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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.
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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)

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