Tag Archives: poem

Hats did

hats

Men cannot wear hats anymore.
Caps, yes, but caps are low brow,
a statement in a statement that no one
seems to care they are making.

But hats—men’s hats—they are the relic of
a choice that was once close and dear
but is now long and gone, lost to us forever.
No one sells them, no one knows how to block them
and nowhere, anymore, will you find racks to hold them.
And when men do try to wear them, they never know
when to remove them, when to raise them
and certainly not when to pull them down.
The art of it is clearly lost.

Still, they lasted longer than politeness,
you have to give them that,
if nothing else.

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I struggled with just the word ‘politeness’ and wanted, in fact, to use ‘common politeness’ instead, mostly because ‘uncommon politeness’ (think of the famous who detest each other, but who still make nice for the cameras) seems to be alive and well. However, it never scanned properly and in the end, you have to go with what comes well off the tongue.

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

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

john

The photo is in the public domain. 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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Behind us only justice

DSC05370If this is not the end then woe to us the fallen,
for the only comforts remaining are the lies
from the low and the ferment from the front.
So here we remain, toe-to-toe/heart-to-heart,
with no plans to connive nor options to pursue,
left only to mete out apathy and hand-wringing.
We would bear witness to these truths—we would—
if we had a breath left to draw on; alas, we don’t.

But if the scales are shifting (and I am terrified they are)
surely it is the innocent who are swinging the beam.
Yes, you can weep, but if you see it as a truth,
try not to complain, it’s nobler that way and besides,
it’s better than being left to twist in the wind.

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This poem grew from the seed of a line that was cut early in the writing:

I’m not wrong, but I’ll not insist on the right—especially as I am.

It, in turn, was a paraphrase of a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche:

It is nobler to declare oneself wrong than to insist on being right—especially when one is right.

While to start with an idea from a famous philosopher can be inspirational, in the end I thought it better to write bad Etheridge than imitate good Nietzsche.

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

The photograph was taken in Washington, DC at the Lincoln Memorial. 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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A service I am now glad to repay

img_8357

Patrick died in an alcoholic haze of shame, resentment and relief,
wondering, I suspect, where along the path it had all gone wrong,
yet knowing he had no answer. Long ago, he had befriended me,
and when I needed it—but did not expect it—he had been kind to me.
He was my friend.

Do I know as little as he then—me, now, with all my memories?
And will I, these years on, question myself to the grave’s edge?
Yes, probably—we all have our Irish to carry, we poor debtors, we do.
So goodnight, friend Patrick, I am here for you, let it go and sleep well.
You’ve earned it.

swril2

Many years ago, when I had just returned to Newfoundland from Africa, newly married and near broke, Patrick Kennedy hired me to a job that I loved and which set the course of my career. He was a jovial, friendly fellow (among other things, I recall we shared a love for Bruce Springsteen) who was always willing to talk, always willing to help, always quick with a laugh and a quip. To hear recently, after all these years, how bitter and tragic was his end saddened me very much.

John Waters is a well-known Irish journalist who got sober in 1989. He, better than anyone else, has captured the heart of what it is to be Irish:

“Drinking [to the Irish] is not simply a convivial pastime, it is a ritualistic alternative to real life, a spiritual placebo, a fumble for eternity, a longing for heaven, a thirst for return to the embrace of the Almighty.”

I grew up with alcoholics all around me and swore off drink when, at seventeen, I became a Bahá’í. For this and many things else, I have thanked God ever since. I know too well the devastation addiction brings.

Thank you for reading A service I am now glad to repay. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in my home in Connecticut. 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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Gone in the blood

IMG_6943He was a lost boy, was David, my just-a-teen cousin.
Lost to the parents who uglied him away,
lost to the younger ones he tried to protect,
lost finally to the madness in his cytoblast
that copied him/copied him/copied him on,
until it copied him into his grave.
Aunt Vi and uncle George were childless
and loved us nieces and nephews like we were their own,
but David—he was David—special was little David,
he would have been, I think, more like them
(and, most hopefully, sober like him)
if Goliath had not struck him down.

