Tag Archives: strength

Life lesson


You struck the keys,
but did not push or pull them;
you hit the beats,
but smudged the rests between them;
you sang the strains,
but feared to lift and soar them.

What surprised me the most
was learning the lesson
you did not mean to teach:
it’s better to flub some notes,
if you play them with a passion!

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

The photograph is of Lyn’s family heirloom piano, a heavy beast of a brute that she loves. 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 Work 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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Ups, ups and more ups


There are no promises in life.
But there is a mercy in hope
and a simple majesty in being
where you find yourself to be—
if you embrace it.
As the guy with dementia said,
Sunup, wake up and get up: repeat!
Now that, my friends, is a friend.

swril2

Although I now live in the United States, I was born in Canada and occasionally listen to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in my car. It was there, on the tail-end of a segment about a gentleman from Ontario with worsening dementia, that I heard him talk about his ‘three ups.’ I have no idea what the story was about, but those words were like an explosion in my head and I knew that I had a stalled poem that was begging for some sense of finality, and that this was it.

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

The photograph was recently taken in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the largest of the Balearic Islands of Spain. 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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Detachment

IMG_1719a

She holds and twists her long-telling tale
of tangled and torn-at knots: blue ones, red ones,
yellow ones, green, her nails worn to the quick
sorting the strands of the rough fibers,
tiny dark stains bled into their ragged ends.

Blue ones, I think, for the oceans of ink wept
and yet to be written; red ones for the nights that
the sharp-tongues came out, yellow for a spot
to stand firm on. (The blow, it’s certain, is coming,
yet you stand there just the same.) And finally
green, dark green, that whispering green,
that green-green germ that grows inside you:
the one you eat whole and alive, else it eats you up
from the inside—because you planted it just for you.
That one.

up

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

The photograph of the river was taken in my home town of Putnam, just as the sun was going down. 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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Vocatus

Crash
Down to the sea, always to the sea,
it always all leads back to the sea—
the bitter sea, the deep dark sea,
the lowest of echoes, the sea.
And so do I stagger
this crooked path of me,
bereft of discernment
to be as I ought to be.
Thus have I found me
as thou also dost see,
flowing deep down to the sea,
that sea—that wept on, wept out, cold, black sea—
bidden or not, I am there.

up

Bahá’ís will recognize the allusions in this poem to The Tablet of Ahmad:

Rely upon God, thy God and the Lord of thy fathers. For the people are wandering in the paths of delusion, bereft of discernment to see God with their own eyes, or hear His Melody with their own ears. Thus have We found them, as thou also dost witness. – Bahá’u’lláh

The Tablet of Ahmad was written for a great spiritual hero of the early years of the Bahá’í Faith, who, through the fire of his faith was transformed into a fearless lion of spiritual strength.  It is used by Bahá’ís in times of great sorrow or duress.

The title of the poem comes from the Latin inscription, “Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit” which means “Called or uncalled, God will be present.” It is a statement that Carl Jung discovered among the Latin writings of Erasmus, who declared the statement had been an ancient Spartan proverb. (The original Greek had, presumably, gotten a Latin education somewhere along its journey.) Jung popularized it and had it inscribed first over the doorway of his house, and then upon his tomb. “Vocatus” has been variously translated as “summoned”, “called”, “invoked”, and “bidden.”

Thank you for reading Vocatus. 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 Crash and was taken in Newport, Rhode Island. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

john

Photograph © 2014, poem and notes © 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 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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Storm spotting

I can’t believe you can’t hear it,
the highs and lows merging,
twisting tauter and tighter, gathering,
a specter on the horizon, spinning closer.

And pray what you hope,
in the calm before this storm
you don’t even have the energy to dread it.
Because it’s there, right there,
it’s always been there,
it’s the soul of that edge, that whisper, that there.
So you scramble as you can
through the thick viscous air, thinking:
when it grabs you,
when it spins you around and tears you apart
and crushes you down like the flotsam that you are,
this time it will be worse,
this time it may not end,
this time they may never find you and bring you back again—
this time you may not even find yourself.

And so each time after, I wonder:
is that the me, that was me when I went flying?
Or is that some other storm-tossed me
that I wouldn’t have known then,
don’t know now—don’t want to know now—
and won’t truly know until
the sky comes tumbling in again?

