Tag Archives: lost

NPE’s


Words pound through hot pulsed air
and bile rises to whisper everywhere:
Who I am is not who I was—
alleles do not lie.

Unlike parents and siblings
who did and do and then, “like that”
steal away.

No, even that’s not completely right,
it’s the words themselves that have moved;
they mean less and say more than ever they did before.
Even I have shifted—I thought I was me,
but now that our swabs have told their full tale
my skin is never going to feel right again.
Because it’s not just Who am I?
it’s also Who are you?

NPE’s (non-paternity events, or more familiarly, non-paternal or non-parent events) are, for some people, a growing issue: they and their siblings submit their DNA to one of the many “Discover-Your-Ancestry” companies and the results are shocking: they find out that they are only half-siblings, or worse yet, no physical relation at all. In some cases the parents have died and no explanation can be had. In others, parents are unwilling to discuss the issue, or, when they do, it is at best a cover up, at worse a sordid story. In the worst scenario, some family members have turned on their half-siblings for “being hurtful.” As if who you are is of no consequence—which it may not be, to those who are certain of the answer.

If you are affected by this situation, there is a Facebook group: “DNA surprise support group.” Check it out.

By the way, these Discover-Your-Ancestry DNA kit companies are scientific frauds. While accurate enough for identifying close familial relationships, tests run for identical twins often have huge differences in who their ancestors are said to be; nor will two different companies give similar results; nor will any company yield the same ancestry on two different tests for the same person. For a scientific rationale on why this “ancestry” approach to DNA analysis is bogus, check out Adam Rutherford’s A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived. Highly recommended. I enjoyed it immensely.

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

The photograph was taken in on my way to work one sunny morning after an ice storm. 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 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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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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Schizophrenia

up

Roll up, roll ’round, curve over, curve down,
waves on the sea, beating/beating/beating,
pounding him and holding him down.
Dark with a deep sheen and lashed
by bitter winds that rip tears from the cusps,
their crashing breaks his back
and rolls the head off his shoulders.
They whisper, these sirens, as they curl and they smash
and demand he hears what isn’t there. He listens.

There are no unbelievers who go down to this sea
to sink beneath its waves, because it is only him that can hear him.
Sunrise-to-sunrise, pay this/pay that, naught-for-free/always-a-fee,
it has taken him, it has left him, it will forever surge
around him and through him, a storm raging in the lee
that he should be, but is not. He will weep this way eternally,
ever with this dark sea, this lost salty sea, this rolling big sea,
that’s him, aright, yes him…there is no land in sight. He’s lost.

swril2

Mental illness is a terrible burden both for the individual and the family, but especially when it is possible to see through the facade of the disease into the beauty of the mind and soul lost beneath the affliction.

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

The photograph was taken from Gay Head point, Martha’s Vineyard island, Massachusetts. 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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Him, you, them

IMG_0392

He made me fall in love with him
and then he got me hooked.

He got clean, I couldn’t, he left.
Funny, huh?

up

This poem, with very little editing, is based on a postcard I saw at PostSecret.com, a site where people anonymously mail in their secrets. I was at first struck with the simple, yet powerful rhythm of it, but then, clearly, the issue: on the one hand it is brutally honest to the reader, but on the other, brutally self-deceiving for the writer; notice how she refuses ownership of her issues. No wonder she cannot get clean. She is pitiable, but lost to everyone until she finds herself.

up

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

The photograph was taken at the Boston Commons subway stop. 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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Tell me again, will you?

flame

I missed another promise that I promised this time I’d keep.
The subjective implication of this
is matched only by the objective hook
that snags you as you pass it by:
it’s not the bleeding that ages you, it’s the scars;
think of sand put through the fire—eventually you become clear glass
but too fragile to hold on to, once made.

So hold me,
just hold me—for a second will do. Hold me as if to say
You do not have to break and I will never let you go.
So that when I do, and you don’t (as I will and you won’t
and that is the simple truth of it)
I’ll have that long trail of hooks and snags
and little drops of blood that I let joyously fall
(flung, really, cast out like little mendicants
with their tiny beggar bowls held high)
to find my way back to you, again.
Tired, I think, smiling,
I’m just tired.
Smiling.

up

Life is a journey and a long one. We are not, I hope, judged too generously on our few perfect moments, nor too harshly on our many failed moments, but mostly on our persistence to keep trying in the moments in between.

We should bring ourselves to account each day, but not to identify our failures—that’s corrosive. Rather, to value the good moments and the successes of the day, to cherish them and be thankful for them. Everything else, bundle up and pass off, asking God for His support and mercy. Life is about persistence, not perfection.

Thank you for reading Tell me again, will you? 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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Storm spotting

I can’t believe you can’t hear it,
the highs and lows merging,
twisting tauter and tighter, gathering,
a specter on the horizon, spinning closer.

And pray what you hope,
in the calm before this storm
you don’t even have the energy to dread it.
Because it’s there, right there,
it’s always been there,
it’s the soul of that edge, that whisper, that there.
So you scramble as you can
through the thick viscous air, thinking:
when it grabs you,
when it spins you around and tears you apart
and crushes you down like the flotsam that you are,
this time it will be worse,
this time it may not end,
this time they may never find you and bring you back again—
this time you may not even find yourself.

And so each time after, I wonder:
is that the me, that was me when I went flying?
Or is that some other storm-tossed me
that I wouldn’t have known then,
don’t know now—don’t want to know now—
and won’t truly know until
the sky comes tumbling in again?

Depression is not an easy thing to deal with and bouts of severe depression are incredibly hard, first on the one who is suffering, but also on their family and loved ones. If you suspect it may be a problem in your life, if a sense of any degree of sadness or emotional dullness is affecting your relationships or quality of life in any degree for more than just a few days, please seek assistance.

And if you are battling depression, God bless you and keep you strong.

Thank you for reading Storm spotting. 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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