Tag Archives: memory

Like being there


Mom bought our first color TV in ’67,
so we could watch Bob Gibson personally
best the Red Sox in the World Series.
She loved baseball to be sure,
but she loved it even more on that Trinitron
(although, to be fair, the image was fuzzy
and the too-much-red/too-much-green worse.)
Still, I’d run home from school as fast as I could
so we could agonize over every pitch and play.
In the final inning of the final game,
I cursed a few times and not only
didn’t she notice, but she cursed along too.

Sometimes in life, it’s not about the doing,
but about the done and who you were with at the time.
Which is why, I suppose, I don’t watch baseball anymore.

September is the anniversary of my mother’s passing. In honor of her memory and her favorite time of the year—the end of Major League Baseball’s regular season and the start of the playoffs for the World Series—I decided to post this poem. My only sibling, my sister, gives it a “perfect!” So there.

Read on only if you are a baseball nerd… 🙂

The ‘Impossible Dream’ Boston Red Sox team of 1967 (at the time, the first winning Red Sox team in a decade) was formidable, anchored by future hall-of-famers Carl Yastrzemski and ace pitcher and Cy Young award winner Jim Lonborg. Yet, despite this, their making it into the World Series at all was a near miracle, since in the last weekend of regular season, four teams were in the pennant running, separated by 1 game apiece.

But then, when the Sox got to the World Series, they ran into Bob ‘Hoot’ Gibson‘s St. Louis Cardinals. The seven game series that followed was one of the most entertaining, nerve wracking, nail biter series of all times. After 4 games it looked like the Cards were a lock, but the Sox fought back and won the next two, forcing a game-of-the-decade showdown, only to face Gibson on the mound and lose, yet again, to him. With 3 wins (rare for a pitcher in a 7 game series) and even some productive hitting (also a rarity for pitchers) Gibson was the well-deserved Most Valuable Player of the series. In an odd twist of fate, Boston’s ‘Curse of the Bambino‘ was not broken until 2004 (despite attempts in ’75 and ’86) when they swept the Cardinals for their first World Series since 1918. Meanwhile, St. Louis is second on the list (after They Who Shall Not Be Named) for most Series wins, 11 out of 19 appearances.

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

The photograph is a domain free stock image which I blurred and then oversaturated the reds and greens. That sure bought back some memories! 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. The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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Comes an age

While cleaning, I shifted
the cutting board and found
a chocolate chip, an escapee
from our last batch of brownies.
We’d quit sugar sometime after that,
on the day we heard that Glenn had died,
the same day we understood
Laura’s cancer was more advanced
than first thought. Or maybe
it was the day we heard that
Amber needed surgery and that
we needed to pray, a lot.
I can’t remember.
Still, it was delicious.

As Phil, one of my dearest friends noted, this poem is about memory and immediacy, the “zigzag, random syntactical firing, following the shiny object, jumbled train of thought” thing we all go through. Sometimes I feel like I’m a squirrel trying to cross the road.

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

The photograph was taken for this poem in my home. 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 am getting old

img_6911_2_3_4_5The oddness of it was not the shock of it
but the well of it I fell into:
that scent was all I could recall.
It was not a perfume, but a musk,
and that deep drink was more
then all the else I could remember.
That is, I suppose, not her truth,
but mine.

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I have not posted anything for a long while, the main reason being my pre-occupation with completing my Master’s degree in Digitial Science from Kent State. I completed the last course over the weekend and am now free to get back to two of my favorite pre-occupations: poetry and photography. So fair warning: more poetry to come!

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

The photograph was taken on Long Island, New York, one beautiful New Year’s Day several years ago. 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 was spring break, we were at the movies,
and I was laughing so hard that it hurt
with the “hands-around-my-throat, I can’t-breathe” type of hurt.
Finally, I managed to get air enough 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, ticky-tacky floor of the theater,
wheezing and wondering:
is this it?/am i dying?/what will everybody think?
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?
Perhaps that is the point—my point, or his point to me—
or at least someone’s point to someone.

Because the funny thing is, I can hear him laughing as I write this—
my little buddy, laughing—and all I want to do is laugh with him.
And as God is my witness, I’m still not sure what we’re laughing about.

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Tony told me at 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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Labour Day

upIt was, I recall, one of only two days a year the mill shut down.
To celebrate their right, the unions would parade wearing caps
of folded newsprint and then host games and races at the local
ballfield, “Come one, come all.” Later, there’d be a boiled dinner,
a dollar a plate. If you knew the who, there was always a case of beer
hidden somewhere, which explained the over-loud jocularity.

