Tag Archives: spiritual

Just what time is it, anyway?

Silence is neither always good nor bad,
but it is what clings to you in the night.
My wife has stumbled into settled slumber,
a rational thing to do I’d agree, but still,
here I am, bone weary, too drained to go and join her.

The continent this night turned their clocks
upside down and backside front, and—
convinced as I was to connive in the madness—
I think that explains me now: I was supposed
to fall back and apparently I did,
because whatever time it is, it’s too late for me now.

Find your voice. Rejoice. Pray and listen.
Grab wisdom and don’t be stupid.
I went to bed.

This poem is only a slightly edited version of a posting at my friend, T.’s blog SpeakListenPrayDon’tBeStupid…a blog name that, you must agree, demands love. The post was entitled Find Your Voice! Find Your Voice! And Listen… and it was such a fine read that I asked him if I could write it into a poem.

OK, truthfully, I actually just wrote the poem and asked for forgiveness after, but that’s sort of the same thing. In any event, T. said yes. I love his tag line (it is italicized in the poem), especially the straight up, “don’t be stupid.”

Thank you for reading Just what time is it, anyway? 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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Willy Oppenheim’s “Solstice”

Willy Oppenheim is the founder and president of omprakash, a free online platform that connects grassroots health, education, and environmental organizations in over 30 countries with a global audience of volunteers, donors, and classrooms that can learn from and support their work. Willy is also the winner of the 2013 Oxonian Review Poetry Competition at Oxford University for his poem Ambition, which you can find here. Willy is an American Rhodes Scholar reading for a DPhil in Education at Pembroke College, Oxford; he will be defending his thesis there in early 2014. With his permission I will be posting several of his wonderful poems over the next little while.

Solstice

You arrive and arrive.
No heat in moonlit room,
the space between two windows,
the space held by walls and words
we root in.

You go back,
you keep moving,
you walk circles
on frozen ground.

You sleep low
under still air
and want to say
something is teeming,
the world is waiting
to undress in poetry.

You go back to the bookshelves
of people you love
and return to the texture of paper
and return
and no one speaks.

Something is rising there
in the trees;
it makes a round
burning in the cold,
it is the words we carry,
it is the moon.

As with all of Willy’s poems, there is an incredible sense of atmosphere and presence, as if one is standing in a holy spot and is amazed and dumbfounded by the beauty and wonder found there.

Thank you for reading Willy Oppenheim’s “Solstice”. 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

The poem Solstice is ©2013 by Willy Oppenheim; all rights reserved.

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In this glass

Such a magical little thing is light
slipping quietly through clear water.
I wonder: what would we expect
if we could not expect,
(and expect to expect)
forgiveness?

The standard of conduct set by all the world’s major religions would be cruelly hard if not tempered with forgiveness. The standard expected by all the Messengers of God, and indeed the standard that They set in Their very own lives, resonates clear as the example that we should aspire to, and in aspiring to, being the best and the happiest that we can be. And yet, being human, only human—merely human—we will fail, and fail often. Forgiveness acts as the glue that holds our journey together, in the sense that it allows us to fail, but also then allows us to retry, and, hopefully, in the end, to succeed with whatever spiritual battle we are facing.

Thank you so much for reading In this glass. 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, either alone or with the notes that accompany it, may be printed and distributed—in part or amalgamated with other works—as long as the copyright notice and the address, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com, are also clearly printed with it and there is no fee charged.

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Keeping count

We marched along in serried lines,
my sister’s arm locked with mine,
mine locked with my brother’s.
We did not hesitate or consider the end,
did not question, did not stumble,
did not halt until the doing was done. Instead, we sung.
And while they broke so many of us
that only God could keep count
they could not break us apart,
although they did not want for the trying.
I do not now recall the edge of the knife,
the brunt of the blow or the sear of the hot glowing iron.
Now I recall only how proudly they stood,
how joyfully they fell, how beautiful they lay in repose.

Hear me: there is always a debt to be paid
for night to call night and weeping to beg hurry the dawn.
How many tears must in the end fall?
No one knows.
Of this too, only God can keep count.

This poem is based on a verse from the Qur’án, 1, 61:4, Surat Aş-Şaf  (The Ranks):

Verily God loveth those who, as though they were a solid wall, do battle for His Cause in serried lines!

