Tag Archives: loss

The Mill Manager’s House


It was, I recall, spacious and modern,
open and elegant, and so very, very uncluttered.
My friend Dave lived there and I stayed over some nights,
pauper to the manor come, I as alien to it as it was to me—
so young, the wonder of it, I didn’t even know to yearn for it.

To be honest, I had forgotten it
and now I see they’re going to tear it down—
that is, after all, the lesson of that town:
life found and lost in the same grand way.
Most heartaches are like that,
especially the ones you push behind,
until they catch you—
and then you can’t help yourself,
lesson-learned or not
or whether you are still that innocent.

I was born, bred and buttered (as they say) in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, Canada. It was, when I was young, a mill town, the main industry being a once world-class pulp-and-paper mill that produced newsprint for some of the world’s most prestigious newspapers. My father worked there most of his life, and I for a short time too, off-and-on as a laborer and then as a student engineer. The mill operated for well over a century and was integral to the area. But it is gone now, shuttered over a decade ago and torn down since. I’ve mentioned it before, in Labour Day.

Don Parker (his wife was Doreen, a lovely lady) was mill manager in the early 70’s, and so got to live in an especially luxurious house on a local estate. I had known their son, Dave for years before even that, and essentially the story of the poem is exactly as stated. Dave stayed with y family occasionally, and I with them.

That house made me feel awkward; it was elegant on a scale and in a style beyond anything I had ever known. I was shocked by it, I suppose. Today I probably would not think twice about it, and as the poem says, until I saw the story of its eminent destruction I had forgotten all about it; the memory of how it had once made me feel came back in a rush. But that is the power of memories, I suppose. And poems.

Thank you for reading The Mill Manager’s House. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken directly from the CBC article about the building being destroyed. 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.

 

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The Royal Stores


I remember him only as a child would,
a tall, brusque, pine-knobby man
with a big, bristle mustache
and red stains on the front of his apron.

At my request he took the hook
down off the pillar to fish
for a lean haunch in a wooden barrel,
weighing it on the big, white scale
at the end of the hardwood counter.

Tearing a sheet of butcher paper
from a roll hung high, he tied it
with a pure white twine also pulled
from the magic of those heavens.

I stared, fascinated, as he scrawled something
on the package with a grease pencil
and nearly jumped when he snapped the string
with a mighty and swift tug of his bare hands.

Put it on…(God! What’s her name? I panicked,
Not Aunt Vi!)…Violet Jackman’s account,
I squeaked and started the long walk back,
having earned my treat of the sweet red meat.

So did we learn, all us little people then,
and all of it long gone now, just memories,
old histories to us who were there, soon lost—
hold on and let it all go, let it go…
Like that twine, which I still can’t snap like that,
I’ve tried.

My sister doubts this memory and I may well have confused a trip to the store for our Aunt Vi  with a recollection of going to the Royal Stores with my mother or father.  My sister points out that the walk from my aunt’s house to the Royal Stores was the farthest of all the possibilities, and that she would probably have sent me to the much closer Ryan’s Cash and Carry; and that the name on the account would have been my uncle’s, George Jackman, he being the bread winner. Or, at most, that she would have sent me to the Co-op Store, where she was a member.

Still, my memory is what it is, and I present it to you for all that a flawed piece of reflection it may be. We are all the little things of little people in little places.

My sister reminded me of many more things of the little town where we grew up:

Of Garl Morrisey’s pharmacy where you could get ‘floats’ made in paper cups, and who bought a Volkswagen Beetle and parked it outside, so that his enormous Newfoundland dog, Patty, would have a place to rest. That shop later moved next to the movie theater and became Winslows and is now Grand Falls Pharmacy; the original storefront then became a camera shop where I bought my first serious equipment.

Of the bakery that was imaginatively called The Bake Shop (owned by Miss Sally Spicer) where two of my other aunts worked; that was next to the soda bottling plant and both down from the local paper, The Advertiser, now long out of operation and the building gone. There was a shoe store in that area too (another aunt worked there) but that was somewhat later. It too is gone.