Depression is not an easy thing to deal with and bouts of severe depression are incredibly hard, first on the one who is suffering, but also on their family and loved ones. If you suspect it may be a problem in your life, if a sense of any degree of sadness or emotional dullness is affecting your relationships or quality of life in any degree for more than just a few days, please seek assistance.

And if you are battling depression, God bless you and keep you strong.

Thank you for reading Storm spotting. 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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That tree

Older, barer, thick and still strong
is that tree which shaded my youth.
Prickly and knotted with a rough,
gnarly bark, it was always there,
rooted in prayer and gifted with the fruit
of its many silent blessings.
It is I who have grown,
and grown to miss it,
although I know it stands there still—
all hard and solid, its crown assured,
the weight of its many years bowing it
to the ground, as it awaits the wood cutter’s ax.

But in the winds that blow and swirl
and curl down through the years,
that tree will live on
as long as there is me or mine
to remember it. My father.

up

With great love and thanks to the family’s wonderful, loving, strong-as-a-tree father, Jack Etheridge!

Thank you for reading That tree. 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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Jogging

One pace, two pace, three pace on,
2k, 4k, 6k done—
bent, trying to catch a breath,
praying no one can see you,
certain you’re actually sweating blood.
You’d think, wouldn’t you, that you’d be faster
with the hounds of your soul
nipping at your ears,
but you’re not.
Funny that, huh?

It always catches me by surprise how quickly negative thoughts can sap your stamina and kill a good run. I have no cure for this, no remedy, not even any insight into how to block it. Generally I run as a cathartic act, to blow out the stress and pressure in my life. But sometimes…

Thank you for reading Jogging. 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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Weights

Weights on me, weights on you
weights in the fixed frames we’ve become:
smiles in blue, cheeks in red,
heartbeats in that odd shade of rapid.

But gone? No never,
that’s not the way it plays out, at least not for me.
It was and is a race where you chase only yourself,
which is wearisome, but apparently fun too—
because I never did learn to make it stop.
And if it makes you become who you are,
that’s only after it becomes what you’ve made it,
and that just seems so unfair:
half the time you don’t even know you’re in the running.

And what do so many folks drag along in this race,
even if they don’t know they’re set to lose?
But of course you know: weights on them,
weights on me, weights on the fix thereafter.
The odd thing is, that that’s the part that matters.

A friend once joked that I, like many others (mainly those raised as Catholics and Jews) are life long members of G.U.I.L.T: Group Under the Influence of Liturgical Training. Perhaps the old saying, “Many a true word is spoken in jest” is appropriate here.

Thank you so much for reading Weights. 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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The knowledge of graves

Quddús, the Forever Youth laughs:
So along came they
to tear down My grave
and Me up along with it.
I wish I had a hundred such plots
so they could desecrate them all.
I’d say, ‘Look, there’s the hundred and first!’
and off they’d scurry to dig that one up too.
And then He laughs again.

But I know that place whereof He speaks.
It is a place of mystery
yet a spot of sweet clarity,
the conundrum at the crux of a knot.
There the worldly are lost,
the dead live on,
and the living, while living, are yet dead.
It whispers: how do I empty the blood
from my veins so that His flows there, instead?

Quddús is one of the Letters of the Living, a group of 18 individuals who were the first to believe in the Báb, the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith. Their role in the history of the Bahá’í Faith is somewhat analogous to the role of the Apostles of Jesus Christ in the history of Christianity.

Quddús was both the last and the youngest of the Letters of the Living, but not withstanding this is one of the most heralded because of His erudition, faith, leadership and courage. He was martyred at Shaykh Tabarsi, a small fort in the state of Mazandarin in Iran, where a small handful of untrained people—clerics and students for the most part—held off a regiment of crack troops under the most dire of situations for months, only to be betrayed at the end by promises of safety.

Special prayers of visitation are revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, for recitation when visiting the Grave of Quddús. Unfortunately in 2004, this Site was desecrated and destroyed by the Iranian government, an early step in their campaign that blossomed to further persecute the Bahá’í Faith in that sad state. While the Bahá’ís the world around were shocked and saddened by this sacrilegious and disgusting act, a small part of me was amazed that after 150 years Quddús still had the power to cause the authorities fear.

Thank you for reading The Knowledge of Graves. 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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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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