When asked about this verse,`Abdu’l-Bahá, the eldest son of Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith (`Abdu’l-Bahá was also the Head of the Bahá’í Faith from 1892 until His passing in 1921) said:

O ye beloved of the Lord! This day is the day of union, the day of the ingathering of all mankind. Note that He saith ‘in serried lines’—meaning crowded and pressed together, one locked to the next, each supporting his fellows. To do battle, as stated in the sacred verse, doth not, in this greatest of all dispensations, mean to go forth with sword and spear, with lance and piercing arrow—but rather weaponed with pure intent, with righteous motives, with counsels helpful and effective, with godly attributes, with deeds pleasing to the Almighty, with the qualities of heaven. It signifieth education for all mankind, guidance for all men, the spreading far and wide of the sweet savors of the spirit, the promulgation of God’s proofs, the setting forth of arguments conclusive and divine, the doing of charitable deeds.

Bolding by me. The poem refers to the Dawnbreakers, those early blessed souls who shed their blood, rather than recant their faith, at the first light of the dawn of a new Messenger from God.

I should note that although the Bahá’í Faith is an independent religion with its own Writings, many Bahá’ís, and especially those of the early years, were originally Muslim, and questions on the meaning of the Qur’án were often asked. Bahá’ís believe that the  Qur’án, like the Bible, is the revealed Word of God and expresses the eternal spiritual truths of God. However, the  Qur’án, like the Bible, can often be misconstrued by the ignorant and perverse to support the most terrible of acts. That is why I so love `Abdu’l-Bahá’s explanation of this verse. At first glance the verse seems to support violence and war, yet, when He interprets it spiritually, its meaning is light upon light.

Thank you for reading Keeping count. 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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The circle

The edge is divisible
in the many to the whole,
the total where you are from
and where you will go;
the infinite, graceful arcs wrap the center,
proclaiming their love to the heart.

To God that I was so perfect!

The 360° in a circle is evenly divisible by many numbers, nine out of the first ten, for example. (The exception is seven.) But it is the perfection of the circle surrounding its focal point that attracts me to it as a metaphor.

Thank you for reading The circle. 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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The next after another

On the darksome trail of this black ledge
I am blind,
but that is what I feel, isn’t it—
the next step?

If on the rough scrabble shale
I slip and fall,
that is what I bleed, isn’t it—
the step back?

I am as lost on this path
as I am bound to it,
but that is what I am, isn’t it—
the lockstep?

Against the cliffs my noise-some heart
echoes wrongly,
but that is what I hear, isn’t it—
the step up?

And now? Now I’m just tired
‘either/or’ ‘stop/go’
but that is what this is, isn’t it—
the final step?

My wife and I were driving to a Bahá’í conference when I noticed a hand painted sign off to the side of the road which said “Black Ledge” and an arrow pointing off in a direction. It was both incongruous and odd; why would anyone point to a black ledge?

It struck a chord with me and I linked it up with a conversation I had previously had with my dearest friend and brother-in-heart, Sam, about service to humanity. Such service is an essential aspect of being human and yet it is not easy, nor does one pursue it without pitfalls and aches. Moreover, it can be wearisome and tiring, not the least of which because it can often fall on deaf ears and cold hearts. Yet, still it is important to continue and pursue such work, because you do it not just for the recipients, but for yourself, to learn humility and patience.

To learn humility and patience. That is my dear Sam in a nutshell.

Thank you for reading The next after another. 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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It truly doesn’t

I am empty, tell those with questions I cannot see;
I am replete, tell those with answers I cannot hear.

Try this:
tell them to go and live simply with what they now have.
Tell them to take their hurt and twirl and float arms open,
crucified on hope and drifting in despair.

Ask them:
is that me, out there, circling somewhere?
Is that me, eyes open, past all the answers?
Is that me? really me? truly me?

I-don’t-know-leave-me-alone-I-don’t-care-it-doesn’t-matter,
it’s just how and just why and for now, just forever.

This poem stems from a comment that my dearest friend, Sam, made about how tired he was with people nagging him for answers and advice, yet not listening to him when he gave it. A human enough foible, no doubt, but wearisome and tiresome to deal with all the same, especially when you are under stress of your own.

The comment was very uncharacteristic of him and I knew that it was said only in temporary frustration. At the same time, it hit me hard, as I was feeling the same sort of thing in my own life, but was not able to articulate it, and it resonated with me. Love, speak, guide, offer, teach—but do not try to own the outcome. In the long run, you own only yourself.

Thank you for reading It truly doesn’t. 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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