Tag Archives: reflection

That selfie you took

upOff to wherever for whatever, but before we go—
snap that photo in the here and now
and post it to the fast receding, the there and when,
the 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 understanding the race (going/going/gone),
or 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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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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An early fall walk in the evening

IMG_6684What I remember best is the sharp smell of wild grapes
carried aloft in a warm updraft, their sharp tang a hint
of the coming winter, when their leaves would be withered,
their vines dried and their roots driven deep into slumber.

I know they don’t, but I wonder anyway—do they dream
and look forward to a wet spring and a warm summer?
Do they yearn for another year, to bear again their bitter fruit?
Do they think about waking, and then, knowing that they are awake,
do they bask in the knowledge that they are the good creation of a
good God, aright in their place and placed aright by love’s design?
So much living, I think, for such a little tang on a last warm night,
there and then gone in a quick waft of air. But by then I’ve moved on
and am thinking, was it ever there at all?

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It was actually on a bicycle ride when the scent of wild grapes hit us, so it is a small exercise of my artistic license to switch it to the simpler idea of a walk. It so happened that just after the grapes we climbed a miserable hill, the kind that is fun to mock afterwards but which you dread before you go up it—the long, steep and panting kind. But still, I was grateful: that hill afforded me a lot of time to think about those grapes.

Thank you for reading An early fall walk in the evening. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is of some wild grapes in the fall, taken at the Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts. 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
ball-field, “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 baseball diamond is gone, the bleachers torn down and the park
that replaced it goes unused. The mill is shut down too, a victim
of much wanting more: the unions, the company, the town. In fact,
I hear they’re going to tear down the empty buildings and rehabilitate
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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Spiced, as it were

I minced some words and baked them,
first rolling out hopes, then edging it with prayers
and finally stuffing it with love, lust and lunacy,
wonderment too. Then I garnished it
with angst and woe, set the oven to the degree
of the heart and twisted the timer to ‘trust.’
Funny, sad, ironic and salty/sweet
it is sometimes wasted but always flavorful,
if mealy, the poem I have made and lived thus far.

I was listening to an A Way With Words podcast when the discussion was on the word ‘minced’ and its etymological root, “min” meaning tiny. (Minimum, minuscule, mini etc.) In my head the phrase ‘minced meat,’ meaning ground beef, jumped to ‘mincemeat,’ meaning chopped nuts and fruits (as in the traditional British Christmas pie) jumped to ‘I won’t mince words,’ meaning being clear, jumped to some blended notion that ended up being the recipe (sorry, I couldn’t resist that) for this poem.

I wish I could claim “love, lust, and lunacy” (but not necessarily in that order) as my own, but I cannot. My memory tells me that I first came across them in a John Dickson Carr mystery—perhaps a Gideon Fell story—where they were listed (along with “loathing and lucre”) as the five causes of murder. But I cannot find a definitive reference for this to prove my memory. In searching the list in Google, all I can come up with is a reference to the mystery writer P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley, a sequel to Jane Auten’s Pride and Prejudice. But this is surely incorrect to imply first coinage; she is a much more recent a writer than Carr.

Thank you for reading Spiced, as it were. 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.

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Perhaps famous then

If ever I do, a corpse would show up in the first chapter with no doubts as to the cause: murder most foul. (That is life, after all.) There’d be multiple victims too, the more the merrier and besides, they’re cheap. And they’d all be nasty characters whose banality made their painful ends necessary—good riddance. The culprit would be more nastiness whose iron clad alibi slowly rusts under the withering gaze of the eccentric, gruff, yet kindhearted hero/ine, who, after some stooge makes an innocuous comment, understands the impossibly irrelevant clues sprinkled hither and thither throughout the missive and determines how the improbable thing was done in the first place, and why. That’s always a crowd pleaser—why—even if not true. Then, after the guilty party stupidly brags a confession (which is—let’s be honest—good justice but bad law) the young love interests are reconciled, the obvious suspects are redeemed, the idiotic police are mollified and the whole shebang closed with the return of some incongruous and enigmatic scene that had started the whole thing off but which had, of course, nothing to do with the story—this to show you how arty I am: a grubbing lizard, perhaps, or something equally revolting.

I know, I know—it would be totally neo-romantic of me,
but still, a cozy, comfortable world where despite the corpses,
if not exactly because of them, we are not left instead
to hold the aging, crumbling books that we have in our hands,
half stories unfinished, chapters cut short, pages torn out
and the binding falling apart; and where,
when it is written—if it is written at all—it is written
so obscurely or quickly or densely that we cannot decipher it,
or remember it, or care about it once we know it; or worse,
we fool ourselves into thinking that we understand it
but don’t need it. Good riddance then, I suppose too,
but there’s no wonder—no mystery—in that, not really.
Or comfort.
I almost envy the corpses.

This is the second of a trio of narrative poems I have written recently. In fact, I chose to make the first verse entirely narrative because of its subject. Why, in my dotage, I have taken it upon myself to write this type of poetry, which is rare for me, I cannot say. But it is up to you to say whether the effort is worth it. (Some would say that any change to my style would be an improvement, but those people are mostly family members who can be ignored and their comments edited out.)

In the end, however, don’t let the jocular tone of the poem fool you. At its core, this is a very serious poem.

Thank you for reading Perhaps famous then. 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.

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