Tag Archives: guilt

Doesn’t it?


IMG_2161_2_3_4_5
I was promised more than this, I’m certain.
Go to church/listen to me/’cause I said so—that’s why!
But these tropes are all a debtor’s bargain, a fool’s bet—
the carrot and stick that was a moment of repose
with years yet to fade away: heart and hope,
a hand to hold and no one left wanting.

All the talking, would, I thought, have been done by now,
the lessons heard and learned with everyone’s pride still intact.
I bought it all, I sold it all and am ashamed to say that I wanted it all.
Surely that counts for something.

 

swril2

Thank you for reading Doesn’t it? 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 Acadia National Park in Maine. To see my photography, 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.

Advertisements

16 Comments

Filed under Poetry

As it will


branches

Worried he’d die,
hoping he would,
angry he might,
sad he could,
confused he had,
thinking he should—
tired, so very, very tired.
We are made from
chaos, regret and guilt;
why/why/why, we ask,
but does that really matter?

We are so very, very
we very human humans,
and ought as naught
we stay awake to hear the murmurs
’til the dawn comes ’round again.
Thus they melt, one to the other,
next and next, until that day
by the hospital bed when it all focuses in,
even easier than it had once slipped away.
Let it go—you are,
that’s enough, let it go,
just breathe.
Again.
Hear that?

swril2

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

The photograph was taken from the rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. 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

Hope Marse Robert’ll speak for me

IMG_0495

Near there at the end, I recall, we was hungry,
hadn’t et for days, but’d marched light and dark,
never sleeping more’n minutes, shootin’ for
the Carolinas so’s we could keep up the fight
in the wrinkles of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Good God it rained, but it rained! Every river
was swoll up and most flooded. We was cold
and no one had boots left, socks even, just
bloodied soles. At the last, them Yankees
came at us like dogs who’d worried their hunt
to a hole and it was close and hot there for a while.
I recall puttin’ my piece to the back o’ the head
of one of them blue coats and pullin’ the trigger.
After all the fightin’ up ’til then
I can tell you my charges never failed,
no matter how wet or cold it got.
As he fell I realized t’was my best friend,
the one what had convinced me to sign up with him
back at the start. ‘Spite what the officers had told us,
he had took the coat off’n a dead Yankee days ago
rather than worryin’ t’freeze t’death.
I left that blue coat on him as I tucked him in
and pulled the dirt blanket o’er his head,
so’s he could sleep warm that night.
Now, looking back, I wonder, that when I go too,
will I be sleepin’ warm down there?
I don’t doubt I ought, I don’t.

 

swril2

This is the final of two poems dealing with the American Civil War that were inspired by reading Killing Lincoln. I recommend that any non-Americans who aren’t quite as familiar with this war, read the explanation accompanying that first post, Sailor’s Creek, as a quick background to understand the key roles of that conflict.

Even after reading that first post, here are a few further notes:

1) Marse (short for ‘Master’) Robert was a term of deep affection Lee’s troops used to refer to him.

2) Lee’s plan after quitting Petersburg and the fall of the Confederate capital of Richmond was to escape to the Carolinas, where support for the Confederacy was high, there to fight a guerrilla war from the easily defended Blue Ridge Mountains. His retreat, however, was betrayed by Confederate looters who stole the army’s rations. The route was also eventually cut off by Grant, forcing Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.

3) While, in fact, both sides wore a variety of colors in their uniforms, generally the Confederate South (the ‘Rebels’) wore gray and the Union North (the ‘Yankees’) wore blue. Certainly, the grays and the blue coats became standard terms used by both sides to refer to themselves and each other.

4) This story is real in so far as it is historically correct and it is recorded that on at least one occasion a Confederate soldier in the last few days of battle killed his best friend because that friend, like many others and against orders,  was wearing a coat stolen from a dead Northern soldier. The rest of the story, and especially the fear of the fires of hell, is my invention.

5) To be honest, I have no idea if I have authentically caught the patois of the Virginian accent, or just done a poor job of imitating a Hollywood version of that accent. But from the start it was clear to me that the poem had to be told in the first person and modern rules of diction just wouldn’t do. The point is that the soldier was a rustic from a rustic time, dealing with a terrible conditions and burdened by a horrendous act of guilt. That, I hope, still emerges. The word ‘et’ in the second line means ‘eaten.’

6) The ‘piece’ referred to by the speaker would have been his front-loaded musket rifle. Repeating Spencer rifles with modern bullets were introduced at the very end of the war, but only in the North and in very limited supply. By far the most common weapon for both sides was a long-barreled musket, where the gunpowder charge was loaded from the front, then a lead bullet and the whole tamped into place by a rod; an explosive cap was then placed under the hammer. Keeping your powder cartridges and caps dry and being able to perform quick re-loads, even in damp conditions, was the sign of a professional soldier. By this stage of the war, both sides were very, very good at doing this because if a soldier wasn’t, he was long dead.

