Tag Archives: regret

Entropy


The jet plumes tore across the azure sky
straighter than any arrow had a right to.
I remember I was just married, a father,
grappling with a turbulent life. Today,
looking at that sky, I realized I was 30 years on
and hadn’t so much sailed, as aimed, like those lines,
which were blurring, even as I watched them.
Back then I had needed the world to move it!
but had expected it to do so without me,
so that when I was done
I’d have all those savings in hand,
not the wisps I am left now holding.
What a fool I was, and me, a poet too. Imagine.

Of all my early engineering subjects (computer nerd was something I was lucky enough to grow into later) I recall that entropy was the most mysterious and interesting. A measure of molecular disorder (i.e. randomness), it is an idea with specific and calculable effect on thermodynamic systems (think heating systems and air conditioners), but also, general effect in physics (forcing time to only move forward) and, therefore, life—all life, all when. (I said it was mysterious.)

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

The photograph was taken just outside of where I work in Rhode Island. They are the plumes that recalled to my mind the idea of a poem that had interrupted my sleep the night before—thereby saving it from extinction. 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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A service I am now glad to repay

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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, like him, question myself down 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 earned it.

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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_6943I was ten and my thirteen-year-old
cousin David was a lost boy…
lost to the parents who had uglied him away,
lost again to the younger ones he tried to protect,
lost finally to the madness in his cytoblast,
which copied him/copied him/copied him on,
until it copied him into his grave.
Our 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,
so they took him in.
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’ve 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 his family 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 he 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 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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Doesn’t it?


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I was promised more than this, I’m certain.
Go to church/listen to me/’cause I said so—that’s why!
But these tropes are all a debtor’s bargain, a fool’s bet—
the carrot and stick that was a moment of repose
with years yet to fade away: heart and hope,
a hand to hold and no one left wanting.

All the talking, would, I thought, have been done by now,
the lessons heard and learned with everyone’s pride still intact.
I bought it all, I sold it all and am ashamed to say that I wanted it all.
Surely that counts for something.

 

swril2

Thank you for reading Doesn’t it? 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 Acadia National Park in Maine. 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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It may be too late

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Resolution is the accuracy of what you know,
latency the pause to grasp it,
hesitation the wait to action
and duration how long you understand it.

Clearly, Mr. Time is, at best,
an awkward fellow to know.
He is, at first, all bluff fun and bonhomie,
good-natured and full of laughs. But then
he grows shiftier the longer he sticks around,
until with a slap of surprise and a wink of wonder
he’s off, and you, you’re just left there,
bemused, knowing you’ve bought into
something that you’d perhaps rather not have,
but it’s too late, you’re left holding it,
not quite sure what ‘it’ is; knowing only
that it must be valuable and thinking
there’s something that is yet undone.
It’s not until the end that you see him, not for him,
(for his own sake) but you for you (for your own)
immediately, instantly and forever. And by then…

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The photograph was taken in Bodie State Park, Bodie California…a very real ghost town. 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 copyright holder.

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Pete Hulme’s “Mary”

IMG_4158I’d creak my way upstairs sometimes and dare
the backroom where my sister, Mary, died
before I was born. ‘Her lungs were putrid
at the end,’ my mother said. ‘I couldn’t bear
to see.’
……..I’d stand there questioning the air
for traces of some meaning it might hide.
On the wall above the iron bedstead,
fading in his photograph, my father,
his broad shoulders stretching his jacket tight,
held a huge bullcalf by a rope, half-stern,
half-smiling, proud: younger then the grim grey
man I knew – and straighter. Then the thought:
a man that to trench-fire did not bow, the burn
of one small child’s loss bent easily.

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This poem is by Pete Hulme and is posted with his permission. Pete’s original post of this poem is from his Everybody Means Something blog.

Mary is a heartbreaking poem of loss and regret, the more so since the writer, being so young clearly does not yet know how to access or process such grief, and yet is, in his own unique way, bound to it, making the double hurt all that much more poignant. Thus always is the pain of such innocents.

Thank you for reading Pete Hulme’s “Mary”. 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. Poem © June, 2012 by Pete Hulme; all rights reserved.

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