Tag Archives: redemption

Ian Hamilton’s “Home”

This weather won’t let up. Above our heads
The houses lean upon each other’s backs
And suffer the dark sleet that lashes them
Downhill. One window is alight.

‘That’s where I live.’ My father’s sleepless eye
Is burning down on us. The ice
That catches in your hair melts on my tongue.

swril2

I have previously posted several of Ian Hamilton’s poems, who I believe to be one of the best poets of the second half of the 20th century. It is a tragedy that his work is not better known and that his Collected Poems is out of print.

Note the brevity here, yet too the intensity of emotion, the sense of darkness out on the edge, the quick sense of joy that fades too quickly. All vintage Hamilton, all excellent and all evocative.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “Home”. 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

Comments © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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The rest is not silence

The greatest jolt that one can bear is the sound of dirt
hitting the casket lid. It lingers long on the air,
echoing the heart’s crescendo and tripping the breath’s staccato.

Listen:
the melody of a life is never sung complete or only in one key,
the end beats are seldom, if ever, in rhythm
and the harmony can be discordant to a degree.
That is why it is left to the rest stops—those blessed little spaces,
those tiny, magical pauses between the major and minor shifts—
where a life beat is best measured and heard aright.
Song is about silence, as death is about life,
or at least, that is what I heard sung that day.

This poem was written for the daughter of very dear friends, who, after a long battle with addiction, lost that fight. She was a dear soul, a generous, kindhearted person and a loving mother, who, like many people caught in her situation, seemed unable to stop or dull an ache that just wouldn’t quit or be denied.

I remember her funeral well. Her mother had written a eulogy that she asked my wife to read on her behalf. It started off, “I remember the first time I looked into your eyes,” and a few minutes later, after recalling many happy and warm times, there was not a dry eye in the room. But when it got to the end and she recalled looking into her daughter’s eyes that very last time as she prepared the body for burial, everyone was bawling. When my wife got back to our seat I asked her how she got through it without breaking down, because I know I couldn’t have done it. “I have no idea,” she said, “Some power came over me to help me.” It was later when she cried.

Reading this you’d think that the entire day was pure tragedy, and I don’t deny that it was sad.  But after reflection it is a sense of redemption that I carry with me now, because that day was also heartwarming. A beloved child, a dear sister, a loving mother was dead; but she was also honored and loved, and that honor and love was poured out in such abundance that day that there was also—or at least there was for me—a sense of understanding, of closure and of letting go with dignity.

Thank you for reading The rest is not silence. 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.

– 2012.12.01

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This time it would be different

Hey, let’s buy a mobile home,
a thirty footer at least!
We could steal away, just us two
and do a cross-continental tour,
the Southern Cross—
you riding support
and me pedaling my bike,
crucifixion on the road.

Can’t you just see it?
Santa Monica to the Jersey Shore
via Death Valley and points beyond,
starting New Years and done by Easter,
suffering it out, pain to the core,
piss ‘n’ vinegar in every wound.
Each day you’d be to the right
and I’d be to the left,
you the navigator leading me true,
but this time bringing me home before
I pulled the dark down around me again.
That would be awesome! It really would,
just awesome! I wish we could.

up

My sister and brother-in-law just bought a big Winnebago. The funny thing about this is that it was an idea in which they had never proposed any interest until one day they had done it, and now they love it. On the other hand, it is an idea that I have always raved about, especially with the idea of combining it with a slow, cross-continental tour by bicycle. It is also a plan about which my poor, long suffering wife has always rolled her eyes, thinking (possibly, perhaps rightly) I’d hate it. Irony…it has to be the most powerful force in the universe!

So I started this poem with a very heavy hand of humor, only to find it squiggling away and becoming, underneath the original tone, something very different indeed. It started with the words, “Southern Cross.”

Thank you for reading I’d be the unrepentant one on the left. 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.

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.

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Ian Hamilton’s “The Storm”

Miles off, a storm breaks. It ripples to our room.
You look up into the light so it catches one side
Of your face, your tight mouth, your startled eye.
You turn to me and when I call you come
Over and kneel beside me, wanting me to take
Your head between my hands as if it were
A delicate bowl that the storm might break.
You want me to get between you and the brute thunder.
Settling on your flesh my great hands stir,
Pulse on you and the then, wondering how to do it, grip,
The storm rolls through me as your mouth opens.

As many of you know, I have previously posted several of Ian Hamilton’s poems, and in fact, intended to stop at his Prayer. But I have continued reading his work and cannot stop myself from posting a few more of his poems that I have come to admire.