Wilfred was David’s younger brother, and I just spent
an hour sifting through the photos of his obituary.
Fifty-one, he was, tired looking with fat jowls
and heavy, bloodshot eyes, a beer by his side
in every photo they shared of him.
I don’t think that when we lost David
anyone would have said he was the lucky one.
But lost is a relative place and once he was gone
he was somewhere safe where he could always be found,
which is not something that, to be honest,
could be said of the rest of us left behind.

swril2

I once went on a hike with David down by the river near the town where we lived. It is a day that I remember vividly, from a time in my life when I have few memories; I probably was not yet a teen, he probably just was and he would be gone in another year or two. Curiously, I have no specific memories of David being sick with leukemia, or of his dying, or of going to his funeral, or of everyone around me grieving. And yet, all of this must have happened. I can only surmise now, years later, that I just blocked it all out.

I know I admired David—he was older and therefore more daring, after all—but I also remember there always being a cloud of worry about him. Although I was young and knew no details, I was aware in a vague, whispered way that he did not have a happy home life and I knew that was a very sad thing.

God rest you all, my lonely, sad, lost cousins.

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

The photograph was taken on a walk in a local park one fall morning. The empty bottle had been left on the table exactly where I photographed it. By a person? Some people? It had been a party? Loud? Quiet? I don’t know. You never do. 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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Grown up

upAll cherub cheeks he was, too,
our lost little boy, our hero,
brave in trying, braver in failing,
learning that a button on a controller
is not a hip swing out on the slopes.
Can you remember it, son?
White, white snow beneath great green conifers
and the sky as blue as dreams, just kinder?
The deep, deep air so full of ever and forever?

He’s dead now, you know.
Lost he was, out there, under an avalanche of words—
some true, most not—yet all of them excuses
that still echo down their cold, slippery trails.
It was, I suppose, failures in happanstance—
some simple, most not—but I find myself
wondering, just the same, how it would have
turned out if he had stuck to snowboarding
that day. If he had just stuck with it.

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At this point, I cannot possibly tell you why it has been so long since I posted a poem. Excuses abound, of course, but at this point they ring hollow, even to me. Who decided when your muse comes and goes? No one, I suppose, but for so long she was always “just…almost…right there…” Close, but not close enough. Anyway…

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

The photograph was taken of some poor hapless soul on a slope in New Hampshire just as he was wiping out, “having a garage sale” as the joke goes. (You wipe out so bad that all your equipment goes hither and yon and you can’t be bothered to go fetch it. Let anyone who makes an offer have 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.

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I do

LynPraying

God, but what an honor it is
to love and to be loved by you!
By this I do not mean
the self of youth,
the callow of desire
or the inertia of long nights.
For me, for you, for evermore
it is the bright of your soul,
the kiss of your smile,
the glow of your too often
set upon patience.

I do not love you with every
fiber of my being, and with
every twinge of my every second.
I love you more than that,
I do.

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For Lyn, of course.

The Bahá’í Faith recently completed its yearly fasting period. This poem came to me when I suddenly awoke at 3:00 AM on the last night of the fast. I remember being shocked with the clarity and completeness of it: having a poem arrive like that is something that rarely happens to me. Although tired, I was able to force myself to stay awake long enough to memorize it, so that it would still be with me the next morning. Thankfully it was!

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

The photograph of Lyn praying at the side of a small river was taken several years ago during a fall holiday to the Poconos in eastern Pennsylvania. 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 selfie you took

upOff to wherever for whatever, but before we go—
snap that photo in the here and now and post
it up to the fast receding, the there and when,
that touch that was, hope fading into forgot…

There we’ll remain with our firm, sure smiles,
left for our heirs to puzzle out, caught by us
in their time as were we in ours at the try:
whatever did we think we had to look forward to?

This is what ties us, each generation, one to the other,
no one else understanding the race, going/going/gone,
that determined moment we thought so real, sent
before us just the same. Almost as if by accident.
What was it I thought I was saying?

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My apologies for such a long hiatus, but I’ve been working on a project for my Masters degree.

I was struck recently by an article discussing how fast we are loosing the World War 2 vets. In the United States, 16 million men and women were in uniform for that conflict, but now less than a million are alive. Their median age today is in the mid 90’s. Those who still remain are dying at a rate of 500 a day.

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Look at them. So young and confidant, so sure of the pure reality and timelessness of their moment and now fading, almost gone…and we who remain, no matter how hard we try, we cannot grab their moment, their reality.

And what does that say to us of our so-real-to-us, reality? Much, I think.

Thank you for reading That selfie you took. 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, 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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