Tag Archives: lonely

Roar

Old lion
The old lion left his pride behind and went out
into the night. It’s a hard life on the high plains:
it takes courage, strength and endurance,
a belief longer than the day and a love as deep
as the hunt is hot.
Yet, now readied, this last time he went,
not rustling the grass, not raising the dust,
not even stirring the air, lighter then light.
And while he should have ranted at it,
chased after it, torn into it and bought it down,
it was he who fell instead, going quiet and still
at the last. What a terrible silence that was
and still is. It was only later, under the sun,
as we lowered him into his grave, I realized
that I—if no one else—could still hear him roar.

swril2

Jack Etheridge Sr., my father, passed away recently. You may have recalled that last year, about this time, he experienced a heart attack and the family feared losing him them, an event I captured in the poem Free to Fly. And while, since then, we had the bounty of his presence, at the end he was failing fast and we were glad to let him go; he was just one month shy of his 90th birthday. But do not grieve for the family, please, as we do not grieve for him. His was a life to be celebrated, not a death to be mourned.

While flying to be with my father before he died, I decided that when the time came I was going to text the message, “The old lion has fallen,” to my family and friends, as it seemed to me this would sum up the greatest part of the truth of his passing. The  idea stuck with me and en route I started this poem, finishing the first draft on the flight home afterwards.

This is the first of (at least) a trilogy of poems about my father’s passing that I will be releasing over the next little while. I hope you enjoy them.

The photograph was taken at Newport, RI at one of the once stately homes of the rich, and now the gawking place of us merely ordinary people.  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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I am no handyman

He would sit rubbing his balding head,
staring at the broken part, pondering,
certain that no power supply, no heating coil,
no if-you-built-it, I-can’t-fix it thing
could hide its mysteries from him.
Once I watched him build, all by himself,
a set of dovetailed cupboards in our furnace room—
each shelf level and every support square
on walls and floorboards that weren’t.
It took two shots, but he got it right.

It was the doing of it that he loved,
the way mechanical things surrendered to his will
that in the end separated us. I’m just different.
My father could fix anything—but not me.

I was on an Independence Day ride with a friend recently when we got to talking about our fathers. (On long rides, cyclists have to be imaginative to keep the conversation going.)

Interestingly, both of our fathers were handymen and could build or fix anything. More importantly, however, we also agreed that for the two of us, it just made more sense to get someone else to do it right from the very beginning: it saved the time of the initial attempt, the cursing of the assured failure and the eventual call to the professional to come and do an even bigger job then before we started messing with it. And besides, living this way leaves more time for cycling, and to be honest, it really is all about the cycling.

But one thing my friend said caught my more serious side…that our father’s were great handymen not just out of need (although there was that) but because they loved doing it. “There’s a poem in that,” I thought at the time; I hope you think me right.

Thank you for reading I am no handyman. 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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Patrick (plus also Marian Burnett’s “After Seven Years”)

Patrick didn’t wait for me,
how like him to go on first, alone.
He was to me the essence of touch
made into flesh and bone—
his laughter, robust and yet so light,
had a way of bursting out
and rising up through the hole in your heart
and resting there, lingering long after
the echoes had departed.
I could, and did, take him with me
everywhere I went, but still, I confess
I can’t quite grasp it yet,
wherever did the time go?
It was as if the jingle jangle
got to be too much for him
and now, here in free fall, I wonder
what it was I missed that he caught
and looking at thought, no more?
Sweetest man, you probably told me
but I wasn’t listening just then.
I am now.

Marian and Patrick Burnett were my best friends in university, all those many years ago. A young Bahá’í couple, they opened their home and hearts to an awkward, shy, newly minted Bahá’í youth just arrived into the big city. They were wonderful and I quickly came to think of Pat as the older brother/best friend/spiritual guide/mentor that every young man needs.

Pat was amazing. Smart, wise, strong, experienced, kind, generous and funny…gosh, so very, very funny, with a wonderful, subtle sense of insightful humor. And too, a wonderful taste in music. Much of the music I listen to today was guided by him; he had an incredible ear for good music and was the first to teach me to slip through musical genres to look for the magic of emotion in the layer below.

Let me share just one story about Pat. My mother loved him (she loved to cook and he loved to eat so they were a pair made in heaven) but, still he was outside of her sphere of experience. Then, one year, she became quite ill and spent quite a bit of time in a hospital where Pat, and often Marian, were rigorous about visiting her. She told me years later that there were times when the drugs would knock her out and Pat would be the last thing she saw as the light faded, sitting there reading a book, and he would be the first thing she saw as she came to some time later, “Still reading his book!” she would say, and picking up the conversation just where they left it off. After that she loved Marian, and especially Pat, with a devotion that she held for few outside of family (and not many even in that group.) He was thereafter her Pat and Marian, and that was that and God help the poor person that did not love them too!

Sadly—and I confess this was all my doing—after I graduated and moved away we drifted out of contact. (Of the many faults in my makeup, the fact that I have trouble sustaining long distance relationships is the one that betrays me the most.) The odd email or call is no replacement for being face-to-face and able to hug and to touch and to laugh.

The day that Pat’s son, Justin, was able to find me on Facebook and to tell me the sad news of his father’s death, was a hard one for me. As I was trying to take it in, I could hear my mother, long since passed, with one of her tropes, “Only the good die young!” And while that may not be true, what is true is that he was far too young to be gone from us. I still appreciate Justin’s kindness and tenacity in tracking me down, but I am not surprised that he did; he is very much, I think, like his father and his mother: kind, considerate and loving. I wish I was closer to them both to know him better.

Thank you for reading Patrick. 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

January 20, 2013 Postscript:

Marian, Pat’s beloved wife and someone I am lucky and proud to call a dear, dear friend, recently shared this beautiful poem with me and then graciously allowed me to add it to the original post. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

After Seven Years

All there was before the shock
I have been clearing, sorting,
using the best
for my foundation.

He was the one
who introduced me
to the Maker of Blueprints
and encouraged me to build
My spire toward heaven

The poem Patrick, and the notes that accompany it are © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poems 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.

The poem After Seven Years is © 2013 by Marian Burnett; all rights reserved; it may not be reproduced in any way without the written approval of the author.

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