Tag Archives: martyr

Not by half

Building detail

I would like to write a poem about the death of Mírzá Mihdí, the Purest Branch,
who burst open the doors of his prison and broke the shackles of an empire.
It would tell of his mother’s grief, his sister’s misery, his brother’s pain
and of course, his Father’s love…

But most of all it would tell of the seven, small, shiny, black beach rocks
with worn, rounded corners found in his pocket and which comprised
all that he possessed in this world. “Where did you get them?” I’d ask.
“What was it about these seven that caught you and held you so that
you’d leave them behind? What were you trying to tell us?”
And then I’d tell of his Father releasing His son from his duties
that hot afternoon, knowing in advance what would happen to him:
that he would go to pray on the windswept prison rooftop;
that he would become enraptured in his meditations;
that he would forget the skylight was there;
that he would fall to his doom and lie there, pierced and broken;
that he would beg leave to offer his life as a ransom,
thereby opening the doors of Reunion;
that He, the Father, would accept, and that, days later, when He placed
His son in the grave, an earthquake would shake the ground so that
He would reveal, thereafter, When thou wast laid to rest in the earth,
the earth itself trembled in its longing to meet thee.

I would like to write such a poem, to eulogize one so perfect, befittingly.
But I am not, I know, good enough to reach into my soul to find it.

up

Mírzá Mihdí, whose title was “The Purest Branch,” was the youngest son of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, and His wife, Navváb, to survive infancy. His death happened as described here: falling through a rooftop skylight in the early evening while enraptured in prayer and then offering his life so that the throngs of pilgrims who longed to visit His Father in His incarceration in the prison of ‘Akká—then the penal colony of the Ottoman Empire, but now a small city in Israel—could do so. Previously, pilgrims who had traveled the 1,500 miles on foot from Iran would either be turned back at the city gate, or if they managed to be admitted to the city, would be frustrated to enter the prison. Now, they would be allowed, finally, to enter and tarry therein. Mírzá Mihdí was but 22 at the time of His passing.

I saw the seven, black, shiny beach rocks when I was on pilgrimage to the Bahá’í Holy Places in Israel. I do not think any one thing on that journey moved me more than those simple little stones, except perhaps walking into the prison and suddenly realizing what the roped off spot below the skylight was.

And so thus did I, and so still do Baha’is from the world over, go to that Spot, we for whom the doors of Reunion were, on that fateful day, flung open…

Thank you for reading Not by half. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The quotation from Bahá’u’lláh is quoted by Shoghi Effendi in This Decisive Hour: Messages from Shoghi Effendi to the North American Bahá’ís, 1932–1946 (Wilmette, IL, USA: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 2002) 64.12: 47.

The photograph was taken in ‘Akká during our family’s pilgrimage 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.

The quotation from Bahá’u’lláh is quoted by Shoghi Effendi in This Decisive Hour: Messages from Shoghi Effendi to the North American Bahá’ís, 1932–1946 (Wilmette, IL, USA: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 2002) 64.12: 47.

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Please

There is a tear that sometimes falls
and in falling, fails, yet in failing,
flies to the hearts
of those we love the most.
Why/why/why we ask, and then again, why?
Please, let it be soon!

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the arrest, then the application of trumped up accusations and finally the immoral conviction and sentencing, in Iran, of a group of Bahá’ís referred to as the Yarán-i-Irán, the “Friends of Iran.” Despite the fact that the Iranian constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and despite the fact that every civilized country of the world regards this as a most fundamental aspect of basic human rights, the Yarán, and indeed 156 Bahá’ís in total—three of whom are infants—continue to be incarcerated for no other reason then their choice of religion. Typically referred to as “prisoners of conscience” I prefer the term “prisoners of certitude” because every one of these 156 could buy their freedom by a recantation of their faith…and yet all chose to remain.

If you are interested in reading more on this topic, please see Five Years Too Many.

In the end, all I can say is this: I am blessed and humbled to be one of those permitted to say a prayer in thanks and in honor of their sacrifice and strength, and to beg for their on-going steadfastness. In comparison to their sacrifice, I do not deserve even this station, but I am grateful for it.

Thank you for reading Please. 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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Keeping count

We marched along in serried lines,
my sister’s arm locked with mine,
mine locked with my brother’s.
We did not hesitate or consider the end,
did not question, did not stumble,
did not halt until the doing was done. Instead, we sung.
And while they broke so many of us
that only God could keep count
they could not break us apart,
although they did not want for the trying.
I do not now recall the edge of the knife,
the brunt of the blow or the sear of the hot glowing iron.
Now I recall only how proudly they stood,
how joyfully they fell, how beautiful they lay in repose.

Hear me: there is always a debt to be paid
for night to call night and weeping to beg hurry the dawn.
How many tears must in the end fall?
No one knows.
Of this too, only God can keep count.

This poem is based on a verse from the Qur’án, 1, 61:4, Surat Aş-Şaf  (The Ranks):

Verily God loveth those who, as though they were a solid wall, do battle for His Cause in serried lines!

When asked about this verse,`Abdu’l-Bahá, the eldest son of Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith (`Abdu’l-Bahá was also the Head of the Bahá’í Faith from 1892 until His passing in 1921) said:

O ye beloved of the Lord! This day is the day of union, the day of the ingathering of all mankind. Note that He saith ‘in serried lines’—meaning crowded and pressed together, one locked to the next, each supporting his fellows. To do battle, as stated in the sacred verse, doth not, in this greatest of all dispensations, mean to go forth with sword and spear, with lance and piercing arrow—but rather weaponed with pure intent, with righteous motives, with counsels helpful and effective, with godly attributes, with deeds pleasing to the Almighty, with the qualities of heaven. It signifieth education for all mankind, guidance for all men, the spreading far and wide of the sweet savors of the spirit, the promulgation of God’s proofs, the setting forth of arguments conclusive and divine, the doing of charitable deeds.

Bolding by me. The poem refers to the Dawnbreakers, those early blessed souls who shed their blood, rather than recant their faith, at the first light of the dawn of a new Messenger from God.

I should note that although the Bahá’í Faith is an independent religion with its own Writings, many Bahá’ís, and especially those of the early years, were originally Muslim, and questions on the meaning of the Qur’án were often asked. Bahá’ís believe that the  Qur’án, like the Bible, is the revealed Word of God and expresses the eternal spiritual truths of God. However, the  Qur’án, like the Bible, can often be misconstrued by the ignorant and perverse to support the most terrible of acts. That is why I so love `Abdu’l-Bahá’s explanation of this verse. At first glance the verse seems to support violence and war, yet, when He interprets it spiritually, its meaning is light upon light.

Thank you for reading Keeping count. 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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As were they

Thus
they burn madly
before glowing and then fading—
never let them fade far from me!

Fires come, souls go
receding,
sparks caught up light in the wind,
dancing so…

Have you ever met someone so filled with spirituality that they seemed on fire? They seem, somehow, light, as if the physical gravity is fighting against the spiritual lift to take them away.

Or have you ever lost someone who was deeply spiritual and close to you? They seem to slip through your fingers, even as you yearn to hold on to them because you need them so badly and love them so dearly.

Thank you for reading As were they. 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

© 2012 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: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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