely is ours and ours alone,
‘I’ versus ‘us’—choose wisely.

From dawn’s touch to dusk’s demise,
tiny grows to huge as vivid turns to gloom
in the day/night mapping of each hope.
We are, at best, always on the tipping point,
drawn by strange attractors buried deep
in the bone and in our past and future.
And although they have pulled us together,
they have split us and broken us repeatedly,
until we can barely stand it,
and just when we need us the most.
They say, in balance, to ‘live in the moment,’
but to be honest, sometimes I think
we have enough just to live in the scale.
Choose wisely.

swril2

In the 20th century there were three great scientific breakthroughs that are both staggeringly profound and utterly beautiful: 1) the development of quantum mechanics, the study of the fundamental, subatomic particles that all creation is made of, 2) general relativity, Einstein’s geometric understanding of gravity in the space-time continuum, and, 3) chaos theory, the study of dynamic systems that are highly effected by initial conditions and which, while determined by those conditions, are yet not predictable over time.

The noteworthy point of these three theories is that the first deals with the infinitely small and the second with the infinitely large, scales of size which we can imagine but not experience. It is the third concept, chaos, that we can perceive and study on the human scale. We are surrounded by chaotic systems, the weather and the climate being the most obvious examples. But chaos hits even closer to home: chaotic driven processes build and operate our entire body, as indeed, they do for all nature. Chaotic systems seem random, but often are not; most tend to move toward centralized states referred to as ‘strange attractors.’

If you are as intrigued by this concept as I am, a very good book for the general public (no math needed) is Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick. I recommend it highly.

Anyway, back to the poem. As I was thinking of all this, I got to wondering how chaos could be conceived of in our emotional and spiritual lives…

Thank you for reading Soulfullness. 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 was taken at a farm stand in Pennsylvania.To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh blog.

john

Photograph, notes and poem © 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 copyright owner.

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To springdom come

IMG_3772

Are you
crocus brave,
daffodil shy
or blue squills
friendly? Perhaps
forsythia wild,
or tulip strong?
No?
Well there’s
always rose nasty
(June lazy,
thorn thirsty)
to fall back onto…

Aye, exactly,
blown out of all proportion.

swril2

 

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

The photograph is entitled The sheep are in the meadow and was taken along Hope St. in Providence, RI. Lyn has identified the blue flowers as “blue squills,” a plant indigenous to southern Russia and the Ukraine. They are stunning in bright patches! For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh where you will find two closely related postings, To springdom come 1 and To springdom come 2.

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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Memories of an altar boy

Pick a big coal and light it early, the bishop had said,
I want it to be hot and glowing when I need it.
Later, as we walked to the vestibule to receive the casket
I could see there was a white pall draped across it
in memory of the swaddling clothes that had brought
them to the church long before. When he was ready
he heaped the myrrh on the glowing ember and lifted
the metal thurible high to swing it against the chain,
the clanking loud like the tolling of a bell,
once, twice, thrice…then repeated, again and again,
as he circled around the coffin.
When he was done I carried the thing back to the altar,
acrid, pungent smoke belching from it, rising in a column,
bouncing on the ceiling and curling lazily along it;
I feared I would faint from the fumes…

The bishop—I can’t recall his name—was a hockey buff,
the Habs, I think. But he was also fond of the team
from my all-male, Catholic school in the annual crusade
to keep The Cup from the Protestants, a tally in which
to be honest, the good guys were lacking.
During one game, I remember, a fight broke out
on the ice, a real donnybrook of an affair.
I looked back and there he was,
up in the stands, booming out encouragement,
laughing and swinging his arms,
That’s it! Get ’em boys!

Maybe I should have stopped watching hockey then.
I didn’t, but still, I keep wondering…
I know that skates are still sharp, that sticks are still hard,
that bruises are still purple, and that somewhere
red blood still splatters the ice. But in the church—
is the smoke still curling across the ceiling?
I don’t know, but I do know this:
I can’t abide the smell of incense.

Funerals are good sources of poetic creativity. They are such stark, clear-cut, emphatic events with an intense matrix of emotions. This poem was started as I attended the funeral of a co-worker’s father, when being in a church brought back memories of when I used to be a Catholic and an altar boy.

This is a rare type of poem from me, a longer narrative one, although for some reason I seem to be working on several like that right now. I hope you like this one and those to come, whenever I post them.

Just a few notes: The Habs is the nickname for the Montreal Canadiens NHL hockey team, based in the Province of Quebec, Canada. A thurible  is a hand-held metal censer (incense burner) suspended from one or more chains, in which incense is burned during some services. A burning charcoal briquette is placed in the thurible before the ceremony begins and incense is added when required. Because it takes some time for the incense to really start effectively burning, some priests (as in this poem) heap it on to get immediate combustion. Myrrh is a highly prized and expensive, natural tree oil resin used since ancient times as both a wine spice and in religious ceremonies. It was, for example, one of the three precious gifts given to the Christ Child by the Magi. Its scent is instantly identifiable, strong and unique. Not unpleasant, when mild.

Thank you for reading Memories of an altar boy. 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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Solo goes solo with nothing

My oldest penned a story
about Solo the duck
who flees the certain safety of his flock.
Only eleven and already he knows
what it is that I cannot teach him:
writing from the heart gives, at its best,
a truth that we must learn to live with.

So listen now, son, this is for the future:
go ask the children,
seek from the mystics,
read from the poets
and learn from your lovers;
leave no mother, no father, no sister, no brother,
no anyone left unimplored.
Because in the end, if you’re lucky,
they will all break your heart with love.
Solo goes solo with nothing.

This poem was inspired by my son, Balsam, who wrote a short story entitled Solo Goes Solo With Nothing. I was instantly charmed by both the title and the story and wanted to capture the moment in a poem. I am not sure if ducks do gather in flocks, and if they do, certainly not like starlings; but I am certain that eleven year old children generally think they do.

Thank you for reading Solo goes solo with 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

© 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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