Tag Archives: humility

That selfie you took

upOff to wherever for whatever, but before we go—
snap that photo in the here and now and post
it up to the fast receding, the there and when,
that touch that was, hope fading into forgot…

There we’ll remain with our firm, sure smiles,
left for our heirs to puzzle out, caught by us
in their time as were we in ours at the try:
whatever did we think we had to look forward to?

This is what ties us, each generation, one to the other—
no one else understanding the race (going/going/gone)
that determined moment we thought so real, sent
before us just the same, almost as if by accident.
What was it I thought I was saying?

up

My apologies for such a long hiatus, but I’ve been working on a project for my Masters degree.

I was struck recently by an article discussing how fast we are loosing the World War 2 vets. In the United States, 16 million men and women were in uniform for that conflict, but now less than a million are alive. Their median age today is in the mid 90’s. Those who still remain are dying at a rate of 500 a day.

up

Look at them. So young and confidant, so sure of the pure reality and timelessness of their moment and now fading, almost gone…and we who remain, no matter how hard we try, we cannot grab their moment, their reality.

And what does that say to us of our so-real-to-us, reality? Much, I think.

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

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

7 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Day of the Imprisoned Writer: a letter to Mahvash Sabet

up2

Alberto Manguel is a well known and celebrated Argentine-born Canadian anthologist, translator, essayist, novelist and editor. Below is the letter he wrote to Mahvash Sabet, a Bahá’í and prisoner of conscious in Iran. During her incarceration, Mahvash has published a wonderful and inspiring book of poetry about her experiences in prison. (See below.) The letter was published in the British newspaper The Guardian  on Monday, November 10th in recognition of tomorrow, November 15th, the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. This is one of many open letters by leading authors written to defend persecuted writers.

I find his letter both touching and sincere and hope that it, in some degree, alleviates and comforts Mahvash Sabet and all her sister and brother Bahá’ís—and indeed all prisoners of conscious—in their unjust imprisonment.

Dear Mahvash Sabet,

It’s almost an impertinence, I feel, to write to a poet who is being kept behind bars for her words and beliefs. King Lear, imprisoned at the end of the play with his daughter Cordelia, tells her that they will become “God’s spies”. That is what you as well have become, bearing witness to society’s injustices, prejudices and inability to understand that no matter what society might do to a poet, the poet’s words will still be free in the minds of the readers, and continue to conjure up ideas, engage the mind in conversation. Perhaps there’s consolation in this.

You end one of your poems saying that “You can’t see the sorrow after lights out,” and that you therefore “long for the dark, total black-out.” I hope, for your dear sake, that the end of your sorrow is near but not as that “total black-out” you speak of: instead, as a resolution of freedom, as the free sunlight that is every person’s natural right, a right no one is entitled to take away.

I don’t know if you can find comfort in realising that you have now been welcomed into a vast and honoured company of imprisoned writers, from all centuries and all tongues, from Boethius to Abu Nuwas, Cervantes, Yevgenia Ginzburg, Nazim Hikmet and hundreds of others, and that generations of readers to come will remember your name as they remember theirs, long after the names of your jailers have been swept off the memory of the earth.

I can’t offer you anything in your cell except my devotion as your reader, my trust in better times, and my distant but sincere friendship. I hope that in the very near future we will meet in person, not only on the page.

With very best wishes of hope and courage,

Alberto Manguel

up

Mahvash Sabet, teacher and poet, is one of over 150 Bahá’ís currently serving long term prison sentences in Iran. She has been detained since 2008 for her faith and activities related to running the affairs of the Bahá’í religious minority in Iran. I have previously posted several of her poems, all taken from her book, Prison Poems:

up

available both in the US and UK.

A great thanks to Pete Hulme of Everybody Means Something for his post on this subject and for bringing this letter to my attention.

– john

Comments Off on Day of the Imprisoned Writer: a letter to Mahvash Sabet

Filed under Poetry

Vision

IMG_0030

Focus down to the tiniest speck
or gape across a billion years,
but how, exactly, how?
Irises, corneas, rods and cones
are light, not sight,
the question of the question remains.

It’s patterns, I think,
it’s all about patterns—
we are pattern machines
and patterns rule our world:
edges and curves, light and dark,
colors that rise to surfaces
and memories that play
through and throughout.
It is all sight unseen, memories akin,
up and down, round and around,
moving one side to the other until,
effortlessly, we see ourselves
in the illusion we are sure surrounds us.

He is, don’t you see, the Cause of causes,
not the cause. That is the pattern for us.

up

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

The photograph was taken on a walkabout photography day in Boston, Massachusetts. 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.

9 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Pete Hulme’s “Dust for winds to scatter”

Pete Hulme writes the Everybody Means Something blog, a treasure trove of deeply reasoned, well-written and thought provoking essays, reviews, ideas and poems on a wide variety of topics. Here is a poem, Dust for winds to scatter that he released recently:

up

 

You will note that Pete’s poem is after the great Spanish poet, Antonio Machado‘s poem:

¿Y ha de morir contigo el mundo mago
donde guarda el recuerdo
los hálitos más puros de la vida,
la blanca sombra del amor primero,

la voz que fue a tu corazón, la mano
que tú querías retener en sueños,
y todos los amores
que llegaron al alma, al hondo cielo?

