Tag Archives: regret

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, 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.

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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_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’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 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.

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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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Doesn’t it?

IMG_2161_2_3_4_5I was promised more than this, I’m certain.
Go to church, stay in school, wash behind your ears!
Keep it shut, listen to me, because I said so, that’s why.
But these tropes are all a debtor’s bargain, a fool’s bet—
the carrot and stick that is a spot of ease,
a moment of repose, with years left to fade away—
heart and hope, a hand to hold and no one left wanting.

All the talking, would, I thought, be done by now,
the lessons heard, wisdom learned and pride earned.
I bought it all, I sold it all and am ashamed to say
that I wanted it all. Surely that counts now for something.

 

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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, 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, still,
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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I set out to write a book

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and placed my hero there at the start,
riding up a mountain on an old horse,
but paused, admiring the vista below—
it was just before the ambush was to hit.

And there I abandoned him, poor fool.
I had once had better plans for him, true,
but isn’t that always the case?
Hard done by he was to have been,
disgraced and bought to low esteem,
but being doughty and sure of purpose—
never casting it off for ease or self—
he would have endured through life and love
until his glorious self-sacrifice at the end.
He will never, I know now, make it to that end,
worse luck for him..his time has run out.
It seems I ambushed the coward after all.

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Thank you for reading I set out to write a book. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken from the top of Barrett Hill in Pomfret, CT…one kick ass hill to cycle up, but worth the view once you get there. For more photography, 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 or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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As it will

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Worried he’d die,
hoping he would,
angry he might,
sad he could,
confused he had,
thinking he should—
tired, so very tired,
chaos, regret and guilt.
Why, why, why, we ask,
but does that really matter?

We are so very, very
we very human humans,
and ought as naught
we hear that clock tick
’til the dawn comes ’round again.
Thus they melt, one to the other,
next and next and next,
until that day by the hospital bed
when it all focuses in, even easier
than it had once slipped away.
Let it go, you are,
that’s enough, let it go,
just breathe.
Again.
Hear that?

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

The photograph was taken from the rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. For more photography, 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 or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.

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