Tag Archives: love

A service I am now glad to repay

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Patrick died in an alcoholic haze of shame, resentment and relief,
wondering, I suspect, where along the path it had all gone wrong,
yet knowing he had no answer. Long ago, he had befriended me,
and when I needed it—but did not expect it—he had been kind to me.
He was my friend.

Do I know as little as he then—me, now, with all my memories?
And will I, these years on, question myself to the grave’s edge?
Yes, probably—we all have our Irish to carry, we poor debtors, we do.
So goodnight, friend Patrick, I am here for you, let it go and sleep well.
You’ve earned it.

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Many years ago, when I had just returned to Newfoundland from Africa, newly married and near broke, Patrick Kennedy hired me to a job that I loved and which set the course of my career. He was a jovial, friendly fellow (among other things, I recall we shared a love for Bruce Springsteen) who was always willing to talk, always willing to help, always quick with a laugh and a quip. To hear recently, after all these years, how bitter and tragic was his end saddened me very much.

John Waters is a well-known Irish journalist who got sober in 1989. He, better than anyone else, has captured the heart of what it is to be Irish:

“Drinking [to the Irish] is not simply a convivial pastime, it is a ritualistic alternative to real life, a spiritual placebo, a fumble for eternity, a longing for heaven, a thirst for return to the embrace of the Almighty.”

I grew up with alcoholics all around me and swore off drink when, at seventeen, I became a Bahá’í. For this and many things else, I have thanked God ever since. I know too well the devastation addiction brings.

Thank you for reading A service I am now glad to repay. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in my home in Connecticut. 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 do

LynPraying

God, but what an honor it is
to love and to be loved by you!
By this I do not mean
the self of youth,
the callow of desire
or the inertia of long nights.
For me, for you, for evermore
it is the bright of your soul,
the kiss of your smile,
the glow of your too often
set upon patience.

I do not love you with every
fiber of my being, and with
every twinge of my every second.
I love you more than that,
I do.

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For Lyn, of course.

The Bahá’í Faith recently completed its yearly fasting period. This poem came to me when I suddenly awoke at 3:00 AM on the last night of the fast. I remember being shocked with the clarity and completeness of it: having a poem arrive like that is something that rarely happens to me. Although tired, I was able to force myself to stay awake long enough to memorize it, so that it would still be with me the next morning. Thankfully it was!

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

The photograph of Lyn praying at the side of a small river was taken several years ago during a fall holiday to the Poconos in eastern Pennsylvania. 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 day Spaz tried to kill me

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It hurt, “hands-around-my-throat, can’t-breathe” hurt
I was laughing so hard. Finally I managed to get enough
air to gasp pleadingly for him to stop—and that is when he
flicked his box of popcorn in my face. If it had been funny
before, it was hilarious then and I remember ending up on
the dirty, tick-tacky floor of the theater, wheezing and thinking:
this is it/i’m going to die/it was fun while it lasted.
And as God is my witness, that only made it funnier.

It turns out that at that point Spaz had already lived over
half of his life, while I only a third (thus far) of mine.
What fairness is that?
But perhaps that is the point, my point, or his point to me,
because it should be someone’s point to someone.

I can hear him laughing as I write this—my little buddy,
still laughing—and all I want to do is laugh with him.
And as God is my witness, I would love to know
what it is we’re laughing about.

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Tony told me on our first meeting (we were in university together, taking our engineering degrees) that ‘Spaz’ was his nickname. I could go on and on about him, but the simple truth is that he was a wonderful person and I loved him very, very much. He was a good and dear friend and I cherish all those years we were together.

The tragedy is that we had not spoken since shortly after we graduated; my moving to Africa did that to many relationships. And yet, when I recently heard from a fellow classmate that he had died at the very young age of 40, still, I was very saddened by it. As my mother often said, “Only the good die young.” That’s not true, of course, but what is true is that we get to regret their passing for far longer than if they had not.

And that story about us going to a movie and me feeling I was going to die from laughing? Absolutely true. That was Spaz.

Thank you for reading That day Spaz tried to kill me. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at Wolf Den state park in Connecticut.  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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C’était à Amboise, en Touraine, en France

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There t’was in Amboise, in Touraine, in France
while wan’dring alone, cool and carefree,
that my lover found her soul, as if by chance,
in that place of art, the Martinerie.
Bold and beautiful, brave and full of light,
she saw those tapestries as I see her:
images aglow, images aflight,
images of love, an oath to concur.
Am I that knight errant her patience sought,
my soul to join hers in that holy grail
pledged immortal by that picture she bought?
I fear for my worth, but I dare not fail.
A gift of love is a gift given free,
but the greatest of gifts is the gift that is she.