Thank you for reading Hope Marse Robert’ll speak up for me. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at a Civil War re-enactment at Williamsburg, Virginia. The actors were a Southern troop of artilleryman and my standing so close to get that shot meant several hours of ringing ears from the one round they let off. What a real battlefield was like I can hardly, and do not really want to, imagine. 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.

 

6 Comments

Filed under Poetry

The princess’ story



My daddy was wonderful, she says.
I remember as a little girl sitting in his lap,
my head on his chest, loving the smell of
his cherry pipe tobacco on his shirt.
He would read his paper and stroke my hair
and later, before bed, he would brush it,
counting out loud: one, two, a hundred.
When he checked in on me, I would
pretend to be asleep and not, as usual,
reading after lights out. He would gently
lift the bangs from my eyes and say,
Princess, enough! It’s time to go to sleep,
but still I would pretend, it was our little game.
Then, when I was fourteen and he showed me
it wasn’t a game anymore, I cut my hair
the next day, and when he got angry
I yelled back that it was because I never
wanted him to touch me again. I had never
seen him cry before and after that he never
saw me cry again, although we both did,
often, alone, but after a while, I stopped.
I mean, why bother?

Today, my daughter also has beautiful hair
but I keep hers short too. And while she will
never know the smell of cherry pipe tobacco
rising from the heat of a heartbeat,
she will never be trapped in her own tower
or be fooled into thinking that the brave knight
can’t also be the clawing dragon.
It doesn’t matter that the knight got lung cancer
and rode his guilt into the grave.
I still love him, but it doesn’t matter.

up

The writer Tim O’Brien once distinguished between happened truth, when the events actually occurred, and story truth, where the events may have happened in parts to several people and which, at least, summarize the essence of a real experience or experiences.

The princess’ story is not, to my direct knowledge a happened truth, but it is a story truth. In fact, there are tiny bits of things I have picked up from several people in this poem.

As to its subject all I know is that there is too much abuse and pain in this world. We must make it stop.

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

The photograph is entitled Rapids and was taken in Putnam, 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.

10 Comments

Filed under Poetry

“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

 

Not a poem today, but a recommendation. I do not know why I had not come across this wonderful book earlier, but I am glad that I finally have. A finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award The Things They Carried is a book I recommend highly.

But why on my poetry blog? It is because it flows like one long poem, a modern Iliad: beautifully written, ugly real, brutally honest and terribly sad.

Ostensibly it is a description of the things that soldiers carried with them during their stint in Vietnam, and after that stories of what life is like in a war zone, but of course it is much more than that: it is about Vietnam itself and about what it is like to be human and caught up in a mad world of death, destruction and fear.

If you have the chance, I would even suggest that your preference for format would be an audio version, as is mine; it adds to the poetic effect. I got mine through www.audible.com and it is powerfully read and performed by Brian Cranston, the brilliant main actor from the hit TV shows Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle.

2014.04.14 update: Having just finished listening to the audible production I discovered that there is a bonus: a wonderful 1994 op-ed piece from the New York Times written and read by the author. Now I recommend the book even more and the audible version in particular.

Thank you for dropping by the Book of Pain. As always I am interested in your comments.

john

© 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved and 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.

12 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Ian Hamilton’s “Poet”

‘Light fails; the world sucks on the winter dark
And everywhere
Huge cities are surrendering their ghosts…’
The poet, listening for other lives
Like his, begins again: ‘And it is all
Folly…’

I am less certain where or in what stage of his life that this Ian Hamilton poem comes from but it is a classic example of his style. Let me quote JRBenjamin of the Bully Pulpit in his response to another of Hamilton’s poems, as I think he succinctly captures an important element of the elegance of Hamilton’s style:

Man. He’s insanely good. It has something to do with his use of enjambment — you feel like you’re wandering through a remembered landscape. He also doesn’t overwork his stuff; the descriptions are sharp and to the point.

An enjambment, by the way, is breaking a complete idea over several lines of poetry without any punctuation in between. And yes, I agree; in Hamilton’s brief yet emotionally dense poems, his use of enjambment is nothing, I think, short of brilliant.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to: his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “Poet”. 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.

Comments Off on Ian Hamilton’s “Poet”

Filed under Poetry

Ian Hamilton’s ‘Epitaph’

The scent of old roses and tobacco
Takes me back.
It’s almost twenty years
Since I last saw you
And our half-hearted love affair goes on.

You left me this:
A hand, half-open, motionless
On a green counterpane.
Enough to build
A few melancholy poems on.

If I had touched you then
One of us might have survived.

I have, for some time now, been posting some of Ian Hamilton’s poems; Epitaph is the fourth in this series. It deals with, I believe, the death of his father from cancer when Hamilton was a young man.

Having read the entire collection of his poems, which are few in number, but each powerfully written, I am personally convinced he is the finest poet of the second half of the 20th century. This is obviously a very audacious assessment; but whether you agree with this or not, I am certain that you will enjoy exploring his oeuvre.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to: his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s ‘Epitaph’. 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.

6 Comments

Filed under Poetry