Tag Archives: joy

I do

LynPraying

God, but what an honor it is
to love and to be loved by you!
By this I do not mean
the self of youth,
the callow of desire
or the inertia of long nights.
For me, for you, for evermore
it is the bright of your soul,
the kiss of your smile,
the glow of your too often
set upon patience.

I do not love you with every
fiber of my being, and with
every twinge of my every second.
I love you more than that,
I do.

up

For Lyn, of course.

The Bahá’í Faith recently completed its yearly fasting period. This poem came to me when I suddenly awoke at 3:00 AM on the last night of the fast. I remember being shocked with the clarity and completeness of it: having a poem arrive like that is something that rarely happens to me. Although tired, I was able to force myself to stay awake long enough to memorize it, so that it would still be with me the next morning. Thankfully it was!

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

The photograph of Lyn praying at the side of a small river was taken several years ago during a fall holiday to the Poconos in eastern Pennsylvania. 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 well of fire

Explosion
I am frozen at the event horizon and the crush has begun:
heart, will and mystery stretching out between two infinities,
thread-like, from brazen hope to broken will.

But even here all is not lost. There is a mercy for the fallen
who are drawn in joyfully, weeping with the wonder of it,
landing (if you can call it landing at all) with an implosion
more felt than loud, but real all the same.

It’s an eternity, that stop—there on the edge— the frontal wave
of a heartbeat that never echoes again. But that is, in truth,
the event itself. Wait for it.

up

Black holes are singularly (pun intended) interesting things. In a black hole, the event horizon is the point at which the gravity becomes so intense escape is impossible, even for light, hence the name. Moreover, time gets wonky around black holes. If you were to cross the event horizon of a black hole feet first, to an outsider you’d appear to hover on that edge forever, while to yourself you’d appear to become like a piece of spaghetti, as the gravity, being more intense at your feet than your head, stretched you out. And yet—and this is what made Stephen Hawking so darn famous in the first place—black holes leak energy. In fact even tiny amounts of matter falling to the core release horrific amounts of energy and black holes can have laser-like beams of energy and matter shooting out of them for thousands of light years.

It’s a hell of an analogy to work with!

Thank you for reading The well of fire. 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 is entitled Explosion and was taken in the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania. 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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In exile

I wish to God I knew where I was.
Not the Black Place—although my desires often blind me;
not the Ancient Place—even though I age faster every day;
not the Fearless Place—where I fear pride cannot take me;
nor even the Remote Place—despite anger chaining me afar;
and not even the Most Great Place,
whereby I do not mean the cell that was cleansed,
painted and aired…I’ve been there and felt Your presence
only dimly.
No, I mean the Other Spot, the Prison where Your companions go,
still, even to this day,
but outside which I sit, hungry,
hoping to find my way.

Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, was, for the forty plus years of His Ministry, and until His passing, a prisoner and an exile, first at the mercy of the Iranian government, and then under the ever more fearful eye of the waning Ottoman Empire. The story of His successive banishments under these twin ruling powers is the historical backdrop of this poem.

It commences in 1852, with Bahá’u’lláh’s imprisonment in the Síyáh-Chál, literally the Black Pit (the Black Place of the poem) a loathsome and disgusting jail converted from an abandoned water reservoir. Released in 1853, He, despite being sick and in poor health, was exiled with His Family from Iran to Baghdad (the Ancient Place of the poem) and then called on to Constantinople in 1863. In the poem, Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire—and now Istanbul—is referred to as the Fearless Place because it was here that Bahá’u’lláh resolutely refused to curry favor and beg for sympathy with the government officials of the Empire, as was expected of all prisoners. Instead He stated that He had put His faith in God and trusted in Him, further stating that nothing any man could do could curtail or thwart the Will of God.

As a result of this stance, Bahá’u’lláh and His family were further exiled to Adrianople and arrived there in the waning days of 1863. Adrianople—now Edirne—is one of the remotest parts of Turkey in what is actually Europe, and is referred to in the poem as the Remote Place, the furthest point from His home of Tehran that Bahá’u’lláh would travel.

