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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
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,
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,
"Look at the hands!
You can see them move. Is
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.
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Baruch dayan emet.

Which is Jewish for "Fuck you, G-d, for doing this."

Elise - I was thinking about you just the other day as I ran around the woods at Hampstead Heath wearing your bracelet.

After I heard this earlier today I wore it and the necklace again, and thought of you. I got to know you more than I did him at Wiscon over the years, though I'd always enjoyed the words of his I'd read.

My thoughts are with you. Thank you for posting this, it shows even more how lucky you were to have known each other.

- Meg, fumbling for the right words for these things that go beyond the words I have

my loss and grief are nothing compared to yours, but I enjoyed the time I spent with him, and I will miss him.

Oh dear God. I'm so sorry, Elise.

That was beautiful, from both of you; I'll be coming back to it later to reread in other contexts. But for now, prayers for you all.

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

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.