Tag Archives: suffering

Ian Hamilton’s “The Storm”

Miles off, a storm breaks. It ripples to our room.
You look up into the light so it catches one side
Of your face, your tight mouth, your startled eye.
You turn to me and when I call you come
Over and kneel beside me, wanting me to take
Your head between my hands as if it were
A delicate bowl that the storm might break.
You want me to get between you and the brute thunder.
Settling on your flesh my great hands stir,
Pulse on you and the then, wondering how to do it, grip,
The storm rolls through me as your mouth opens.

As many of you know, I have previously posted several of Ian Hamilton’s poems, and in fact, intended to stop at his Prayer. But I have continued reading his work and cannot stop myself from posting a few more of his poems that I have come to admire.

This is an incredible poem. It builds tension so quickly that it really does feel like a storm is coming. But it is the interaction between the two characters of ‘the voice’ and ‘the other,’ that is amazing here. The voice calling for the fearful other, the gentle touching, the clear insight into the fear that is felt. Obviously there is kindness, empathy, love and trust, but then, at the end, as with all of Hamilton’s poetry, total and complete honesty and the explosion of an unexpected reality of pain, sorrow and regret.

I am not sure what the storm really was, although I suspect it is Hamilton’s first’s wife’s mental illness. But it doesn’t matter. This poem is so cathartic in nature that it expands into all human existence. Anyone who has loved and felt the beloved’s pain understands this poem well. All too well.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

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

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s “The Storm”. 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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Ian Hamilton’s ‘Prayer’

Look sir, my hands are steady now,
My brain a cloudless day.
Is that the sound of breakfast down below?
To eat again seems possible.
To breathe?
No problem, Lord, I promise. I’m OK.

I have, for some time now, been posting some of Ian Hamilton’s poems; Prayer is the fifth and the last in this series. It is his last poem, written as he was dying of cancer in 2001.

Having read the entire collection of his poems, which are few in number, but each powerfully written, I am personally convinced he is the finest poet of the second half of the 20th century. This is obviously a very audacious assessment; but whether you agree with this or not, I am certain that you will enjoy exploring his oeuvre.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

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

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s ‘Prayer. 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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Ian Hamilton’s ‘Epitaph’

The scent of old roses and tobacco
Takes me back.
It’s almost twenty years
Since I last saw you
And our half-hearted love affair goes on.

You left me this:
A hand, half-open, motionless
On a green counterpane.
Enough to build
A few melancholy poems on.

If I had touched you then
One of us might have survived.

I have, for some time now, been posting some of Ian Hamilton’s poems; Epitaph is the fourth in this series. It deals with, I believe, the death of his father from cancer when Hamilton was a young man.

Having read the entire collection of his poems, which are few in number, but each powerfully written, I am personally convinced he is the finest poet of the second half of the 20th century. This is obviously a very audacious assessment; but whether you agree with this or not, I am certain that you will enjoy exploring his oeuvre.

Click here for a list of the other Ian Hamilton poems on the Book of Pain.

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

Thank you for reading Ian Hamilton’s ‘Epitaph’. 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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If you are reading this, then…

No cause is without its innocents,
its families loved and lost,
no truth lacks its heroes
nor doom denied its cost.

I don’t ask why, but how,
not where, but when,
for surely the irony of it
will break you:
brutal and bloody or
slow and steady,
yet gladsome all the same.
Who?

Truth be told, we are such pity inspiring creatures. So easy to hurt and to damage, so fast to fall when struck, so quick to damage when hurt. And we are so finely interconnected that when one is felled, the pain radiates outward like ripples in a pool, affecting all those who love the stricken.

Go to any Amnesty International meeting. There you will hear the heartbreaking stories of the tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience who are held, imprisoned, beaten, tortured and killed for their beliefs. There you will imagine how their families feel, how they live in fear and horror every day of their lives. My religion, the Bahá’í Faith, has not escaped this. There are, right now in Iran, nearly 100 of my fellow co-religionists in jail for no other reason than their religion.

And yet all these prisoners of conscience do it. Why? Surely there is nothing easier then recanting a belief, especially with your freedom or life being risked. But yet they hold fast and in the end, it is you and me who reap the reward for their strength and determination.

What is “sacrifice”? Surely it is to give up something of greater value for something of lesser value. But what if that act returns more than what was given up? What if it returns oceans of grace, mountains of love and an eternal sense of felicity? And not just to the recipient, but to the whole world? Is it still “sacrifice” or something far greater?

We must be diligent in our memory of the world’s prisoners of conscience and in our appreciation and understanding of their gift. And we must understand that it is they who change the world and make it into a better place. Them. Only them.

Thank you for reading If you are reading this, then…. 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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In the wind

She moves, I think, through haunted air distractedly,
while everyone, madcap, breezes by,
quit now of worry and missing her hopes
that lie thick all around, gasping.
But what breaks her heart is
what left her for dead in the first place.
So I pray
that it’s not over—and yet it is,
that it’s not over—say what you will,
that it’s not over—you are not drifting,
I will stand with you wherever you land.

A major life changing crisis is a difficult thing to survive and manage. The feelings and emotions are so intense and the risks so very real. But once it is over—well that’s the question, isn’t it—is it ever really over?

Certainly from the viewpoint of people on the outside of the event there may come a time when, for them, the crisis is past and life returns to normal. But for the person at the apex of the crisis it continues to be not just what they went through, but what in the end it means to them going forward.

Such were my thoughts when thinking about a dear friend who had gone through such an event. I instinctively knew there would come a time when the world would carry on, but that that was the precise moment when she would be at her most vulnerable, when she would most need a friend to tell her that she was loved and that she would be supported when she needed it. Someone who was not, “Thank God that’s over, ” because it is, but it isn’t.

I remember my friend telling me that she did not want her crisis to be the event that defines her; she was more before it happened and would be more after. And yet, how can you not review your life, review where you are, review where you’ve been, think about where you are going, after a crisis?

In the end, no matter how much you empathize, no one can understand more than the person who is living it, what they have been through and what it means. But what you can do is pledge to be there for them, whenever and however and whatever they need. You cannot live someone’s pain, but you can always help them live it and survive it. That is what friends do.

Thank you for reading In the wind. 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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Sometimes, it’s all you have

The fighting is hardest at night
when stray rounds explode everywhere;
you wonder then, Did I do enough?
Could I possibly have done more?
That is how you learn it,
this weariness that commands,
because the survival of survivors
is risky,
even after the firefight is done.

And it’s not exactly chance
and it’s not exactly wisdom
and it’s not exactly anything I understand,
but all the hopes, prayers, curses and tears
are, in the end,
the only comforts left to those
who carry on as best they can.
Mind and body suffer both,
but somethings never heal.

The last two lines of this poem are based on the quote, “Mind and body both suffer, however. Some of it never heals.” from The Napalm detail by Claude Williams, an on-line essay about his Korean War experience serving at infamous Outpost Harry in 1953.

I was speaking with a friend and we were discussing the pain and worry that we, as parents, go through over  our children’s struggles. And while I would not equate the intensity of fear every parent has over their children’s life choices to that of being in a theater of war, I was struck by the similarity of the processes: the worry, the sense of loneliness, the self-doubts, the fear, the worrisome nights and the struggle with sleep.

Thank you for reading Sometimes, it’s all you have. 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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