Tag Archives: memory

Something to hold on to

A symphony’s endnote is a flurry of emotions,
transcendent with joy and resolution.
When you left, you stole that last note away
and bound me to the drone of the penultimate.

I saw others getting back to their lives
and would think How can you? Don’t you still hear it?
It grew quieter, that droning, and I sometimes wondered
if it had gone silent; but whenever I listened it was still there.
As long as I can find it, so are you. There. Sort of.

If you doubt the idea of the resolution of the key of a great symphony, listen to the last movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (the movement of movements, of the symphony of symphonies, by the composer of symphonies.) Jump to the 9:55 mark in the recording to hear the full ending. After that, listen to at least the previous few minutes of the recording to get a feeling for the piece and then stop it before that final note. It hurts, you miss it so. Not getting to hear that final note…that is what the loss of a loved one is.

Thank you for reading Something to hold on to. 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 in Hilton Head, South Carolina. 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 Work 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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Laura’s “Five years ago”

I gardened all that day
weeding until my fingers hurt,
going inside three times thinking I was done
only to be drawn back out again.
She had been so sick for so long, but still…

I found myself sitting on a rock,
tears streaming down my face
when a cardinal perched in the tree beside me.
We sat there for many moments, quietly, together.
Yes, we each knew.

Recently, our neice, Laura, posted on Facebook a message about losing her mom, Sue, a dear, sweet lady whom we all adored, to cancer. Amazingly, that was five years ago this month. With very little massaging I knew her post would make a beautiful poem that could resonate with everyone who has lost someone they love. I hope you enjoy it.

Thank you for reading Five years ago. 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 the new Twin Towers in New York, NY. 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 Work 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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Victims

In the perfect stillness, in the quiet,
over the waste, beyond the silence,
you move. Movement is everywhere:
through the smoke, through the noise,
past the barriers and into the chaos,
to this very day.

You, you innocents,
you are in your perfection, perfect,
and will remain that way forever,
of this there is no doubt—
even after we have long forgot you.

We have too many mass-murder victims. And because their lives are cut short so unexpectedly, to those left behind to grieve, their memories of their loved ones may always be caught up in, and constantly looping through, those last dreadful moments. But to us bystanders, as the years slip by, the truth is we just forget them as people. We may invoke their memories on each anniversary or when the topic arises, but only as a collected identity: the victims of that day’s terrible events. We do not remember them as individuals, ones who had lives and loves and hopes and fears and plans, and who deserve to be remembered that way, not as justification or explanation for what ensued thereafter.

Recently, I reviewed and archived all my poems on the Book of Pain. Some, I realized, were really two poems in one, this being one such. Originally entitled To this very day, that poem was eventually renamed 9/11/2001, the name whereby the other portion of the original still goes by.

The photograph was taken on a trip to Pompeii, Italy. 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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Aunt Vi


She lived down a small hill under the lilacs,
that all-smell of spring and full-shade of summer.
She is, I believe, still there, a flittering wren
in the nest of her doilies and lace
with no noise but from us nieces and nephews.

The rain was loudest at night
because the spare bedroom was under the rafters
and the train ran so close that it rattled the windows,
but you never let go because her fragile never did.
Fifty years on and still she sings to me,
light and delicate, so that there’s a flutter,
when I remember, deep in my throat
where the true self catches and warbles.

My maternal grandfather was married twice. Aunt Vi (for Violet) was the eldest of the first family, my mother the eldest of the second; to my mother, Aunt Vi was more a beloved step-mother than an older half-sister. She would, my mother always say, start cleaning the ashtray before you were finished, if you let her! Aunt Vi tried to make everything perfect around her because she knew how delicate life was; but despite this, she lived her life selflessly. The fact that she and Uncle George had no children, was, I came to understand, the tragedy of all our lives.

I never knew any of my grandparents, so Aunt Vi and her husband George remain the only grandparent figures I knew growing up. She suffered greatly in life and both met and rose above that pain with dignity and grace.  I, and my sister, are profoundly indebted to her for her love and her example, and are proud to cherish her memory today.

