The title of this series is “Words to Accompany Pictures” because these words accompany mental pictures- mental pictures which are at their essence ephemeral yet powerful, unspeakable yet evoke furious attempts to encapsulate and record them for posterity. A good author tries to communicate his own impressions, emotions, and thoughts in such a way that his audience can appreciate and gain perspective from reading them. A great author writes in such a manner that his audience thinks they are writing their own story while reading his, so transparent is the narrative, so vibrant the prose. I can’t claim to be either; I just write what I know and let it all flow; or something like that.
Sometimes I wonder if others find my writing possesses a bit of an ersatz quality to it. I wonder if other folks also write verse from borrowed emotions, or songs from secondhand knowledge. What makes an emotion valid? What makes a feeling or thought complete in its conception? Is it enough to try and broach such heavy topics and death and life, liberty and bondage? Can one truly plumb the depths of love or aspire to capture the essence of selfless devotion?
These are questions I have yet to find answers for. Suffice it to say, however, I won’t let these nagging questions interfere with my projects. Call it practicality, or a certain creative arrogance if you like. I’m still not sure what I’m doing half the time, so I’ll call it necessity.
Perhaps we do not know these things even while we experience them and we will look back one day, before our minds fade into moribund senescence, and find that we never really knew what we had when we had it. It’s quite possible that we will be incapable of recognizing anything when we finally arrive at a point when we should be able to truly enjoy the full panoply of emotion and perspective that our advanced age has bestowed upon us. That would truly be a tragedy. For now, I’m resolved to smell the roses, to shatter the carefully crafted edifices adulthood and society encourage us to construct, and actually try to be a flawed human being- but a flawed human being on the mend. Not of my own strength of course; only an arrogant fool would presume to think that an achievable goal.
Words to Accompany Pictures I: Age
When language and the words they speak
Become so wistful that the dead believe
Of a coming dawn and light that leaks
Through clouds of winter over fallen leaves,
Then wending through the cobweb strands
A faint echo your mind will trace
O’er snows or sands of distant lands
While yet the earth you still embrace.
Now rest, wait, and gather strength
Summon courage, love, and prepare
For a final journey of unknown length
Above the sun’s harsh, heavy glare.
Words to Accompany Pictures II: Medals
A tattered cloak these tokens make,
Forgotten relics of a bloody time.
Useless, save for mem’ries’ sake,
When young men died for the sublime.
Haunted still by fears renewed
Forgotten by the ones he served,
Known only by the weary few
Who fought, who loved, whom God preserved.
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© 2008 Christopher C. Chan