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Honour Your Inner Magpie

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"The Declaration" by John M. Ford, and "Response [...]" by Elise Matthesen
elf hill
elisem
Some of you know that back in 1998, Mike was invited to be Guest of Honor at the Sixth Klingon Year Games, which at that point was a fun and smallish camping event to the southeast of where we live. When discussing possible festivities, one thing led to another, and, well, we had a ceremony. The way Mike put it was, "The Klingon Empire has decided that it is time for us to formalize our relationship," but truly, I was the one who asked him. Which means he takes my house name, or line name -- sorry, I am not thinking all that clearly just now, and the nomenclature has fallen out of my head. Anyhow, he wrote a lovely set of vows for us, which he titled "Declaration of Unity," and printed up a little program-booklet with that and a poem I had written for him earlier called "Response to an Unwritten Poem of Yours Called 'Sorrow for Breathing'". As Mr. Ford said himself, in writing, "This Declaration may be used by others wishing to make such a statement. The author politely requests a word of acknowledgement and, perhaps, the turn of a glass at the celebration." Here are the two things, together, as they were together in the booklet; as he was fine with me posting them to various Klingon and Trek-related places before, I am confident that he and his literary executor would be fine with me doing so now. Also, well, I seem to need to just now, so here they are.
The Declaration

If any should ask why we are here, together, now, let it be said that we were brought here by a force stronger than suns, which is Will.
Ours was not a random course, though chance strengthened it.
We were not always sure of the way, and some of our steps have been slow, but our next step spans worlds.
Time will not stop for the strongest: and though we must go where it takes us, without companions chosen by the will and the heart, the journey is empty, and there is nothing to measure the victories by.

One partner: I stand here with you because together we possess infinity in a finite space of time, and our combined reach surpasses the mortal.

Other partner: I stand here with you because we have seen in each other a shared task: and though the void may separate us, and matter must always fail, we shall never truly be apart, one from the other.

Together we take joint and equal command of the time still before us, to watch and to defend, to endure the cold and the fire, to stand until the last.
For against that power armies are as nothing, and Death itself comes begging and ashamed.

Each partner in turn: None commanded that I should be here: I willed it be.
Let strength and joy follow from it.

As light spreads from the birth of a star, so the stars surrounding see it, and remember.
What they cannot do is judge.
Judgement comes only from the mind and heart.
For that, we are here among all of you.
Let noble wills magnify the light.
Answer us, and know the stars hear you:
Is this well done?

-- John M. Ford, 1998



...


Response to an Unwritten Poem of Yours Called "Sorrow for Breathing"

You tell me I should not love you
should not;
You'll only bring me sorrow,
only die on me.

"I need what you give me
more than I need sunlight,"
you say,
I tell you I've always suspected
your vampiric nature.
You laugh.

"How could I not love you?"
you say.
"As well not take in air, as well
not breathe;
to sorrow for loving you would be
like sorrow for breathing."
And you take my outstretched hand,
drawing me on
to another city,
another chapter,
another of the long lamplit nights
where we pause, panting for breath,
waiting for the quill of the chronicler
to catch up.

"As well not live as not love,"
I say to you.
As well try to convince the lungs
not to draw in that next
measure of air
as teach my hand not to reach
for the curve of your cheek,
my foot not to take that
next step
bringing me into the circle
of your arms.

Each breath, you remind me,
is one closer
to the time when all the breath there is
will do one of us no good,
and the other of us will turn alchemist
transmuting good air to sobs
or sighs
or silence

Each step is one closer,
is one more bead on the string
that leads to the dangling cross
of grieving.
The tiny carved features look up at me.
As well not love as deny this grief,
wrapped in the joy of what is
like a sweet the color of garnets
wrapped in bright foil.
I finger the beads,
listen to your warnings,
hearing under them
your need,
your desire.

"I am not sorry for loving you,"
you say,
and I know you are thinking
of inevitable losses.
You conjure a smile from somewhere.
Our eyes meet.
And still
that pinned figure
arms splayed, mouth in rictus,
swings at the end of the string.

There are mystics who talk
about Peace in the Passion.
There are country folk who walk the fields
after the storm,
quietly,
watching for the bow
across the sky
and the sparkle of rain
on bent stalks.

I remember the night
you brandished an imaginary clock at me,
hissing,
"Look at the hands!
You can see them move. Is
this
what you want?"

What I want
is all
of this: each breath,
each step,
each bead on the string,
and the cross, too,
if that's part of the deal.

"Only another fifty years,"
I say, "and then I promise
to let you go."

"I can't guarantee you five,"
you rasp, waving
at the bottles of meds
on your tray.
"Hell, I can't
guarantee you five months." And I
catch your hand in mine
and say, "No one
ever could, dear heart,
ma croidhe.
But as well not breathe,
as not love."