¿Y ha de morir contigo el mundo tuyo,
la vieja vida en orden tuyo y nuevo?

¿Los yunques y crisoles de tu alma
trabajan para el polvo y para el viento?

Since I do not speak Spanish and could not find a better translation, I was forced to work with Google’s site translator:

And is it to die with the wizard world
where the memory keeps
the breaths purest life,
the white shadow of love first,

the voice that was your heart, the hand
you wanted to retain in dreams,
and loves all
who came to the soul, to the deep sky?

And you must die to your world,
is life in the old and new order yours?

Do anvils forge your soul
working for the dust and the wind?

swril2

Besides the unifying theme of struggle leading, in the end, to the wind blown dust, the reference in Pete’s poem to the idea and style of Machado’s work is clear—both are filled with a full measure of heart-filled anguish by one who has loved truly and deeply. Moreover, both poems ache so perfectly that it is not possible to read either (even in the Google translation) and not ache with them, for both talk of the essence of what it is to love and to love in life with an intensity that catches the breath and fixes the imagination.

However, to consider Pete’s poem a slavish imitation to the original would be very wrong, as he adds, I think, two essential elements that are his own: that the love he has born, being human, has not been born perfectly; but that, still, beyond this, this love he has borne has transformed him sufficiently to glimpse the mercy of the Divine. These added elements are more than beautiful and worthy sentiments, they are at once sublime in their cohesiveness, approachable by the least among us and transformative for those who can mine the core of humility buried in the depths of the poem. For me, it is a poem that only improves over time and grows sweeter to the tongue with each re-read.

What is more, I suspect that Antonio Machado feels that way too.

Thank you for reading Pete Hulme’s “Dust for winds to scatter”. 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 © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. Poem © 2014 by Pete Hulme; all rights reserved. Oddly enough—for me, anyway—it is used by permission of the author.

10 Comments

Filed under Poetry

There, but for the grace of God…

IMG_0770a

Will-o’-the-wisp, trick of the eye,
why this, why that, why me?
Philosophers ponder, priests conjure,
physicists wonder…
what is it, this ‘is it’, ‘to be’?
Me, I have this nagging sense
that if you can pose an answer,
you’ve missed the question altogether.

up

I am reading Why Does the World Exist? by Jim Holt. It is a fascinating book and I am enjoying it immensely. In a practical sense, the question seems as relevant as the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin, but let’s be honest: no one ever said that metaphysics had to make practical sense. (Just don’t say that to anyone who has got themselves caught up in the topic. It can get ugly and very, very boring.)

What fascinates me is the range of responses from a wide variety of disciplines and the degree of passion aroused in the answers. And throughout it all, as much as I am enjoying the journey for an answer—because let’s face it, there are no definitive answers, just definitive opinions—I do have this nagging feeling that whenever it comes to something that is really important, that there is hiding, off to the side, at 90 degrees from where we are looking, the real question and answer that we should be pondering. There are times when, while I cannot see it and I cannot say it, still I know it’s there, in the corner of my eye, and I almost have it, but not quite, not quite…

The quotation, There but for the grace of God, go I, is attributed to John Bradford, an English protestant jailed by the Catholic Mary Tudor, and  was said as he watched a group of prisoners being marched off for execution. His own turn was coming, however; he was burned at the stake on July 1st, 1555.

Thank you for reading There but for the grace of God… I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in Pennsylvania and is the reflection of a tree in water. 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.

9 Comments

Filed under Poetry

To springdom come

IMG_3772

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

Aye, exactly,
blown all out of 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.

4 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Blessed be the hand that slips

Each morning I shave an illustrated man,
memories sliding under my razor,
each whispering in my head.
Yours is a rainbow that sings of crystal
in multicolored hues of light,
while yours is a bell that plays a dirge
to softly call down the night.
And yours is the river and yours the tree,
and yours the scent of spring blossoms
chanting the warmth of dark earth
to the tune of the returning sun.

But yours—yes yours—yours is the blade
that moves across my throat, up and then up and then up and then up.
And that little drop of red that drains through the white
to make no sound at all? That too is you
and you—yes you—you are the loudest of all.
Up.

The Illustrated Man is an early science fiction book by Ray Bradbury. Made into a movie in 1969, it explores the relationship of man to the world. The main character has a series of tattoos etched upon him be a time traveler that predict the future and which move over his body.

Is it just me or do we all often daydream as we go through the mundane chores of our life, remembering past incidents and people we have interacted with? Thinking it over what they mean to us today? What is the most important such memory you can think of?

Thank you for reading Blessed be the hand that slips. 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.

5 Comments

Filed under Poetry