Thursday, August 24, 2017

"Ether Monument" by Eric McHenry, Guest Contest Judge

"Monument" Watercolor and Graphite on Paper by J. Artemus Gordon
Ether Monument
Eric McHenry

Because he can’t drink at the supper, Shane,
whose habits are the pain they palliate,
is trying not to drop a paper plate
of ravioli, garlic bread, and rain.

Because he can’t drink at the shelter either,
tonight he plans to lay his burden
down like a bedroll in the Public Garden
beside a fountain to commemorate

that the inhaling of ether
causes insensibility to pain.

Poet’s Notes: I remember the poet David Ferry who with his wife Anne used to run a free weekly supper for street people in a Boston church basement, telling me that many homeless alcoholics won’t sleep in shelters because they can’t drink there. At the time, I lived in an apartment near both the church and the Public Garden where the Ether Monument stands — a fountain and statue built in the late 19th century to honor the development of anesthetics. The inscription on the monument is comprised of the poem’s final lines. 

Editor’s Note:  This poem reminds me of another interesting and ironic fact about the homeless--the value they place upon clean socks.  I once read an article about an activist for the homeless who always carried pairs of new socks with her in her purse and car.  When approached by a homeless person, she would offer a pair of socks.  The street vagabonds, grifters, scammers, con artists, and drug addicts would refuse the gift.  Once one even betrayed himself by saying, “I have plenty of socks at home.”  Real homeless people, this activist found, would gratefully accept the socks and put them on their feet immediately.  “Ether Monument” was first published in Poetry International.

Artist's Note: Pictures of the Ether Monument were used as reference material for this piece. This is the first time I've really combined graphite with my watercolor. I enjoy the effect and may use it more later.

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