Amd whichever ending
the chronicler writes,
pray one of us
will have the wit
to step outside whatever small room
shelters that private passion play,
stand in the cool night,
look up,
and draw in
a lungful of stars.

-- Elise Matthesen, sometime around 1995 or 6



I love him. I miss him. I will love him forever.
(And, you see, both of us knew what we were getting into. Hearing me say that, he would smile, I know. It would be a smile of agreement.)
OK. Am going to go sleep now, and wake to do the things that need doing.
Tags: , ,

I cried when I first heard, an hour or two ago; and I'm crying still. And I barely knew him, save through his writing. My thoughts go with you, and all who were close to him. I wish I had his gift for words. Lacking that, I shall simply agree with those who have said that there is a hole in the universe now.

Elise, I wish I could find the words to tell you--"I'm sorry" just doesn't seem enough.

It's been a long time since we talked much, but if you need anything, please let me know. My email address is truecofffe@hotmail.com & my phone number is 763-607-4802.

There's more I'd love to say, but no words...no words.


The brightest lights are the first to flicker and go dark, leaving us blinking away afterimages.

The fiercest fires burn fastest, and most completely.

And yet....

Even though it leaves us blinking away the afterimages and tears,
Even though it burns hot enough to blister the heart that dares embrace it,
Such love is truly eternal.

John M. Ford, 1957-2006

In the end, that’s all of us:
unfinished, but--if you can find us--
always a source of the world.

It's only words, but I am so sorry for you.

A finger of neat
Lagavulin in the cup --
Godspeed, Mr. Ford!

Somehow, in all my years of being a quiet fan, I missed both of those. Thank you for sharing.

I "met" Mike years ago, on The Well. I didn't put together that this friendly Mike guy was one of my favourite writers, period, for... well, until Neil mentioned it and my world exploded. I'd been chatting so casually with someone so... big, in my mind. Someone I shouldn't have been talking to so casually, so friendly-y.

I don't remember my response, but I know it must have been some sort of fawning, subserviently polite fangirl sort of thing. I do remember Mike's response - he got in my face about it, irritated that I would treat him differently than anyone else. And he kept getting in my face, and wouldn't let me treat him any way than I had before I knew.

And pretty much thru his singlehanded persistence over that short time, couldn't have been more than a year, he changed me. He left an indelible mark... I still get nervous at the idea of speaking to people I admire, the ones who're big names in their field or who simply did something to get great respect. But once I'm around the person, I'm generally okay. I can hold my own, be polite and charming and carry my side of the conversation, and not be self-conscious while I do it... and not want to kick myself later in a flood of hindsight and what-if.

I might have managed to get here on my own, but Mike made sure it happened.

I never did tell him. I don't even think I told him thank you. I drifted off The Well and those corners of the 'net, and when I finally stumbled across Making Light, a lot of time had passed and what do you say? "Oh hi, I was this young girl really nervous around you and you shook it out of me..." I guess I just thought it would come up some day.

I was thinking about all this recently; I'm being mentored by some of the biggest names in my field, and we were joking about stage fright and fame, and I was complemented on my poise. I told the story about Mike, and my mentor laughed and then paused and said "John M. Ford?!" and we had a great talk about poetry and books.

To my knowledge, Elise, you and I have never talked, and I know we've never met. And I'm sure you're overwhelmed, now, not just with family and friends, but strangers, and I'm just adding to that... but I wanted to share that memory, and what it meant and means. A sociology professor once told me that we're truly gone only when we've been forgotten; I won't forget, and I'll always be grateful.

My sincerest condolences,...

I only just heard. I'm so very, very sorry for your loss. He made the world a better place.

--Cally Soukup

I was very sorry to get the news this morning. Hugs to you, Elise. I know a little bit about what this part is like. Please don't feel that you always have to play it well. -nalo

I've long thought that if you can get the measure of a person by their partners, then you and he are both amazing people.

It's probably the wrong time to mention this now, but I was a lurker on alt.poly back when he got his transplant, and your post about it convinced me to go right out and put my name on the organ donor registry. I carry their card in my wallet now.

One more message, one more candle, one more sentence in a vast sea. You have my tears, my sympathies, and my delight.

Delight: I put "Scrying the Forest" on Richard, who is much more sensitive than I to magical energies in stonework, and it nearly brought him to his knees.

You possess infinity indeed.

I grieve your loss, and ours.

I rejoice in the bond you made. It was well done.

infinity in a finite time . . .

Such pain, such truth. My thoughts are with you.

I haven't been able to think of what to say, because the only thing I know of him is the love I've seen others speak.

But I do know this... I suddenly wish that I knew the right music, to play, or sing, or even send, for comfort or celebration or grieving.

My deepest sympathies, and all the comfort and strength I have to offer are yours for the asking.

