Tag Archives: separation

First


You need an odd number of transitions
to have an even number of passages—
life’s hilarious that way.

Even and odd, over and on,
it’s a mystery how it all hangs together:
how tension works and release comes,
how rhythms are the heart of us
and we the heart of our rhythms.
So become: suffer, weep, despair, rise or fall,
it really doesn’t matter. But be.


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

Recently, I reviewed and archived all my poems on the Book of Pain. Some, I realized, were really two poems in one, this being such an example from a poem originally entitled Over and on; the other portion of that original work is now posted as A mathematical kōan.

The photograph was taken in my hometown of Putnam, Connecticut; it is one of two ‘road’ images, one each for this poem and its sibling. 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 mathematical kōan


Imaginary numbers—‘i’ for short—are real,
the square roots of negative numbers;
impossible, true, but stay with me on this one
because now it’s getting personal.

But the biggest surprise is nothing: zero/nada/nil,
which is neither even nor odd
but more “what-it-is” than “what-it-is-not.”
And what it is, is an emptiness and a doubt,
an exhale so deep it becomes its own lasting misery
where you’re left hanging by your diminishing beliefs:
an odd looking for an even
or an even looking for an odd,
or an ‘i’, if that’s what wanders by.

Imaginary numbers are real, but not ‘real numbers’. Here’s the issue:

The square root of a number x is any number that when multiplied by itself () equals x. Thus, 2² = 4, and -2² = 4; or, put another way √4 = ±2.

Now think about -4. The issue is that -4 = -2 * 2 (or its reciprocal 2 * -2)  and -2 and 2 are different numbers, so √-4 has no solution. Not so fast! say mathematicians and engineers, who very effectively use (in the development of electronics, for example) “imaginary” or “i” numbers, where √-4 = 2i and 2i² = -4. Algebraically, that works, although there is no real sense to it. However, your electronic stuff built on the principle of imaginary numbers is, I promise you, very real. 🙂

Not that any of this matters; this is not a poem about mathematics, it is a poem about a paradoxical puzzle. (Either that or bad writing; you chose.)

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

Recently, I reviewed and archived all my poems on the Book of Pain. Some, I realized, were really two poems in one, this being such an example. The other portion of that original poem is posted separately as the poem First.

The photograph was taken in the Poconos of Pennsylvania; it is one of two ‘road’ images, one each for this poem and its sibling. 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 am no handyman

He would sit rubbing his balding head,
staring at the broken part, pondering,
certain that no power supply or heating coil,
no if-you-built-it, I-can’t-fix it thing
could hide its mysteries from him.
Once I watched him build, by himself,
a set of dovetailed cupboards—
each shelf level and every support square
on walls and floorboards that weren’t.
It took two shots, but he got it right.

It was the doing of it that he loved,
the way mechanical things surrendered to his will
that in the end separated us.
My father could fix anything—but not me.

I was on an Independence Day ride with a friend recently when we got to talking about our fathers. (On long rides, cyclists have to be imaginative to keep the conversation going.)

Interestingly, both of our fathers were handymen and could build or fix anything. More importantly, however, we also agreed that for the two of us, it just made more sense to get someone else to do it right from the very beginning: it saved the time of the initial attempt, the cursing of the assured failure and the eventual call to the professional to come and do an even bigger job than before we started messing with it. And besides, living this way leaves more time for cycling, and to be honest, it really is all about the cycling.

But one thing my friend said caught my more serious side…that our fathers were great handymen not just out of need (although there was that) but because they loved doing it.

Thank you for reading I am no handyman. 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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A peaceful forest

Across the broken back of the old stone wall
the tree lay crashed, staunch, fallen.
Two hundred years seed to crown—
twenty years dying, dead, done and down,
with what? twenty more to be gone?

A silent forest is a terrible thing
full of musk, chaos and rot
it is hard to feel young in a forest.
But if you close your eyes,
and listen, just listen,
you can hear it if you try…
and there is a measure of solace in that.

This is a simple poem for a simple truth: I was driving one day and in a quick glimpse, saw a mighty tree fallen across an old, typical, New England, free-stacked stone wall. The one had broken the other and I thought to myself, “There must be a poem in that!”

I hope you agree.

Thank you for reading A peaceful forest. 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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Ian Hamilton’s ‘The Silence’

You walk ahead of me. The silence stands
On these white fields for miles at either side
And on the frozen lake. The trees
That file beside us can almost touch
Across our path. They are like hands
troubled by some forgotten prayer:
They are sustained by their burdenthe last m
Of silence. It is substantial
And stretches between us now. Your words,
Reverberating on it, as the branch you throw
Strikes angrily across the banks of snow
To disappear, are wasted.

As I noted when I posted Ian Hamilton’s ‘In Dreams’ I am going to post s selection of his poems to share this remarkable poet’s work.  The Silence is the third Ian Hamilton poem in this series.

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

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s ‘The 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

Comments © 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved.

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And so we will

The shadowed morning trail of hearts and scents,
touching…
the salts of hellos and the salts of goodbyes,
reaching…
mirrors to me, mirrors to you,
whispering…

In the days and in the nights,
in our movement and in our stillness
there are quiet words yet aplenty to be said.
But not now, not tonight, not tomorrow, not yet,
let the echoes fall where they will.

I wrote this poem when I was spending a lot of time traveling. At the time, Lyn and I were just married and the thought, and fact, of being away from her were hard. It still is on the rare occasion that I travel without her.

Thank you for reading And so we will. 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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Sullivan Ballou letter

Not a poem today, but a letter that is the essence of love and sacrifice. Written during the American Civil War, it is by Sullivan Ballou, a Major in the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers and to his wife Sarah, at their home in Smithfield, RI. I first heard it in the award winning Public Broadcasting Systems (PBS) series The Civil War by Ken Burns.

July 14, 1861
Camp Clark,
Washington DC

Dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. And lest I should not be able to write you again I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I am no more.

I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this government, and to pay that debt.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but omnipotence can break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly with all those chains to the battlefield. The memory of all the blissful moments I have enjoyed with you come crowding over me, and I feel most deeply grateful to God and you, that I have enjoyed them for so long. And how hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes and future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and see our boys grown up to honorable manhood around us.

If I do not return, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I loved you, nor that when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name…

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless, how foolish I have sometimes been!…

But, 0 Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they love, I shall always be with you, in the brightest day and in the darkest night… always, always. And when the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath, or the cool air your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again…
——————————————————————————–

Sullivan Ballou was killed a week later at the 1st Battle of Bull Run.

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