Tag Archives: spirituality

Go before me

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I need no photograph to remember you
as you snowshoed that night, you in the pool
of your lamp and me stumping behind,
the cold wrapping around us tighter than the dark,
the snow falling so fast it clacked and flapped
in the otherness that hung all around.

Go before me dearest, go before me,
this trail won’t last forever.
And while I can taste the evening at its end,
I can also hear the voices of our loved ones
calling as ever they did, enigmatically, softly—
but still, calling. So yes, dearest, go before me;
I’d rather you content in the warmth and the glow
than anything I could ever want.
Leave the cold to me, please. Go before me.

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The setting for this poem was the wonderful winterscape of Ashland, New Hampshire, where my wife, Lyn, and I took a skiing/snowshoeing vacation some years back. The incident that was the generative spark for this poem was a snowshoe trek in the late evening that quickly turned dark and snowy while we were out on the trail. I remember thinking how lucky I was. True, it was cold, late and dark, yet I was with Lyn, the love of my life, out in nature, being us, being together, being there.

Some may think the underlying message of this poem is morbid, but I do not think it is. Neither of us fears death, but I know that whoever goes first, the other will be horribly lonely and lost. If it is my preference (and it is not, but still, there you are) I would save Lyn that pain.

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

The photograph was taken during that trip to Ashland, New Hampshire. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

© 2013 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: © 2013 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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It’s theirs, after all, and paid for

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Her cement block chapel is deep in the barrio.
There she rests behind glass, a century long gone,
a pious soul, shriven and anointed, mummified
by some quirk of the grave and brought back
so the pilgrims can flock to her.
For her upkeep there is a donation box
off to the side, which more than covers
the votives that are lit and left on the rail
to weep out their lives under their whispers.

She is especially busy on All Hallows, of course,
when prayers for the dead are the most potent.
Many come to pray and more are the candles
lit and left in the hope of lighting her way
to their wish. They come and then go, not staying
long and they are solemn, these ones, hopeful
and confirmed. Some few even sneak little balls
of wax from the rail before departing, although
to what purpose, I do not know.

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I found this story of a pious and sweet soul who died in the 1920’s becoming a local shrine in The Petrified Woman of Capiz by PenPowerSong, and was so intrigued by it that I asked his permission to write a poem from it.

The facts of the story stand true. The last sentence is almost directly from the original source and is what drew me to the idea of a poem in the first place.

Thank you for reading It’s theirs after all, and paid for. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken on Hope Street in Providence, Rhode Island, on a spring jaunt that my wife and I had down that wonderfully eclectic street. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

This is an older form of the poem:

Her cement block chapel is deep in the barrio.
There she rests behind glass, a century long gone,
a pious soul, dried and shriven, mummified
by some quirk of the grave and brought back
for the pilgrims who flock to see her.
For her upkeep there is a donation box
off to the side, which more than covers
the votives that are lit and left on the rail
to weep out their visits for them.

She cried the river that runs down to the sea,
to guide the  fishermen home,
says one, crossing
himself. And, says another. when the sun could not
come out, it was she who swallowed the night.
Yes, yes,
says a third, the town had grown wicked,
and there was no wind strong enough to clean it.
With one exhale, she quickened the air and then,
the bread of the poor would leaven again.

They nod as one. Yes, yes, they say, we have
heard this too. God bless her, it must be true.
What would we do without her?

She is especially busy on All Hallows, of course,
the Feast of All Saints, when prayers for the dead
are the most potent. Many come to pray and more
are the candles lit and left with her in the hope
of lighting her way to their wish.
They come and go, these penitents, not staying
long, but they are solemn, these ones, hopeful
and confirmed. Some few even sneak little balls
of wax from the rail when they depart, although
to what purpose, I do not know.

Photograph, poems 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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Perhaps

time
it is in the small hours, when
stumbling back to bed that
they come to you most often:
when will the dawn come and
will you rise to greet it?
Or that friend, will he come
to wake you and when will he arrive?
Or that glass, can it be filled
to finally slake your thirst?
But by then the clock far down
the hall is chiming its chimes
or ringing its bells
or moving ahead
and you’re already back, snuggled in,
asleep again, not that it matters,
if you don’t really want to wake up,
but still…perhaps, just perhaps.

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

The photograph is a still life of a clock I took in my home in Putnam, CT. 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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Faith

fire

Wood to your fire,
smoke to your light,
ash from your heat—
I ponder, but you burn.

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As always, Lyn.

The photograph is entitled Can’t you hear my bread a bakin’? and was taken in Pennsylvania. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

Thank you for reading Faith. 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

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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The well of fire

Explosion
I am frozen at the event horizon and the crush has begun:
heart, will and mystery stretching out between two infinities,
thread-like, from brazen hope to broken will.

But even here all is not lost. There is a mercy for the fallen
who are drawn in joyfully, weeping with the wonder of it,
landing (if you can call it landing at all) with an implosion
more felt than loud, but real all the same.

It’s an eternity, that stop—there on the edge— the frontal wave
of a heartbeat that never echoes again. But that is, in truth,
the event itself. Wait for it.

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Black holes are singularly (pun intended) interesting things. In a black hole, the event horizon is the point at which the gravity becomes so intense escape is impossible, even for light, hence the name. Moreover, time gets wonky around black holes. If you were to cross the event horizon of a black hole feet first, to an outsider you’d appear to hover on that edge forever, while to yourself you’d appear to become like a piece of spaghetti, as the gravity, being more intense at your feet than your head, stretched you out. And yet—and this is what made Stephen Hawking so darn famous in the first place—black holes leak energy. In fact even tiny amounts of matter falling to the core release horrific amounts of energy and black holes can have laser-like beams of energy and matter shooting out of them for thousands of light years.

It’s a hell of an analogy to work with!

Thank you for reading The well of fire. 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 is entitled Explosion and was taken in the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania. 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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Blessed be the hand that slips

Each morning I shave an illustrated man,
memories sliding under my razor,
each whispering in my head.
Yours is a rainbow that sings of crystal
in multicolored hues of light,
while yours is a bell that plays a dirge
to softly call down the night.
And yours is the river and yours the tree,
and yours the scent of spring blossoms
chanting the warmth of dark earth
to the tune of the returning sun.

But yours—yes yours—yours is the blade
that moves across my throat, up and then up and then up and then up.
And that little drop of red that drains through the white
to make no sound at all? That too is you
and you—yes you—you are the loudest of all.
Up.

The Illustrated Man is an early science fiction book by Ray Bradbury. Made into a movie in 1969, it explores the relationship of man to the world. The main character has a series of tattoos etched upon him be a time traveler that predict the future and which move over his body.

Is it just me or do we all often daydream as we go through the mundane chores of our life, remembering past incidents and people we have interacted with? Thinking it over what they mean to us today? What is the most important such memory you can think of?

Thank you for reading Blessed be the hand that slips. 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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