I have been privileged to mention her before in two other poems, The Royal Stores and Gone in the blood. Thank you for reading Aunt Vi. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph (from Google maps) is of the spot my aunt’s and uncle’s house used to be. Much road work has been done in the area to level the land and build a road where the train tracks used to run behind their property. I really wish they had re-planted lilacs 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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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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As should we all


The last combatant of the Great War died today.
There have been warriors who died before this,
others who will die hereafter
and some unborn who still await their turn.
Who knows?
Well, I do, for one.

Weep for him then, he was real. He lived and died
and ended a tale writ in the blood of those now forgot.
No story was his of tactics and strategies,
principles and beliefs, rights and wrongs done by.
No photograph, no letter, no film, no story,
no dead soul could tell that tale as did he, living.
Who knows?
Well, you do, for one.

No one can cry enough for them of a thousand fields
nor curse enough those who put them there.
There has never been a great war, let alone a good;
there have only been wars of rapacious intent—
botched before, botched during, or botched soon thereafter.
Who knows?
Well, we do, for one.

It’s not the courage, it’s not the strength,
it’s not the sacrifice, the honor or the glory.
It’s not the fear, the joy, the love or the loss,
the guilt, or the luck or the sadness.
It begins with obedience and it ends with endurance
and the rest be damned to hell.
Who knows?
Well, he did, for one.
Aye, weep.

November 11th, 2018 (Armistice Day in the US, Remembrance Day in the British Commonwealth) marks the 100th anniversary of the cessation of combat of World War I, The Great War, The War to End all Wars. In memory of that event I am re-posting this poem.

The last combatant of World War I, Claude Choules, died on May 10, 2011. That news, when it broke, focused my thoughts on the great admiration and compassion I hold for those who fight at times of war, and how it is matched by my disdain for those who cause and pursue armed conflicts wantonly.

Thank you for reading As should we all. 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 in Warwick, Rhode Island. 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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Entropy


The jet plumes tore across the azure sky
straighter than any arrow had a right to.
I remember I was just married, a father,
grappling with a turbulent life. Today,
looking at that sky, I realized I was 30 years on
and hadn’t so much sailed, as aimed, like those lines,
which were blurring, even as I watched them.
Back then I had needed the world to move it!
but had expected it to do so without me,
so that when I was done
I’d have all those savings in hand,
not the wisps I am left now holding.
What a fool I was, and me, a poet too. Imagine.

Of all my early engineering subjects (computer nerd was something I was lucky enough to grow into later) I recall that entropy was the most mysterious and interesting. A measure of molecular disorder (i.e. randomness), it is an idea with specific and calculable effect on thermodynamic systems (think heating systems and air conditioners), but also, general effect in physics (forcing time to only move forward) and, therefore, life—all life, all when. (I said it was mysterious.)

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

The photograph was taken just outside of where I work in Rhode Island. They are the plumes that recalled to my mind the idea of a poem that had interrupted my sleep the night before—thereby saving it from extinction. 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’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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One-hit-wonder

In a weak moment of optimism
I thought I could build a patio of four terraces,
in stone, in my lifetime.
It had become, by then, a misery of heat, humidity and sunburn,
sodden shirts, squashed fingers, stinging eyes and sore back.

But it was there on that patio,
from a neighbor’s open window, that I heard it,
a song I’d not heard in years—
a great melody, played incredibly, sung wonderfully,
the perfect summer moment…

Recorded by accident, I recalled, on a whim,
with the wrong personnel late at night.

It was almost lost and then released anyway,
more by indecision than design.

My wife found me later, laughing to myself,
slapping down rock with abandon.
God, I love to sweat!

I recently found this nearly lost gem several backup-layers down, deep in the bowels of an old directory I was about to purge. It dates from 2006 and while I remember the incident, I cannot, for the life of me, remember the song that sparked it! And if you are wondering, yes, I did eventually finish the patio, all four terraces of it. 🙂

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

The photograph was taken in our garden on one of the terraces. 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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