Tag Archives: patience

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 what the reward is
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 knew,
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.

up

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.

Advertisements

10 Comments

Filed under Poetry

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.

13 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Mavash Sabet’s “At Such a Time You’ll Come”

Mahvash Sabet is a Bahá’í prisoner of conscience currently serving an unjust 20 year sentence in Iran. Read more of her story here.

At Such a Time You’ll Come

I fear that time
when patience will no more be mine
when brittle hope will have been blown away,
it’s kindness gone,
when the wind will have scattered me
and my eyes will have strayed from the path–O!
if no door opens to me then, not one–
I will know for sure it is that time
when you will come again.

 

up

 

I am amazed at the strength and constancy that this poem radiates! Especially for one who is unjustly in prison and ill, such utter resignation is like a blade of grass which bends to the storm, unlike a strong tree, which is uprooted and thrown down.

Please consider purchasing Mahvash Sabet’s poetry as an act of solidarity in the fight for human rights: in the US, from Amazonin the UK, directly from the publisher.

john

This English edition of At Such a Time You’ll Come is ©2013 by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, who adapted the original Persian text into English; all rights reserved.

3 Comments

Filed under Poetry

The long wait


IMG_5576

God, but don’t I just know it:
that greedy little glutton
sucks the life right out of you—
all my grandparents, one by one,
then my brother, and now,
Stage IIIB in my father’s lungs.
I mean, one year? What’s that,
with a lifetime to repair?

And what do I do then?

swril2

 

Phil Wilke,  my best friend from Kansas (and just one of the funniest, most genuine and upright guys you will ever want to meet) recently emailed me to let me know that his father had just been diagnosed with Stage IIIB lung cancer. In that email he had written a small haiku detailing his family’s history with the dreaded disease, a poem which ended with “cancer sucks.” I asked permission, which he granted, to work on the poem for the Book of Pain.

I cannot imagine there is anyone left today who has not had a close friend or family member who has been struck by the disease. Even as our ability to fight it slowly increases, so too does its rate of occurrence seem to be increasing. And yet we persevere and support those we love because that is all we know to do.

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

The photograph was taken in Newfoundland, which I visited recently, to visit my ailing father. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Poem © 2014 by Phil Wilke and John Etheridge; all rights reserved. Photograph 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 and Phil Wilke,  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.

11 Comments

Filed under Poetry

It’s long been said

I

Poems have conversations between themselves
about us behind our backs, and what’s worse,
with total strangers. Yes, they lie meekly
enough on the page where we place them
but this is all a sham, because among themselves
they bunch into cabals and define us and measure us
and to be honest, find us generally wanting—
although wanting of what they’re not sure.

It’s best to let them go. That’s what I do.

II

Words know that we isolate and abuse them,
split them and twist them and sneak them in wrongly.
They know when and how they’re hard done by
and that they get old, become jumbled and confused,
get left places where they ought not to be
and are ‘re-purposed’ out of retirement,
when they should have been left alone.
Then too, they get lonely and search for
solace and meaning between where they are
and where they aren’t, but mostly where
they should be (but again aren’t) and how,
to their mind, they’ve lost their purpose in life.

It’s best to let them go. That’s what I do.

III

When you think about it, words don’t sum up very well,
that’s the forté of numbers. But don’t tell words that
because poems have words and words have letters
and letters are really very jealous of numbers.
It’s got to do with numbers being exact and complex
despite their simplicity—and with those fancy infinities.
Letters, on the other hand, are inexact and simple,
despite their complexity, and are fixed and bound
in their snobby little groups.

Let them go, let them all go. That’s what I do.

up

Thank you for reading the three poems that make up It’s long been written. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed them and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

Allow me to invite you to my photography blog, the Book of Bokeh.

john

© 2014 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: © 2014 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

16 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Closer to you now

The slow steady pace of the slow steady stars,
the mad heady race of the hands ‘round the face
of the clock that first ticked when you were born.
This is the beast that hid in the dark
to chase you and test you and often times best you,
never once ever letting you stop.
Stop.

In the shadows of the flickering candle
the beast stalks you slowly tonight.
The fluttering pulse at your neck,
the gentle rise of your breast,
the heat of your castaway breath…
I am closer to you now
than the blood that flows in your veins.

This poem dates from when I first met my wife. In the intervening years, ”time” is no longer quite the beast it was back then.  As we age we know that we face inevitable decline, but that is the nature of the journey, and it is a wonderful journey for all of that.

The final two lines are based on an Arabic saying, “God is closer to you than your own jugular.”

Thank you for reading Closer to you now. 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.

11.23.12

12 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Blessed be the hand that slips

Each morning I shave an illustrated man
and memories glide beneath my razor.
Yours is a rainbow that sings of crystal
in many hues of light,
while yours is a bell that plays a dirge
to softly call down the night.
And yours is the river and yours the tree,
and yours the scent of spring blossoms.

But yours—yes, yours—yours is the blade
that moves across my throat—
up and then up and then up and then up.
And what is that little drop of red
that stains through the white
to make no sound at all? That too is you
and you—yes, you—you are the loudest of all.
Up.

The Illustrated Man is an early science fiction book by Ray Bradbury. Made into a movie in 1969, it explores the relationship of man to the world. The main character has a series of tattoos that move over his body that predict the future and make him into a time traveler.

Is it just me or do we all often daydream as we go through the mundane chores of our life, remembering past incidents and people we have interacted with?

Thank you for reading Blessed be the hand that slips. 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.

5 Comments

Filed under Poetry