Tag Archives: wisdom

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.

Advertisements

9 Comments

Filed under Poetry

Memories of an altar boy

Pick a big coal and light it early, the bishop had said,
I want it to be fired up and glowing when I need it.
Later, as we walked to the vestibule to receive the casket
I could see there was a white pall draped across it
in memory of the swaddling clothes that had brought
them to the church in the first place. When he was ready
he heaped the myrrh on the glowing ember and lifted
the metal thurible high to swing it against the chain,
the clanking loud like the tolling of a bell,
once, twice, thrice…then repeated, again and again,
as he circled around the coffin. (We are, if nothing else,
pattern makers and pattern finders: pattern users.)
When we were done I carried the thing back to the altar,
acrid, pungent smoke belching from it, rising in a column,
bouncing on the ceiling and curling lazily along it;
I feared I would faint from the fumes…

The bishop—I can’t recall his name—was a hockey buff,
the Habs, I think. But he was also fond of the team
from my all-male, catholic school in their annual crusade
to keep The Cup from the protestants, a tally in which
to be honest, the good guys were lacking. During one game,
I remember, a fight broke out on the ice, a real donnybrook
of an affair. I looked back and there he was, up in
the stands, booming out encouragement, laughing
and swinging his arms, That’s it! Get ’em boys!

Maybe I should have stopped watching hockey then.
I didn’t, but still, I keep wondering…
are those skates still sharp? Are the sticks still hard
and are the referees still policing those penalties?
Are the bruises still black and purple, is there still
bright red blood splattered on the ice? And the church—
is the smoke still curling across the ceiling?
I don’t know, but I do know this:
I can’t abide the smell of incense. Patterns.

Funerals are good sources of poetic creativity. They are such stark, clear cut, emphatic events with an intense matrix of emotions. This poem was started as I attended the funeral of a co-worker’s father, when being in a church brought back memories of when I used to be a catholic and an altar boy.

This is a rare type of poem from me, a longer narrative one, although for some reason I same to be working on several like that right now. I hope you like this one and them, whenever I post them.

Just a few notes: The Habs is the nickname for the Montreal Canadiens NHL hockey team, based in the Province of Quebec, Canada. A thurible  is a hand-held metal censer (incense burner) suspended from one or more chains, in which incense is burned during some services. A burning charcoal briquette is placed in the thurible before the ceremony begins and incense is added when required. Because it takes some time for the incense to really start effectively burning, some priests (as in this poem) heap it on to get immediate combustion. Myrrh is a highly prized and expensive, natural tree oil resin used since ancient times as both a wine spice and in religious ceremonies. It was, for example, one of the three precious gifts given to the Christ Child by the Magi. It’s scent is instantly identifiable, strong and unique. Not unpleasant, when mild, anyway.

Thank you for reading Memories of an altar boy. 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.

5 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

So what then?

Energy, frequency and vibration:
the stuff of heartbeats, tears and confessions,
after which scales count for everything
and begging nothing. (Which is when
you need it the most but have it the least.)
So best blame me, if blame me you can,
or want, or must and honestly, I’d agree,
if no one else—but let’s face it.
You may have longed to hear the peal
pounding boldly in the night,
but when you could have pulled the rope
you failed to ring the bell.

Nikola Tesla was a brilliant electrical engineer, physicist and inventor, who, sadly, despite his genius, died penniless and in debt. The first line of the poem comes from a quote by him: If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.

Which got me thinking: what if you are just looking for is the secret to your own life? and what do you do when you’re dead?

Thank you for reading so what 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

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

The magic of old New Orleans

In the heart of New Orleans is the French Quarter
and at its center is Jackson Square.
There on the steps of the Basilica,
and not just for the shuck of us rubes
goes on, unabated, the spirited commerce of lost souls:
tarot dealers and cursers in voodoo
faith healers and gazers into crystal,
they all vie for the right to sell you
the sweetest of illusions, control.
God on the one hand
and the devil on the other—
in New Orleans you’d be crazy
not to deal the one without the other.

Many years ago, my wife was invited to speak at a conference in New Orleans and we turned the trip into a short vacation to explore the city’s storied French Quarter. Built in the middle of a swamp, by the 1600s and through to the 1800s, New Orleans had one of the highest death rates in the world. Combined with the large number of slaves that were brought in from the West Indies and Africa, this gave birth to the Death Cult/black arts/voodoo worship/deep Catholicism aura that still haunts the city. Walk around there, you’ll feel it.

To “shuck” someone means to trick them out of their money. Those stolen from are often called “rubes.”

Thank you for reading The magic of old New Orleans. 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.

Comments Off on The magic of old New Orleans

Filed under Poetry

The mirror

An image lies only shallowly on its face,
unlike life
where depth lies in everything completely.
Everything and all and all that we reflect
is emptiness and foam and silent regret,
depth without—none within,
depth within—none without,
magic,
an illusion casting an illusion of an illusion.
Can’t you see it?
This complexity, a conundrum and a simile,
is a conundrum and a simile in itself.

Few people appreciate the scales involved in an atom. Consider a hydrogen molecule, which is a single proton/electron pair. Electrons and protons are very, very tiny when compared to the size of the atom they form. In fact 99.9999% of the volume of a hydrogen atom is vacuum. The implication of this is astounding: the vast majority of everything we thing is “solid,” of everything we think of as “reality,” is actually nothing, an illusion of our gross level feelings and susceptibilities.

Then, to this, add the concept of a mirror image. Where exactly is that image?

Thank you for reading The mirror. 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.

Comments Off on The mirror

Filed under Poetry