I'm so sorry, Elise. My deepest sympathies for not just your loss, but for the world's.

I am so sorry for your loss, my heart goes out to you and my prayers. He gave you an incredible treasure of words, and there are not words enough in the world to express how he will be missed by the rest of us. Wishing you peace, comfort and blessings.

Beth Hansen-Buth aka wyrdpainter

Moonshadow

(Anonymous)
Many blessings to you during your time of sorrow and rememberances.

Thraicie and I were noticing the moon last night . . . it was just the barest sliver of silver like the cross-section of a spoon, but it was so lovely-dainty. It seems impossible that the full moon is less than two weeks away, it seems so far to go.

Look to the moon, sweetie. Our thoughts are with you. The labyrinth is a good place to recharge, if you need to. We've a bench under the morning-glories.

Hugs, Jane & Thraicie

I had the privilege of meeting both of you in 2002 in Denver; sadly for the first and last time with Mike.

I've met many people somewhat like Mike in one way or another...as smart, as funny, as intense, as knowledgeable, as empathic...but never someone who was among the best of all those qualities, all at once. Very few who combined gentleness with his strength.

The writing, of course, is how I knew to look for him in the first place.

You both made such an impression in so short a time that I feel a very deep and personal sense of loss for myself, and through that, perhaps some small inkling of what you must now be going through.

I am sorry for that, and hope you will accept my most sincere and heartfelt condolences. The stars remember, and so shall we.

And the Ladies of Parnassus have Stole 'im Away.

(Anonymous)
Mike always had an ear cocked for the peals of the horns of Elfland, the wild hunt sent to take him home.

I got to meet Mike a few times over the years, talk projects with him. The timing, or his health, or my schedule never quite let them come to fruition.

An exhortation he gave to me, and which I've given to writers under my tutelage boils down to "We're all living on borrowed time. The trick is to come up with works of sufficient interest to pay off the debt."

You can probably picture Mike saying that.

I suspect his last dialogue wasn't bargaining with the ferryman. It was Mike trying to charm the Muses into letting him stay for one more story, for one more chance to sit there and smile at you for all the reasons in the world, none of which need be stated.

Mike was only lent to us by the Ladies of Parnassus. All of those writings and witticisms and that quiet, understated charm were the result of the Muses come down from the mountain to take him home, and him saying, "Ah, but I have one more story to tell...", and entertaining them until dawn, where as shy creatures of myth, they had to leave without him.

We got 30 years of Mike dazzling everyone within earshot and the range of literacy, and that time was all borrowed by his own admission. You gave him several reasons to live, and by doing so kept him around for a longer span of time than we'd've overwise have seen...and for that, Elise, every blessed one of us is in your debt.

He loved you as he loved life itself - something to be savored in all the tones and climes and hues of the day.

I'm sure, in spite of the fawning company of the Muses of Parnassus, he's looking for the one with her head tilted, trying to read the words on everyone's lips, her hair all fey and silver, her hands twisting bits of metal, wondering why he's got all these lyrical ideas to share, and no Elise to share them with.

-- Ken Burnside
Ad Astra Games
design@adastragames.com (mailto:design@adastragames.com)

God, Elise, I don't know what to say. He gave me a great deal of joy through his works, and the couple of times I got to meet him at Fourth Street so many years ago are treasures I've kept since then.

The time we read HAMLET at Pamela and David's place, and he not only did several parts, but in a variety of different voices and accents. I missed a line at one point, and he gently poked me and said "It's your turn now, redshirt." Or words to that effect; I remember him making some sort of low-key TREK reference in regard to me, which somehow pleased me all out of proportion to its actual importance.

I remember him cracking STAR TREK jokes with me on the convention floor, and signing my copies of his two TREK novels ("Secret Starfleet History" Vol I & II).

It was a privilege to get to know him, and I am profoundly grateful that I had the chance to do so. I feel your loss...obviously, not as keenly as you and those others who knew and loved him feel it, but I do feel your loss. Know that you both are in my thoughts and my prayers, and if there's anything at all that I can do to help you through this, know that I'm here and available.

Patrick

Thinking of you with love.

Loving the sun, cradling the flame

(Anonymous)
Deepest sympathy from someone who never knew him, only his work, and treasured him for that.

Oh. Oh hell. But yes.

I was there

(Anonymous)
1998 was my first Year Games and I was overwhelmed to be part of Mike and Elise's ceremonial Honor Guard. Later, when we presented him with one of Kveld's hand-crafted pewter Klin Zha sets, well, Mikes expression was absolutely priceless. He was speechless (something unheard of). It was talking with him about Klin Zha that gave me the incentive of putting up the Authorized Klin Zha Homepage (http://www.tasigh.org/takzh/). I still think of that year as one of the best events I ever attended.

The naked stars will remember.

Kordite

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