Tag Archives: pain

Nobody gets to kill you but me


Nobody gets to kill you but me,
she said (your Irish twin, your guardian angel),
too bloody right, just her.
Ask bully boy. You were eight, she was nine and he was,
that day, all of forty-eight stitches from eternity;
she swung a mean shovel, she did—for you.

But damn, her diagnosis took too long!
The surgeries that were botched,
the years that wore on,
the brunt of the pain carried
until it could be borne no longer…
you’ve wept enough, your hands are clean,
let her go, she’s gone; and now you know
she wasn’t just saying it to you.

Recently a dear friend’s beloved older sister committed suicide after many years of a debilitating and pain-ridden illness. The story in this poem is true: both my friend and her sister were, when children, digging a hole to China (and why not?!) when my friend was accosted by a bully, much to his quick lament because her older sister whoomphed him with her shovel. And ‘nobody gets to kill you but me‘ is exactly what the older sibling—during their many shared escapades—would say to her sister.

Love isn’t always easy; love isn’t always pretty; and love doesn’t always end up or go where you want it to. But it is binding, forever.

Thank you for reading Nobody gets to kill you but me. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken at The Grand Canyon. 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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To those I should have loved more



There is a sky somewhere, vast enough, blue enough,
so high, so round, so close, so bright
that it brings your should-have-been’s, could-have-been’s
and hoped-to-be’s back together,
so that the tears you cry are ones of joy,
and the clouds that go by, go swiftly—
high and tight to the warming sun.
And as those clouds fade and float away
they can take with them all that you let slip,
rightly or wrongly, wisely or churlishly,
so that there and then, on that spot,
with that sky singing above you,
you will forge, my lovers, forgiveness;
and it will wash over you
and it will cleanse you
and you will be a fire
to everyone around you.
And you will not hurt,
at least not then, maybe never.
We’ll see.

Thank you for reading To those I should have loved more. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken on my way to work one morning. 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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Non-parental events


Words pound through hot pulsed air
and bile rises 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 right,
it’s the words themselves who’ve moved
and 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 tale
my skin is never going to feel right again.
Because it’s not just, Who am I?
it’s, 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 to the family they grew up with. 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 is not, to those 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 Non-parental events. 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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All grown up



My sons keep themselves awake at night,
their future the warp and their fear the weft
of a blanket that dares them to sleep,
because it wants to drag them down
into their darkness, gasping.

I hear this, I see this, I know this, I care;
I raised them, I love them, I do.
And it’s not that I want to, or don’t,
or should or shouldn’t or won’t,
it’s their time, not mine;
so for me, I’m sorry,
but at night,
I sleep like
a stone.

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

The photograph was taken at the Fundació Joan Miró museum in Barcelona, Spain. I cannot remember the artist’s name, but it was from an installation entitled Scars. 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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Ups, ups and more ups


There are no promises in life.
But there is a mercy in hope
and a simple majesty in being
where you find yourself to be—
if you embrace it.
As the guy with dementia said,
Sunup, wake up and get up: repeat!
Now that, my friends, is a friend.

swril2

Although I now live in the United States, I was born in Canada and occasionally listen to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in my car. It was there, on the tail-end of a segment about a gentleman from Ontario with worsening dementia, that I heard him talk about his ‘three ups.’ I have no idea what the story was about, but those words were like an explosion in my head and I knew that I had a stalled poem that was begging for some sense of finality, and that this was it.

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

The photograph was recently taken in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the largest of the Balearic Islands of Spain. 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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Linger a while—thou art so fair!


She wants to reach out, pick up the phone and call,
talk some and remember, laugh, cry and share.
She wants to turn it all back and remember the little things
that were the big things, and wonders if even now
they can still go there as can she. It’s not easy, or fair—
that’s life—but at least it could be together.

Paradoxically, she also wants to forget, to hold onto
what was her mom and not the hag she’s become,
but God, it is so very, very hard! And it’s late, and she’s tired,
and that phone just sits there, not ringing—no, never that—
but still, keeping her up with its infinite, sweet choices,
even though none of them, she suspects, is hope.

I love the title of this poem, even if I have taken it out of context. About the poem I will say no more, having said more of the story than I probably ought. But about the title…

Verweile doch! Du bist so schön! from Göthe’s Faust, is probably the most well-known and often quoted line in German literature. That 19th-century play deals with the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil for worldly gain. This passage, translated as Linger a while—thou art so fair! comes from the scene where Faust is sealing the deal and confirming that if ever he has a moment that is sublime and lingering, then at that instant the pact is complete and he will die and go to hell for eternity.

The full passage is:

Werd ich zum Augenblicke sagen:
Verweile doch! Du bist so schön!
Dann magst du mich in Fesseln schlagen,
dann will ich gern zu grunde gehen!

One translation is:

When I say to the Moment flying;
‘Linger a while—thou art so fair!’
Then bind me in thy bonds undying,
And my final ruin I will bear!

But that key line has many other interpretations, all of which I love:

Beautiful moment, do not pass away!

‘Ah, stay a while! You are so lovely!’

Do stay with me, thou art so beautiful!

And many, many more.

Thank you for reading Linger a while—thou art so fair! I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken last fall in our hometown of Putnam, CT on an early morning walk. 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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Pain


IMG_1969
It’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 its last kiss before sleeping to its first caress when waking
it’s the demon that haunts you in-between: silent, unseen, crippling.
How did such a one become a friend?

up

This poem was first drafted by my sister, Cindy, who was then—and had, at that point, been for some years—facing severe medical issues, most of which are now (thank God!) resolved.

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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Cheers

 

IMG_0149I never got drunk with my father,
never got to count each little blessing
as it was poured, shared and savored;
never journeyed with him through
relaxed, wisdom and laughter
to solemn, soused and 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 poured ourselves into
each other’s glasses and now
that he’s gone—it’s me now,
I’m no longer so sure we shouldn’t
have shared that close a misery,
at least once.

up

My conversion to the Baha’i  Faith caused my father, who was a devout Catholic, a terrible degree of pain and worry. And although it was never a contentious point between us, he never accepted my choice and was always, even if reconciled to it, 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 families) slide down that hole of excess and misery.

In any event, it’s too late now…

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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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.

up

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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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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