But the most difficult place of His exile was set in 1868 when He and His entourage were forced to relocate to ‘Akká, in what is now Israel, a penal colony and known at the time for its pestilential airs and filthy conditions. Upon arrival there Bahá’u’lláh designated the prison where they were incarcerated as the Most Great Prison (the Most Great Place of the poem); it was in this city, and despite the loathsome conditions under which they lived, that His Mission reached its zenith. Bahá’u’lláh officially remained a prisoner until His death in 1892. However, after years of His living among the local populace, such was the admiration that was esteemed to Him that He was, by then, able to rent a home in the countryside and be surrounded by the gardens and verdure He loved most.

The last place mentioned in the poem, the “Other Place” is harder to describe. In one of His prayers revealed specifically for the Fast, Bahá’u’lláh first talks of ‘Thine ardent lovers…they who have been so inebriated with the wine of Thy manifold wisdom that they forsake their couches in their longing to celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy virtues, and flee from sleep in their eagerness to approach Thy presence and partake of Thy bounty.’ Later He goes on to say, ‘These are Thy servants, O my Lord, who have entered with Thee in this, the Most Great Prison, who have kept the fast…’

On the face of it, this prayer was written when Bahá’u’lláh was, with His companions, incarcerated in the prison in ‘Akká and He is extolling their fortitude and grace. But there is much more, I think, to this prayer then this single face.

The prayers of Bahá’u’lláh were written for all peoples of all times, and so as I was reading this prayer, I felt that there must be a dimension of the words that went beyond referencing a purely physical spot at a specific point in time. In the end, I came to believe that it is possibly for anyone today, who approaches the Fast with a sufficient degree of humility and submission, to meet with Bahá’u’lláh in a spiritual ‘Most Great Prison’, a place where one is held captive not by chains, but by love, to become, in effect, out of devotion to Him, a thrall to His Will. The irony of this is deliciously sweet to a poet: to find the true freedom of love is to yield the bondage of will.

Or so I think; for while I can believe in such an “Other Place” I have never been there except for a few fleeting minutes. But, if you will, please forgive an old poet his chance to dream…

Thank you so much for reading in exile. 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, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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In ev’ry degree

I am set a sail upon this passage
my canvases full billowed, taut and tight,
swift breath compelling me on my voyage
as I fly along with no land in sight.
Bright, sun-water gems explode at my prow
and jauntily, I, on this roiling sea,
chant loud my gladsome sailor’s song to plow
true on my compass in ev’ry degree.
O do not deny me this lusty wind
which sets me free to stand this course unfurled,
for like all true lovers I am destined
to seek the unknown limits of this world.
Fix me you ever-changing, changeless sea,
heart-a-throb, I sail, straight into thy lee!

Writing sonnets is hard stuff. The structure is tight: fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, patterned rhyming, ending with a rhyming couplet. But while the rhyming is hard, the iambic pentameter is harder and saying something meaningful is the hardest.

Thank you for reading In ev’ry degree. 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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Louder

This do I swear:
that if at this very moment You were
to reach out with Your hand
and still my beating heart,
louder would it pound in Your heaven!

I wrote this poem in March, 1982, while en route to Rwanda from my home in Canada. I was making my way through England, Israel and Kenya to move to Africa to teach the Bahá’í Faith—to go, as it is said in my religion, “pioneering.”

I was, unfortunately, incredibly ill at the time. What started out as a small headache as I took off on the first leg of the trip quickly blossomed into a high fever and heavy chest infection; I ended up being very sick for a full week and still quite weak for longer after that. Thank heavens I was not superstitious!

Did my illness have anything to do with this poem? If it did, I wish I could get sick like that more often. Happiness is a characteristic of the body, but joy is a characteristic of the soul and on that journey, despite my illness, I was joyous!

It was, I have no doubt, the finest moment of my life and a time and a memory I will always treasure. Thank God for allowing me that moment.

Thank you for reading Louder. 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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