But it had been a dying practice even before I left. And now
the diamond is gone, the bleachers torn down and the park
that replaced it goes unused. The paper mill is shut down too,
a victim of the unions, the company, and the town. In fact,
I hear they’re going to tear down the empty buildings
and rehab the land, make it like all of it—none of it—was ever there.

Perhaps if they do I’ll walk down to where it was by the river—it always
was a pretty river—because I’ll be one of the last to remember:
the log booms and the spring jams, the sulfur mounds, the chip piles,
the railroad, the loud machines, the men with their wicker baskets
hurrying to beat the whistle. What I didn’t know then…

Maybe, as I stand there, I’ll pick up a rock and skip it across
the water and yell, Hey salmon, it’s your turn again, good luck!
Just don’t forget to give thanks, always give thanks, you have
to give thanks for what you’ve got.
 And remember: much wants more—
that’s the simple why of the world—much wants more, every time.

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I was speaking to my father last year on Labour Day (note the British spelling) and about how it had been a very special day in my little town of Grand Falls, Newfoundland, Canada when I was growing up. The local industry was a newsprint factory (the paper for the New York Times was, for example, made exclusively there) and the right to form unions had been a long, bitter and necessary battle to fight and win. Men were proud of their unions and proud of the prosperity it had bought.

And now? In the modern world, management has won. Labour Day is just an end of summer vacation day where the name, the rights and the history of it are no longer appreciated. My point is not to comment on the status of modern labor rights, but to lament the loss with the past, however good and bad it was.

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

To see my photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh blog.

john

Photograph in the public domain; 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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It goes with the territory

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I heard she made her kids promise to cremate her—
anything-but-anything not to go into that cold ground alone.
I remember I was young, but old enough (and am now old,
but young enough) to know  how transitory it all was, even then:
how hot it was and she in just her bra, her kids looking scared
(something I was not used to and still wonder about)
while she smoked her long thin menthols and asked me
for a glass of ice water.

I wouldn’t, today, know any of my cousins (twice removed)
if I met one, nor have a clue, life being what it is, as to
their scatterings and shatterings, or what they embrace
and what they cannot. But I recall how slippery that glass was
with the condensation running down my back
and how the ice didn’t rattle as I handed it to her,
although it was a near thing. Now I rather think it might,
not that I care where they bury me.

swril2

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

The photograph was taken at Benjamin Franklin’s grave in Philadelphia, PA. 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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He was wearing his regimental tie

regimental tieI remember those cold, consistent Novembers:
the way the damp hung in the air and soaked into you,
the way the outdoors was quieter and indoors louder
and how you could know, but forget, what lay ahead.
Once, I recall, as a boy, I went with my father
to the Legion. There I met his friends, veterans all,
heavy drinkers of course, middle aged by then, and one,
an elderly man, a small, shriveled, gnome of a fellow
grinning in the corner and being plied with drinks.
A survivor of Passchendaele, whispered my father
as he introduced me and gave the man his offering.
Our last one. It was years before I knew what that meant.

I am now as old as my father was then,
and he is as old as that little old gnome,
and yes, as shrunk and shriveled and just as alone.
The Novembers too are, in balance, the same,
perhaps milder, perhaps damper, I’m not sure.
But I know this: I never once wanted to go back
to where I was born or to take my sons to a Legion.
Not once.

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The Royal Canadian Legion is a non-profit Canadian veterans organization founded in 1925. Almost every small town and village in Canada has a ‘Legion hall,’ a social club, attached bar and a display of war memorabilia collected from the members.

Passchendaele was a long and bloody Allied campaign of World War I that took place near the city of Ypres, in Belgium and was a classic battle of the western front of that war: mud, trenches, gas attacks, “up and over” the wire, no mans land, large numbers of men charging head on into machine gun fire, incredible kill rates…total estimates are a half million lives lost. It started in July of 1917 and ended ignominiously in November of the same year, failing to meet any of its strategic goals. Its value or waste as part of that war is still disputed, but one thing is clear: the horrific experience nearly consumed the entire contingent of many Canadian regiments and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment—where the old man of this poem served—in particular.

The photograph was taken at the top of Mount Wachussetts, in Massachussetts at the end of a particularly cold November, 2014. The memory of meeting that old man has been kicking its way into being a poem for some time, but it took 2014, the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, to bring it forth. To see my photography blog, 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 in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.

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