Tag Archives: loss

Pete Hulme’s “Mary”

IMG_4158I’d creak my way upstairs sometimes and dare
the backroom where my sister, Mary, died
before I was born. ‘Her lungs were putrid
at the end,’ my mother said. ‘I couldn’t bear
to see.’
……..I’d stand there questioning the air
for traces of some meaning it might hide.
On the wall above the iron bedstead,
fading in his photograph, my father,
his broad shoulders stretching his jacket tight,
held a huge bullcalf by a rope, half-stern,
half-smiling, proud: younger then the grim grey
man I knew – and straighter. Then the thought:
a man that to trench-fire did not bow, the burn
of one small child’s loss bent easily.

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This poem is by Pete Hulme and is posted with his permission. Pete’s original post of this poem is from his Everybody Means Something blog.

Mary is a heartbreaking poem of loss and regret, the more so since the writer, being so young clearly does not yet know how to access or process such grief, and yet is, in his own unique way, bound to it, making the double hurt all that much more poignant. Thus always is the pain of such innocents.

Thank you for reading Pete Hulme’s “Mary”. 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 © June, 2012 by Pete Hulme; all rights reserved.

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I set out to write a book


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and placed my hero there at the start,
riding up a mountain on an old horse,
but paused, admiring the vista below—
it was just before the ambush was to hit.

And there I abandoned him, poor fool.
I had once had better plans for him,
but isn’t that always the case?
Hard done by he was to have been,
disgraced and bought to low esteem,
but being doughty and pure of purpose—
never casting it off for ease or self—
he would have endured through life and love
until his glorious self-sacrifice at the end.
He will never, I now know, make it to that end,
worse luck for him..his time has run out.
It seems I ambushed the coward after all.

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Thank you for reading I set out to write a book. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken from the top of Barrett Hill in Pomfret, CT…one kick ass hill to cycle up, but worth the view once you get there. 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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Knowledge and volition


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Wither goest thou, little boy, little boy,
to play, to sup or to bed?
‘I go to my Master’s house,’ he said, he said,
‘although I’ve lost the way.’

How can it be there and then be not,
with no idea to where it had got?
Wouldn’t you have felt it,
that loss in your chest,
and know it had slunk away?

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Thank you for reading Knowledge and volition. 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 They don’t make ‘em like they used to and was taken in the Poconos as we waited for a family to return to their house and and sell us some of their local honey. In the end I got the photograph, but no honey, and while I am not discontent, I’d have preferred both. 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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Ian Hamilton’s “Familiars”

Ian Hamilton is a poet from the second half of the 20th century whose work I greatly admire and love to champion. You can find a listing of more of his poems on the Book of Pain here and watch a BBC TV special on him here.

Familiars

If you were to look up now you would see
The moon, the bridge, the ambulance,
The road back into town.
The river weeds
You crouch in seem a yard shorter,
A shade more featherishly purple
Than they were this time last year;
The caverns of ‘your bridge’
Less brilliantly jet-black than I remember them.

Even from here, though, I can tell
It’s the same unfathomable prayer:
If you were to look up now would you see
Your moon-man swimming through the moonlit air?

Could anyone else leave a better sense of lingering loss and sadness in the air than Hamilton? The man was surely a master! For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “Familiars”. 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 © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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In that softened night

The candle had burned on through the night,
it, the guitar and the chair, there
on that balcony the whole time.
And in that softened night,
in the magic of that light,
there were no sharp edges left to hurt them:
I saw a young man, all optimism and faith
made radiant by the glad bride beside him.
And she, adorned as she was
in the gown stitched by her mother,
was made more beautiful by the crown she wore:
they were doing God’s will together.

And it seemed to me then
that in that softened light,
they had danced that last night
to the strands of the silent guitar,
all the tumult left now far behind them.
I closed the door and the candle quietly puffed out.

First off, this story is perfectly true. When we (the boys and I) lived in Kansas City, Skip, my best friend then, and I used to sit out on the balcony of our apartment at night a lot…me smoking (don’t worry, I’ve long since quit) and the both of us playing our guitars late into the night.

I was at the time grappling with the idea of what to do about my first marriage. My wife and I were separated and she wanted to try and reunite, but I was struggling with what was the right thing to do. Skip, may God bless him forever, was doing what good friends should do but often lack the wisdom, skill and empathy to do well: helping me work through the process with grace, courage and honesty.

At the end, I clearly remember this one night, getting up and wondering what the glow was on the balcony. Opening the door, I realized that I had left the candle that was out there burning all night. Why, I do not know to this day: but the softness of that still life image of the chair, the guitar and the candle in the murky dark suddenly froze a final decision in me and I knew that, despite all the hope and effort with which it was started, my marriage was over.

Thus it was.

Thank you for reading In that softened light. 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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À Dieu

We watch, he and I,
from the cold leaky garret,
the bright snapping flashes
of the blue and red slashes
along that riotous, silent rue.

I am not, he whispers, a fool, but a madman,
trying to see exactly what I feel.
And if I’ve taken more than I’ve given
that’s poor payment for the pleasure,
but it’s all that I am
and is what I have to give back.

This is the painting referred to in the post. It is one of several Impressionistic paintings that fueled my love for that school of art in particular and painting in general.

BastilleDay

“Bastille Day” by Claude Monet. A painting of Rue Montorgueil, Paris, Festival of 30 June 1878.

Luckily, I was able to see the original the last time I was in Paris. Surprisingly, it was not at the Monet family legacy museum, the Marmottan-Monet house. In fact, we found it quite by accident at (I think, the details are somewhat hazy now) the Orangerie Museum, a delightful spot that I highly recommend—after, of course, one has spent the obligatory time at the incredible Musee d’Orsay.

I should point out that English speaking people generally translate ‘adieu’ (the more common, modern spelling) as simply ‘goodbye’ or ‘farewell.’ In French it is much more nuanced than this. It means, literally, ‘to God’ and has a much greater sense of finalism and formality to it, and betokens death or complete separation, often as a result of staunch honor or sacrifice. In other words, ‘my fate is with God; it is in the Hands of the Almighty when next we shall meet again.’

Thank you for reading À Dieu. 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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Sullivan Ballou letter

Not a poem today, but a letter that is the essence of love and sacrifice. Written during the American Civil War, it is by Sullivan Ballou, a Major in the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers and to his wife Sarah, at their home in Smithfield, RI. I first heard it in the award winning Public Broadcasting Systems (PBS) series The Civil War by Ken Burns.

July 14, 1861
Camp Clark,
Washington DC

Dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. And lest I should not be able to write you again I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I am no more.

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but omnipotence can break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly with all those chains to the battlefield. The memory of all the blissful moments I have enjoyed with you come crowding over me, and I feel most deeply grateful to God and you, that I have enjoyed them for so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes and future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and see our boys grown up to honorable manhood around us.

If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I loved you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name…

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless, how foolish I have sometimes been!…

But, 0 Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they love, I shall always be with you, in the brightest day and in the darkest night… always, always. And when the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath, or the cool air your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again…
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Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the 1st Battle of Bull Run.

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