Tag Archives: understanding

All she needed do was ask


I was a young Jewish girl, interested in the son
of a southern preacher—so naturally I ended up
going to a Baptist university. There, religion
was mandatory, so I took The Old Testament,
in which the professor kept going on about Yahweh.

At first, I didn’t know what in the world she was talking about.
In Hebrew, YHWH is pronounced Adonai,
and I kept wondering how she couldn’t know that.
I mean, you think someone would tell her.


To my shame I do not know when and from whom I received this story. It was, I believe, in an email or a comment in response to one of my poems. If you are the original author, please accept my apology and contact me so I can grovel appropriately.

Yahweh was the national god of the Iron Age kingdoms of Israel (then known as Samaria) and Judah, and may have developed from El, the head of the Bronze Age Canaanite pantheon. After the return from Babylon, Yahweh had became monotheistic, the sole Divine Presence. The relationship of Yahweh to the tetragrammaton of YHWH, and on to the numerous names and titles of God used throughout Jewish history is a fascinating history that is too long and too complex to get into here. (But I urge you to follow the links…it really is interesting.) Christian bibles tend to translate YHWH as either Jehovah or Lord, although a modernist approach is to leave the tetragrammaton unchanged.

The point being, in Judaism, it is traditional to say ‘Adonai‘ for the word YHWH. But it is not that YHWH is pronounced as Adonai (which, by the way, strictly means ‘My lords’) it is a substitution made out of reverence and respect. Another is HaShem (The Name).

Thank you for reading All she needed do was ask. I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph was taken in Acre, Israel, some years ago; the family was there as part of our Bahá’í pilgrimage. 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.

Advertisements

Comments Off on All she needed do was ask

Filed under Poetry

Cheers

IMG_0149I never got drunk with my father,
never got to count the little blessings
as each was poured and shared:
relaxation, then wisdom and laughter—
then solemn, then soused,
and finally the kiss of sleeping it off.
We never took that first shot and
looking at each other smiled
and agreed that it wasn’t half bad
that one wasn’t, not at all/at all:
feels good, have another, ‘think I will.
He was proud of that, oddly—
blue collar Irish, you appreciate
a son who swears off the drink.
Still, we never did pour ourselves into
each other’s glasses or our hearts
into each other’s hands. And now
that he’s gone I know that he knows
I was right, but oddly—it’s me now,
I’m no longer so sure I shouldn’t have.

up

My conversion to the Baha’i  Faith caused my father, who was a devout Catholic, some degree of pain and worry. And although it was never a contentious point between us, he was never quite reconciled or happy with my choice and always, I think, a little saddened by it.

But if there was any silver lining to my decision for him, it was the Baha’i  law about not drinking alcohol. My father knew and saw too many good men and women (many from our own families) slide down that hole of excess and misery.

And yet, after his death, as I reflected on my father and our relationship, I could not help but think that it was a rite of passage that he and I never got to go through together. Would it have increased our love for each other? No. But would it have allowed us to grow a little closer and perhaps understand one another better? Perhaps. In any event, it’s too late now, and hence this poem.

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

The photograph was taken at Newport, RI at one of the once stately homes of the rich that is now merely the gawking place of us lower castes.  It is, I am guessing, a representation of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and drinking, although I am by no means an expert on such things. 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.

4 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Vision

IMG_0030

Focus down to the tiniest speck
or gape across a billion years,
but how, exactly, how?
Irises, corneas, rods and cones
are light, not sight,
the question of the question remains.

It’s patterns, I think,
it’s all about patterns—
we are pattern machines
and patterns rule our world:
edges and curves, light and dark,
colors that rise to surfaces
and memories that play
through and throughout.
It is all sight unseen, memories akin,
up and down, round and around,
moving one side to the other until,
effortlessly, we see ourselves
in the illusion we are sure surrounds us.

He is, don’t you see, the Cause of causes,
not the cause. That is the pattern for us.

up

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

The photograph was taken on a walkabout photography day in Boston, Massachusetts. 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.

9 Comments

Filed under Poetry

The church on the hill

The Church on the hill

I went up the hill to visit the old man who lives there.
“It’s been a long time,” he said, “Since I’ve seen you.”
“Yes,” I said, “I know. But I’d not forgot you.”
Then, in welcome, he sang to me.
But what I had remembered as a youthful voice,
full of vigor and fit for forever, was turned now into a croak,
a rasp, a sad affair of the heart.
When he dies, I thought, a little of me will die with him.
“These bones go deep,” he said with an effort
as he stood there proud yet, “How can you forgive yourself?”
I thought about that as I kissed him goodnight
and laid him down to rest, up there on that hill.
“In nomine Patris,” I said gently, “In nomine Patris.”

