Tag Archives: life

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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One-hit-wonder

In a weak moment of optimism
I thought I could build a patio of four terraces,
in stone, in my lifetime.
It had become, by then, a misery of heat, humidity and sunburn,
sodden shirts, squashed fingers, stinging eyes and sore back.

But it was there on that patio,
from a neighbor’s open window, that I heard it,
a song I’d not heard in years—
a great melody, played incredibly, sung wonderfully,
the perfect summer moment…

Recorded by accident, I recalled, on a whim,
with the wrong personnel late at night.

It was almost lost and then released anyway,
more by indecision than design.

My wife found me later, laughing to myself,
slapping down rock with abandon.
God, I love to sweat!

I recently found this nearly lost gem several backup-layers down, deep in the bowels of an old directory I was about to purge. It dates from 2006 and while I remember the incident, I cannot, for the life of me, remember the song that sparked it! And if you are wondering, yes, I did eventually finish the patio, all four terraces of it. 🙂

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

The photograph was taken in our garden on one of the terraces. 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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Ups, ups and more ups


There are no promises in life.
But there is a mercy in hope
and a simple majesty in being
where you find yourself to be—
if you embrace it.
As the guy with dementia said,
Sunup, wake up and get up: repeat!
Now that, my friends, is a friend.

swril2

Although I now live in the United States, I was born in Canada and occasionally listen to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in my car. It was there, on the tail-end of a segment about a gentleman from Ontario with worsening dementia, that I heard him talk about his ‘three ups.’ I have no idea what the story was about, but those words were like an explosion in my head and I knew that I had a stalled poem that was begging for some sense of finality, and that this was it.

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

The photograph was recently taken in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the largest of the Balearic Islands of Spain. 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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Big Thetas, Omegas, and O’s


All the niggly-wiggly, petty-piggledy parts
that are not in the grand scale get jettisoned,
with the Greek-of-this and the Greek-of-that
meaning the more you know of every little tittle,
the swifter you can drop it from the whole.
And that that, God help us, is reasonable!
Just so.

There is something I need to remind myself of often: concentrate on what yields fundamental joy and do not worry about the little things that have little effect.

This concept actually has a sort-of parallel in science. Ever wonder how your GPS figures out—from the near-infinite number of routes available—what is the fastest route?

The science of algorithm development is amazing and subtle. Often, the idea is not to concentrate on how long a particular task takes, but how the analysis scales proportionally to the size of the dataset. The important thing is to get to the essence of the math so you can throw out the parts that only have a minor effect on the end result. (If you’re techy enough to want to know more about the mathematics of all this, try this article as a starter and don’t blame me if you fall in a hole you cannot crawl out of!)

Thank you for reading Big Thetas, Omegas and O’s. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at home and is a macro study of a leaf of red cabbage. 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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Like being there


Mom bought our first color TV in ’67,
so we could watch Bob Gibson personally
best the Red Sox in the World Series.
She loved baseball to be sure,
but she loved it even more on that Trinitron
(although, to be fair, the image was fuzzy
and the too-much-red/too-much-green worse.)
Still, I’d run home from school as fast as I could
so we could agonize over every pitch and play.
In the final inning of the final game,
I cursed a few times and not only
didn’t she notice, but she cursed along too.

Sometimes in life, it’s not about the doing,
but about the done and who you were with at the time.
Which is why, I suppose, I don’t watch baseball anymore.

September is the anniversary of my mother’s passing. In honor of her memory and her favorite time of the year—the end of Major League Baseball’s regular season and the start of the playoffs for the World Series—I decided to post this poem. My only sibling, my sister, gives it a “perfect!” So there.

Read on only if you are a baseball nerd… 🙂

The ‘Impossible Dream’ Boston Red Sox team of 1967 (at the time, the first winning Red Sox team in a decade) was formidable, anchored by future hall-of-famers Carl Yastrzemski and ace pitcher and Cy Young award winner Jim Lonborg. Yet, despite this, their making it into the World Series at all was a near miracle, since in the last weekend of regular season, four teams were in the pennant running, separated by 1 game apiece.

But then, when the Sox got to the World Series, they ran into Bob ‘Hoot’ Gibson‘s St. Louis Cardinals. The seven game series that followed was one of the most entertaining, nerve wracking, nail biter series of all times. After 4 games it looked like the Cards were a lock, but the Sox fought back and won the next two, forcing a game-of-the-decade showdown, only to face Gibson on the mound and lose, yet again, to him. With 3 wins (rare for a pitcher in a 7 game series) and even some productive hitting (also a rarity for pitchers) Gibson was the well-deserved Most Valuable Player of the series. In an odd twist of fate, Boston’s ‘Curse of the Bambino‘ was not broken until 2004 (despite attempts in ’75 and ’86) when they swept the Cardinals for their first World Series since 1918. Meanwhile, St. Louis is second on the list (after They Who Shall Not Be Named) for most Series wins, 11 out of 19 appearances.

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

The photograph is a domain free stock image which I blurred and then oversaturated the reds and greens. That sure bought back some memories! To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

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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Comes an age

While cleaning, I shifted
the cutting board and found
a chocolate chip, an escapee
from our last batch of brownies.
We’d quit sugar sometime after that,
on the day we heard that Glenn had died,
the same day we understood
Laura’s cancer was more advanced
than first thought. Or maybe
it was the day we heard that
Amber needed surgery and that
we needed to pray, a lot.
I can’t remember.
Still, it was delicious.

As Phil, one of my dearest friends noted, this poem is about memory and immediacy, the “zigzag, random syntactical firing, following the shiny object, jumbled train of thought” thing we all go through. Sometimes I feel like I’m a squirrel trying to cross the road.

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

The photograph was taken for this poem in my home. 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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Gone in the blood

IMG_6943I was ten and my thirteen-year-old
cousin David was a lost boy…
lost to the parents who had uglied him away,
lost again to the younger ones he tried to protect,
lost finally to the madness in his cytoblast,
which copied him/copied him/copied him on,
until it copied him into his grave.
Our Aunt Vi and Uncle George were childless
and loved us nieces and nephews like we were their own,
but David—he was David—special was little David,
so they took him in.
He would have been, I think, more like them
(and, most hopefully, sober like him)
if Goliath had not struck him down.

Wilfred was David’s younger brother and I’ve just spent
an hour sifting through the photos of his obituary.
Fifty-one he was, tired looking with fat jowls
and heavy, bloodshot eyes, a beer by his side
in every photo his family shared of him.
I don’t think that when we lost David
anyone would have said he was the lucky one.
But ‘lost’ is a relative place and once he was gone
he was somewhere safe where he could always be found,
which is not something that, to be honest,
could be said of the rest of us he left behind.

swril2

I once went on a hike with David down by the river near the town where we lived. It is a day that I remember vividly, from a time in my life when I have few memories. I have no specific memories of David being sick with leukemia, or of his dying, or of going to his funeral, or of everyone around me grieving. And yet, all of this must have happened. I can only surmise now, years later, that I just blocked it all out.

I know I admired David—he was older and therefore more daring, after all—but I also remember there always being a cloud of worry about him. Although I was young and knew no details, I was aware in a vague, whispered way that he did not have a happy home life and I knew that was a very sad thing.

God rest you all, my lonely, sad, lost cousins.

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

The photograph was taken on a walk in a local park one fall morning. The empty bottle had been left on the table exactly where I photographed it. By a person? Some people? It had been a party? Loud? Quiet? I don’t know. You never do. 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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