This is an incredible poem. It builds tension so quickly that it really does feel like a storm is coming. But it is the interaction between the two characters of ‘the voice’ and ‘the other,’ that is amazing here. The voice calling for the fearful other, the gentle touching, the clear insight into the fear that is felt. Obviously there is kindness, empathy, love and trust, but then, at the end, as with all of Hamilton’s poetry, total and complete honesty and the explosion of an unexpected reality of pain, sorrow and regret.

I am not sure what the storm really was, although I suspect it is Hamilton’s first’s wife’s mental illness. But it doesn’t matter. This poem is so cathartic in nature that it expands into all human existence. Anyone who has loved and felt the beloved’s pain understands this poem well. All too well.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to: his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “The Storm”. 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

Comments © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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Ian Hamilton’s ‘Prayer’

Look sir, my hands are steady now,
My brain a cloudless day.
Is that the sound of breakfast down below?
To eat again seems possible.
To breathe?
No problem, Lord, I promise. I’m OK.

I have, for some time now, been posting some of Ian Hamilton’s poems; Prayer is the fifth and the last in this series. It is his last poem, written as he was dying of cancer in 2001.

Having read the entire collection of his poems, which are few in number, but each powerfully written, I am personally convinced he is the finest poet of the second half of the 20th century. This is obviously a very audacious assessment; but whether you agree with this or not, I am certain that you will enjoy exploring his oeuvre.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

For more on Ian Hamilton, I refer you to: his Wikipedia page.

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s ‘Prayer. 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

Comments © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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Where else?

Where else but back to the sea
the place where you had swum so deep, so often before?
Where else but into its depths, its mysterious, wonderful depths
where the water is so black that it has turned into ink and only the heart can see?
Where else but back, back to the light waiting for you there, waiting at the end?
There—yes—there into that ocean, that is where the swimmer, that leviathan,
that siren upon the rocks of ‘Akká went.
Where else?

O Nabil!
Did you stand upon that rocky shore and count your forty waves?
Did you stand and pause to the east, before your last ablution?
Did you manage to mend your heart as the waters drew around you?
O swimmer!
As you sought the depths, what did you find there?
Was it despair, or something sweeter?

This will be a long post, and for that I apologize. But to understand this poem, you need to understand its context, and if you are not a Bahá’í, it will take a bit of explanation.

The poem is about Nabil-i-Zarandi, a Persian who is described in God Passes By—a history of the first century of the Bahá’í Faith—as “Bahá’u’lláh’s ‘Poet-Laureate, His chronicler and His indefatigable disciple.’ ” (Bahá’u’lláh is the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith.)  Alas, when Bahá’u’lláh passed away in 1982, Nabil, stricken with despair and inconsolable over the loss of his Beloved, drowned himself in the ocean near ‘Akká, the prison city in what was then the Ottoman Empire and which is now located in northern Israel.

The Bahá’í Faith holds that, “The source of all good is trust in God and contentment with His holy will and pleasure.” Suicide is forbidden as it is the irreversible act of rebellion and a rejection of God’s Will. And yet, who cannot empathize with the act of despair and longing represented in Nabil’s act?

Nabil was a very deepened Bahá’í who had, like few others, immersed himself in the Ocean of His Beloved’s Words and was one of Bahá’u’lláh’s most ardent, trustworthy and devoted followers. With Bahá’u’lláh’s passing, the Sun of Nabil’s life, the very center of his existence was gone.

We cannot judge the actions of anyone hen taken under the duress of total despair. We can only beg God, on their behalf, to have mercy on them and to forgive them for their deeds.

Some miscellaneous points:

• leviathan – in ancient times a giant creature of the sea; now generally taken to mean whale.

• siren – a mythical creature of the sea that calls out to sailors with a beautiful voice, summoning them.

• ‘Akká –  the penal colony in what is now northern Israel where Bahá’u’lláh was exiled for the last 24 years of His life. It is across the bay from the city of Haifa, Israel, about 20 miles south of Jordan.

• count your forty waves – it is a tradition in Islam that anyone that stands on the shore of ‘Akká and counts forty waves will have all their sins, past, present and future forgiven. It is one of many ‘Akká related traditions quoted by Bahá’u’lláh to point out that ‘Akká, known throughout the Islamic world as a pestilential and filthy city to be avoided at all costs, was blessed in antiquity, in prophecy of His arrival there.

• ablution – the ritual act of cleansing before saying obligatory prayers..

Thank you for reading Were else? 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.

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