Framing the Picture (a poem about autobiography)
I pop out of bed and look in the mirror
And there is horror in that picture
Wrinkles, spots, and a crypt-skinned leerer,
Stare back from that ancient mixture.
It isn’t so terrible to be really old.
But you have to learn to live with the mold.
And it makes me long for when we were young,
When the sounds and feels of Spring had just sprung.
Remember how we were limber and spry?
And fully intended to write our names on the sky?
But looking back the picture will shift,
Deeds that were done shine brighter with fame,
With polish and retelling, the purpose to lift,
We remake the picture by placing the frame.
The picture is called That Night in Saqqara I Was Taken By Surprise. It is built on the themes of life versus death, youth versus age, fear versus courage, and probably other things that I never thought of because the interpretation is not entirely up to me. I can indicate that the Mummy Imhotep has suddenly come back to life. The picture on the wall behind him is supposed to suggest what he was like in life, at least in his own mind when he had it carved and painted in his tomb. The boy Tanis is supposed to appear startled, but not afraid. He wears the Ankh around his neck that symbolizes life and resurrection. If the mummy kills him, as horror movie monsters once portrayed by Boris Karloff are apt to do, the mummy himself is proof that the dead live on in some way. The god Horus on the sarcophagus is practically kissing Tanis on the lips The hawk-headed god is also leading the procession on the side of the sarcophagus, which you may interpret as having the naked boy in line with the others following the god of resurrection and life. But all of this drivel is me telling you what to see, and you are welcome to disagree with all of it. Truth is our own to define. And we define it by putting a frame around it and saying, “This is what you should look at.” Aren’t we the silliest of creatures when we lie to ourselves and tell ourselves that we can actually do that?
This is called Wakanhca’s Daughter. Wakanhca in the language of the Tetonwan Dakotah Sioux means “lightning dreamer” or, loosely translated, “Magic Man”. But the interpretation is again up to the viewer. The brave in the foreground could be that magic fellow since the shield he carries has figures on it that represent a bolt of lightning and a man flapping his arms. The girl, however, is white-skinned and fair. Possibly my own daughter rather than his? Except the Princess wasn’t born until years after this was painted. The stag, as well as the two Native Americans, is illuminated in a way that is brighter than what you might expect from a night of thunderstorms. Is he a warrior’s spirit animal? He is not behaving like a real deer or elk. And is he looking at the girl, or the warrior? Consider too, these framings;
So, what, in the end is all this nonsense about “framing the picture”? We are the authors of our own stories. We get to set the whole thing in a frame of our own making. Does that mean anything important? Oh, probably not.