Of the fact that Aunt Vi’s best friend was Et Hunt.

Of the fact that in the Royal Stores (not to mention Stewarts in Windsor) there were no cash registers. All transactions were put in a little cage and run by wire to “the office” where change and/or receipts were made and returned the same way.

There is no Royal Stores today, the company is long out of business and even the building is gone; all that remains is a gravel parking lot.

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

The photograph is from the The Exploits Valley Royal Stores post of the Anglo Newfoundland Development Company blog and is used by permission. It is circa 1960s, the era of the poem; the Royal Stores is the blue and white building on the far right.

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

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.

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I’m jealous

How surprised I was to spot you
in that crowded old market in Barcelona!
Or, at least I thought it you, your twin if not.
I must say, you haven’t changed a bit.

I almost spoke to you, almost reached out
my arms to hug you, nearly asked what
you were doing here, so far from then.
But my Spanish isn’t, and you’d at least
have thought me crazy and may even
have had me arrested. And besides,
for all that happened after,
I don’t deserve your memory,
even if now I’d die to have it back.
You’re looking good, though. You are.


It happens to me with some regularity, usually in a foreign place: seeing a friend’s years-ago doppelganger walking towards me. And, well…

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

The photograph was taken in Barcelona on a recent trip there. 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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Grown up


up
All cherub cheeks he was, too,
our lost little boy, the hero,
brave to try but broken to learn
that a button on a controller
was not a hip swing out on the slopes.
Can you remember it, son?
White, white snow beneath great green conifers
and the sky as blue as dreams, but softer;
the deep, deep air so full of ever and forever?

He’s gone now, you know.
Lost he was, out there, under an avalanche of words—
some true, most not—yet all of them excuses
that still echo down their cold, slippery trails.
It was, I suppose, failures in happanstance—
some simple, most not—but I find myself
wondering, just the same, how it would have
turned out had he stuck it out
and learned to snowboard that day.
Would any other dream have been softer?

up

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

The photograph was taken of some poor hapless soul on a slope in New Hampshire just as he was wiping out, “having a garage sale” as the joke goes. (You wipe out so bad that all your equipment goes hither and yon and you can’t be bothered to go fetch it. Let anyone who makes an offer have it.) 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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That selfie you took


up
Off to wherever for whatever, but first,
snap that photo in the here and now
and post it to the there and then,
the touch that was, hope fading into forgot…

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

This is what ties us, each wave to the other—
no one understanding the race (going/going/gone),
or 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

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 (currently) 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.

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Cheers

 

IMG_0149I never got drunk with my father,
never got to count each little blessing
as it was poured, shared and savored;
never journeyed with him through
relaxed, wisdom and laughter
to solemn, soused and sleeping it off.
We never took that first shot and
looking at each other smiled
and agreed that it wasn’t half bad
that one wasn’t, not-at-all/at-all:
feels good, have another, ‘think I will.
He was proud of that, oddly—
blue collar Irish, you appreciate
a son who swears off the drink.
Still, we never poured ourselves into
each other’s glasses and now
that he’s gone—it’s me now,
I’m no longer so sure we shouldn’t
have shared that close a misery,
at least once.

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My conversion to the Baha’i  Faith caused my father, who was a devout Catholic, a terrible degree of pain and worry. And although it was never a contentious point between us, he never accepted my choice and was always, even if reconciled to it, saddened by it.

But if there was any silver lining to my decision for him, it was the Baha’i law about not drinking alcohol. My father knew and saw too many good men and women (many from our families) slide down that hole of excess and misery.

In any event, it’s too late now…

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

The photograph was taken at Newport, RI at one of the once stately homes of the rich that is now merely the gawking place of us lower castes.  It is, I am guessing, a representation of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and drinking, although I am by no means an expert on such things. 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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