Tag Archives: unity

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 clicked and grew
into the otherness that hung all around.

Go before me dearest, go before me, I thought,
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 us 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 else I could ever want.
Leave the cold to me, 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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The rest is not silence

The greatest jolt that one can bear is the sound of dirt
hitting the casket lid. It lingers long on the air,
echoing the heart’s crescendo and tripping the breath’s staccato.

Listen:
the melody of a life is never sung complete or only in one key,
the end beats are seldom, if ever, in rhythm
and the harmony can be discordant to a degree.
That is why it is left to the rest stops—those blessed little spaces,
those tiny, magical pauses between the major and minor shifts—
where a life beat is best measured and heard aright.
Music is about silence, as death is about life,
or at least, that is what I heard sung that day.

This poem was written for the daughter of very dear friends, who, after a long battle with addiction, lost that fight. She was a dear soul, a generous, kindhearted person and a loving mother, who, like many people caught in her situation, seemed unable to stop or dull an ache that just wouldn’t quit or be denied.

I remember her funeral well. Her mother had written a eulogy that she asked my wife to read on her behalf. It started off, “I remember the first time I looked into your eyes,” and a few minutes later, after recalling many happy and warm times, there was not a dry eye in the room. But when it got to the end and she recalled looking into her daughter’s eyes that very last time as she prepared the body for burial, everyone was bawling. When my wife got back to our seat I asked her how she got through it without breaking down, because I know I couldn’t have done it. “I have no idea,” she said, “Some power came over me to help me.” It was later when she cried.

Reading this you’d think that the entire day was pure tragedy, and I don’t deny that it was sad.  But after reflection it is a sense of redemption that I carry with me now, because that day was also heartwarming. A beloved child, a dear sister, a loving mother was dead; but she was also honored and loved, and that honor and love was poured out in such abundance that day that there was also—or at least there was for me—a sense of understanding, of closure and of letting go with dignity.

Thank you for reading The rest is not silence. 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.

– 2012.12.01

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Too close for comfort

It’s not just a word, it’s a gulf,
not just a step but a fall.
And it’s not just a touch, it’s a life,
a life to be lived when it’s gone.
So rue us for being us
with our hearts bound so long ago
and our coffee made more bitter
with tears: too proud to remember,
too silly to forget
and too us to understand.
Rue us.

Thank you for reading Too close for comfort. 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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Tierney Tolar’s “Seasons”

My favorite season is winter and summer.
I like those two seasons because
summer is where you can do anything
and winter is where you can
build a snowman
and you can get into a snowball fight.

Having the greatest family

I’m having the greatest time of my life
and the greatest year, the funnest week ever
with grandma and grandpa and aunt Sasha
and my sisters and brother and parents.
I have the sweetest family ever.
Everyone cares about each other
and everyone even loves each other.
Family is important too.

Christmas trees

Christmas trees are fun to put ornaments on
(and lights of course)
and it’s pretty when you turn the lights on.
Christmas trees are to put presents under.
You can put the Christmas tree anywhere you want to.
I’m following Santa Claus tonight.
Santa is watching you…he loves cookies.

Cupcakes

It’s fun when you make cupcakes.
They are yummy, they are fun and they are cute
if you decorate them.
It’s just fun.
You can decorate them however you like
and you can even make a background too.
If you want.

It is with the greatest of pleasure that I get to introduce you to a singular, new and powerful voice in the world of poetry: my granddaughter, 8 year old Tierney. We, Tierney and I, but also her grandmother, father, mother, aunt, brother and sisters are together this Christmas.

Thank you for reading Seasons and all of Tierney’s poems. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed them and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2012 by Tierney Tolar; all rights reserved. These poems and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

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The moonlight sonata

The simplest of the weightiest of things,
the stuff of all that is true:
the special first time and the later each time,
together alone
woven into the light of the moon.

Music, like life, plays on
to a slow heartbeat with a gentle shy ache,
the melody building to a longing so intense
that it harmonizes with every action we make
to bind us.
Just listen.

Beethoven’s music is incredible: dynamic, courageous, beautiful, strong, delicate, heartfelt. But of all of the things that best characterize his music it is the essential organic flow that grabs you and holds you from start to finish. When listening to Beethoven’s music it seems as if every note is the natural consequence of the previous one, that his music is a fountain of sound which is bubbling forth like a spring, the most naturally flowing thing in the world.

Amazingly, the truth of his music is that it was not that way in development. Many of Beethoven’s sketchbooks still exist and that natural flow is actually the work of hundreds of tiny and slight revisions which slowly take an original idea and mold it to the perfect form of symmetry and flow that characterizes his genius.

While no one can equal the art of Beethoven—only Wagner had the hubris to think that, and as good as he was, he was wrong—I do hold Beethoven’s music to be the standard of what poetry should be: a naturally occurring organic flow, the rhythm of which never intrudes into the meaning of the poem or the experience of the reader, but which sits in the background, quietly facilitating the reading and the reflection of that meaning; helping, but never distracting.

Thank you for reading The moonlight sonata. 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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Eye-to-eye

He stands as the sole witness
in his own defense—it was only a few dollars,
he didn’t know they would beat him like that.

And the police?
They couldn’t understand why he didn’t reward them,
why he looked so sick,
why he wanted the charges dropped.
In their privacy they mumbled,
How could this mzungu ever get so rich
if he can’t be a man and protect it?

In the early 1980s I spent nearly two years in Rwanda teaching  the Bahá’í Faith. I lost the poetry I wrote there and since the genocide in 1994, it has been difficult for me to write about Rwanda.

The Swahili word, mzungu (pronounced ma-ZOON-goo) means “foreigner” and was a word we ex-patriots heard a lot, because, well, we were.

I was working at the American Embassy and this event happened to the husband of one of the diplomatic staff who was newly arrived at her first post. Some paltry amount of money had been stolen from them and the house boy had stopped coming to work. Experienced diplomats would have known this truth: don’ t place too great a temptation on any soul, it’s simply not fair to them. If you do and they fail let it go, it’s your fault. However, this couple did not know this and they told the police, not realizing the consequences of their action.

As a matter of national pride, the police were charged with presenting a very orderly and law abiding view of Rwanda to the diplomatic corps in the capital of Kigali. If it had been a theft from a native of no rank or power, the police would probably not have bothered to leave their depot, except for a bribe of a portion of whatever amount was recovered.

In this case, they found the young man and beat him to a bloody pulp, at some point during the process getting a confession out of him. When they proudly showed their investigative powers to the American from whom the money was stolen, they could not understand why he was so shocked at the brutality of the beating or why he was brokenhearted to think that he had caused it.

But the degree of culture shock that young American was experiencing was probably equal to that of the police, who could not understand his reaction to them. Much of Africa is dirt scrabble poor and what you have is jealously defended. And when you are in power and have nothing to restrain you—well, what happens in those circumstances tells much of the story of that sad, beautiful continent.

Thank you for reading Eye to eye. 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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