“In nomine Patris” (in nom-e-nay pah-tray) is the opening verse of “In nomine Patris, et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.” the Latin used by Catholics to say the sign of the cross: “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Although raised a Catholic (I was even once head altar boy), when I was 17 I became a Bahá’í. I had few occasions to visit a church after that, but one such occasion was the funeral of a friend’s brother. That church was up on a hill, but the hill of the poem is not a physical one.

My understanding of this poem has changed over time. My father, who is now 80-something-wonderful visited us some time back. I adore my father for the incredible man he is: the finest example of a Christian I know. But he is also very Catholic and while he has never challenged my conversion, I know it hurts him and he worries over me. In re-reading this poem I realized that what I had also written about was our relationship: loving, strong, but with some hurt and some regret.

Thank you for reading The church on the hill. 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, appropriately enough, The church on the hill, and was taken from a set of photographs shot in the Poconos. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.

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.

2012.11.21

6 Comments

Filed under Poetry

I still would have said it that way

She walks as light as do they all
when echoes—harsh and hot
invest their every step
and hitch their gasping breaths.

I didn’t mean it that way,
that “catch you unawares” heartache.
I didn’t want it to, I almost say,
but never do—I mean really, how can I?
So I take her words and do what I can,
holding them dearly and using them truly,
keeping some few here, some bits there,
leaving the yearnings to swirl all around,
neat and sharp, near and clear,
warming the light and stilling the air…
but sometimes, even then, singing too softly.

I’m there,
aching to be fully in the moment
and that’s when it hits and hits so hard
that I damn near want to weep:
I look into her words
and they hurt so much because
I think I see—I know I see—me,
caught unawares. Caught
in what I said, caught in what
she read, caught finally in her pain.
Who knew?

There is a Czech word litost (pronounced LEE-tosht) which means a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.* That’s what this poem is about: litost moments.

In the end, if poetry is about anything, it is about the degree and quality of connectivity between us, about how we relate, and who we are to each other. And, yes, as the poem says, I do listen as people speak, trying to catch a glimpse of them through the key words and phrases they say and to re-use them again, later, in poems. This poem is, for me, like an “Impressionist” interpretation of emotions and reactions.

Thank you for dropping by. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed I still would have said it that way and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

*In this I am indebted to the book In Other Words by C.J. Moore, a fascinating and very readable lexicon of hard-to-translate foreign words. Highly recommended.

© 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.

4 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Do you?

up

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

.

I work with several wonderful reviewers on some of my poetry. One, KB, from The Mirror Obscura (a site that I highly recommend by the way—KB is an incredible poet) had suggested the poem may be too prosaic.

On the other hand, the  fantastic Julia Dean-Richards from A Place for Poetry (a fellow PenDraggon; I have linked to her deeply moving work before, here and here) liked it, but then did two things that saved it: 1) she cut it’s length, making it briefer and more to the point (never a bad thing), and 2) changed the font size of certain phrases.

The result seems—to me anyway—to leap from the page and become even more intense then I had written it. Unfortunately, my blog theme does not allow me to change the size of a font so I opted to post an image of the poem that preserves the exotic formatting.

Thank you for reading Do you? We 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 Julia-Dean Richards and 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 for this poem is: © 2013 by Julia Dean-Richards and John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

11 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Another day of fasting

At the end of a day of fasting
it takes so little to satisfy me.
Is that the point?

When a lamp is lit the light must first
beg forgiveness of the wick,
the wick the forbearance of the oil,
and the oil the patience of the sun.
I know that without struggle there is
no merit in victory, but at night, still,
I lie awake thinking: without struggle,
how do we keep the night away?

I am foolish, I know,
I should leave it to our children
to figure it out. Now is rightly time
for me to beg the patience of my Sun
and turn off the light and sleep.
Tomorrow is, after all, another day of fasting.

The Bahá’í Fast—when Bahá’ís refrain from eating or drinking from sunup until sundown—lasts from March 2 through to the 21st. March 21st, generally the date of the Spring Equinox, is referred to as Naw-Ruz, or New Year, and is the first day of the Bahá’í Calendar. This holiday actually predates the Bahá’í Faith and is an ancient celebration held throughout much of the Near East, generally, throughout the area that once marked Alexander The Great’s empire.

At the beginning of the fast period, I had the pleasure of posting an incredibly beautiful poem called The Copper Tree Tops, by Lyn, my wonderful and long suffering wife. Today I get to bookend that effort with my own much lesser effort on fasting, Another Day of Fasting.

It is indeed a privilege and an honor to take part in the fast. I can honestly say that the effort required, which honestly is not a lot, is far outweighed by what one gets in return: a sense of accomplishment, of joy and of humility.

Thank you so much for reading Another Day of Fasting. 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.

5 Comments

Filed under Poetry