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Today is Lyn’s and my wedding anniversary, and I cannot think of a better day to re-share this sonnet.

Before we were married, Lyn went on a biking vacation in France. While there at La Galerie d’Art de la Martinerie, 7 bis. Rampe du Chateau, Amboise, en Touraine, en France (tel 47.57.37.51) she bought a beautiful rendering of a tapestry that was an homage to Saint Martin of Tours—he who cut his military cloak in two to give half to a beggar. It so touched me when I saw it that I wanted to describe it, and through it, us, in a poem.

Eventually we had the poem scripted by a professional calligraphist and it is mounted in the same frame with the picture. It hangs now in our bedroom and I have promised our daughter that it goes to her after us. Some things should never end…

Thank you for reading C’était à Amboise, en Touraine, en France. 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

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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Pain

IMG_1969It’s a strange thing to manage: of you and not, it, itself, an otherness,
living and breathing, in and yet beyond you, insidiously skulking around.
Nerve slasher, I call it. Breath thief, dignity embezzler, hope arsonist.
From your last kiss before sleeping to your first caress when awaking
it is the demon that haunts you in between: silent, unseen, crippling.
Is it possible to make such a one a friend?

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This poem was written by my sister, Cindy, who is currently—and heroically has been for some years—facing severe medical issues.

Thank you for reading Pain. 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 was taken at Harkness Memorial Park, on the Connecticut side of the Long Island Sound. To see my photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh blog.

john

Poem © Lucinda Lenora Hayden. Photograph and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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Here, for you

IMG_5663On the day my parents renewed their vows
I was empty and tired—all I could think of was,
now you know
.

Around and around it went, inside my head,
crowding out whatever the priest,
who hadn’t known them then, was saying.
Now you know, I thought, the reward when
the burden of new is balanced by
the weight of certitude:
how soft it is to fall in love,
how rough those years are to carry.
Now you know as I know,
like I know now as you knew then.

I remember standing there,
looking down at my father’s casket as it
hovered over their double plot and thinking:
there’s not much, but there is this—I made it.

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Even into the 1960’s, Newfoundland, my birthplace, was similar to the religious separation of Northern Ireland: Catholics and Protestants did not mix or socialize, and they certainly did not trust one another. Thus, my parents wedding in the late 1940’s (my mother was Protestant and my father Catholic) was a shock to the community in general and the two families in particular. It was made worse when, years later, so as to instruct her firstborn in Catholicism (a promise she had made when she married my father) my mother first took lessons in the church, and then to complete the unity of the family, converted to being Catholic.

And although with the years such religious ignorance faded and died, for much of their early marriage they both bore the brunt of religious prejudice—much from the Catholic Church itself and more from within their own families. I believe that the greater part of who I am and what I am is in honor to their decision and I am grateful that at their end I was able to stay faithful to their love and courage and bear witness to it.

This is (thus far at least) the last of a trilogy of poems about my father’s passing. I hope you have enjoyed them.

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

The photograph was taken last year in Newfoundland from my father’s hospital window. Sadly, it tells you what the weather in Newfoundland is usually like: dreary. Luckily, the kindness and generosity of the people there make up for 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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Cheers

IMG_0149I never got drunk with my father,
never got to count the little blessings
as each was poured and shared:
relaxation, then wisdom and laughter—
then solemn, then soused,
and finally the kiss of 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 did pour ourselves into
each other’s glasses or our hearts
into each other’s hands. And now
that he’s gone I know that he knows
I was right, but oddly—it’s me now,
I’m no longer so sure I shouldn’t have.

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My conversion to the Baha’i  Faith caused my father, who was a devout Catholic, some degree of pain and worry. And although it was never a contentious point between us, he was never quite reconciled or happy with my choice and always, I think, a little 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 own families) slide down that hole of excess and misery.

And yet, after his death, as I reflected on my father and our relationship, I could not help but think that it was a rite of passage that he and I never got to go through together. Would it have increased our love for each other? No. But would it have allowed us to grow a little closer and perhaps understand one another better? Perhaps. In any event, it’s too late now, and hence this poem.

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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