Tag Archives: honesty

Trompe-l’œil

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I would, if I could, hide in the details,
disappear in plain sight,
and fool you blood and bone—
light and dark, heart and soul,
a deep music welling up
and weeping inside,
begging to trip you.
I would if I could, I would.
I do.

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Trompe-l’œil (TRUMP-loy, French for deceiving the eye) is the technique of using a skillfully created, hyper-realistic optical illusion to create a three dimension perspective in two dimensional art. The image above, for example, is a detail from Henry Fuseli’s 1750 painting with the rather obvious name, Trompe-l’œil.

To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

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.

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Don’t grok shibboleths, do you?

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‘Course you do.
Shibboleths are the little worms in the heart of your pride,
the delusions of shifty strangers,
the sly winks when sincerity can’t wait.
Think of a black dude yelling at another
in a drive-by mouthing, ‘Yo, niggah!
Now, see, that’s a shibboleth,
the illusion is the sense of control.

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A shibboleth is a word, sound, or custom that a person unfamiliar with its significance may not pronounce or perform correctly,” and adds that it may refer also “to any ‘in-crowd’ word or phrase that can be used to distinguish members of a group from outsiders…”

It was a long battle for society to learn how harmful and demeaning racist words are and to turn away from their use. In the USA, the worst of these epitaphs was the “n word.” So it may seem surprising that it is now used by young black males to refer to each other. They do it, I think, because they can and not be stopped by anyone. But even more importantly, they do it because white people can’t, and who are yet forced into an ill-at-ease situation upon hearing it. It is, in its way, an act of self-empowerment and esteem building.

Grok‘ is a term coined by Robert A. Heinlein for his 1961 science-fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, where it is defined as understanding so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed.

Thank you for reading Don’t grok shibboleths, do you?. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken during a trip to New York City. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

© 2012 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: © 2013 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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It’s theirs, after all, and paid for


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Her cement-block chapel is deep in the barrio.
There she rests behind glass, a century gone,
a pious soul, shriven and anointed,
mummified by some quirk of the grave
and put on display by her family
so that the pilgrims could flock to see her.
For her upkeep there is a donation box
off to the side, which more than covers
the votives that are lit and left on the rail
to weep out their lives under the whispers.

She is especially busy on All Hallows, of course,
when prayers to the dead are the most potent.
Many come to pray and more are the candles
lit and left in the hope of her finding her way
to their aid. The pilgrims come, then go,
not staying long and they are solemn, these ones,
hopeful and confirmed. Some few even sneak
little balls of wax from the rail before departing,
although to what purpose, no one knows.
Perhaps, to eat later.

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I found this story of a pious and sweet soul who died in the 1920’s becoming a local shrine in The Petrified Woman of Capiz by PenPowerSong, and was so intrigued by it that I asked his permission to write a poem from it.

The facts of the story stand true. The last sentence is almost directly from the original source and is what drew me to the idea of a poem in the first place.

Thank you for reading It’s theirs after all, and paid for. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken on Hope Street in Providence, Rhode Island, on a spring jaunt that my wife and I had down that wonderfully eclectic street. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph, poems 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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The curious thing


She won’t, you know, talk about it.
She’ll discuss it, but facts are slippery
and time more relative than usual.
Excuses morph slyly and although
her laughter is self-deprecating,
there is nothing very funny ever said.
And even though it is surely all about her “me,”
it is never about her at all. Not really.
So, in a way, I suppose it is.

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

The photograph was taken in Newport, Rhode Island at one of the great estates that pepper the place. 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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Pure Plato

Blame Plato with his shadows on the wall.
There was, then, a firmness to it
and it was my way to have it that way:
done right, right away.
It was all ‘blood-in-the-bone’ I know—
what can’t be justified with that?
But now that I am here at the end,
as God is my witness, it has humbled me.

How do you let go of the water that’s flowed
when the water that’s flowed has gone dry?
How do you say yes when you’ve always said no
and you don’t even know the why?
And when do you stop paying
when the loan is past due—
the principal gone missing,
the interest a debt double owed?

Idon’tknow/Idon’tknow/Idon’tknow/Idon’tknow
and I doubt if ever I will—
too many nights have passed me by
here in the dark of my cave.
Tell Plato to figure it out with the shadows on his.

This poem banks on the reader knowing Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which holds that there is often a deeper reality to what we perceive is happening.

I think we all feel, as we get older, like one of the prisoners freed from the cave who can, with age, better perceive the forces, effects, and consequences of their own life. It is not always necessarily a happy thing to know, but at least it is the best truth we have. At least to that point; at least as best we can see it; at least as sure as we can feel it. Life moves, it all moves, we move with it and we carry on.

Thank you for reading Pure Plato. 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

PS: Sorry that I have not been posting much of late. You may be thinking that all the big words in, and the length of, the long essay for my previous 9/11 post tired out my poor, wittle brain, and you may just be right. But I am also very busy these days with an evening course that I am taking from Kent State, and until today, Lyn and I have had the bounty of hosting our daughter and granddaughter…which has just been a wonderful, marvelous time. Oh, and I bought a new banjo. Hey, life.

© 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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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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