Writing and Music by John Kirnan

Three Portraits

Posted by John Kirnan on March 5th, 2013

Photo of John Kirnan from Three Portraits

This story came from a writing exercise for a workshop I attended years ago. The idea was to find three photographs of someone and write about all three in the one piece.


Three Portraits

An exercise of the mind and heart is once again called for. A pen is picked up. The hand obeys reluctantly, but lets the black blood flow freely nonetheless. Three portraits fall out of love. Three pictures of the same man, taken by the same woman who is still invisible. She becomes clearer as a reality while fading as a dream.

The first snap bites deeply. Black and white somehow contrasting then and now. Black and white reminding of the simple fact of happiness despite trouble, the surety of love beyond any possibility of change. A black and white wall of green, the sylvan backdrop of leaves and branches that blurs the world around him, is really a happy accident of driveway bushes posing as wilderness. He seems very much the pensive poet of the woods for this particular publicity shot. In reality, he is most likely trying to look natural in an unnatural situation. A strange phenomenon, but this is what humans sometimes do. He smiles slightly, though he has much to smile about. Life still hurts, but he is not alone.

In the second, he holds a small boy, his son, his proof of magic's existence. The baby sleeps his way into life. Tiny hands, perfectly real and unreal, hold a delicate power and the seeds of future ability. Man hands cradle and touch, gentled by fierce emotion. Contact lets the love ignite and flow brightly out to halo the moment with mystery. A rush of energy fills the silent room with reasons why these two are here. The father's hands, bony and veined, grow like gnarled roots from Scottish plaid cuffs and green Irish sleeves. The trunk itself speaks of Celtic messages. Ancestry blows through the kitchen and rustles the leaves of a new beginning. The elder is older and younger because of the boy, mortal and immortal, part of the long chain of family born to find freedom. It is a quiet portrait. Solid and true.

In the third, the pair are back again. The man plays a guitar, big smile, looks right into the lens. The boy exposes his four year old tummy, totally at home among the notes rippling from the strings. Old photographs of the woman's parents and grandparents buzz at either side of the man's head, drag the chain back through time, haunt the room in a broken home kind of homey way. The woman's hat hangs between the mother and father, indecisive, near the door. The Santa hat in the corner asks for a change of heart. The wood of the guitar speaks of growth patterns frozen at the point of death.

It is now this way: the words, the music, the boy. This is all there is and it is enough. Repeat this. The dream is gone, but only a particular dream. Repeat this many times. The photographer fades and the pictures remain. Paper memories, fragile and strong, left to hurt and heal, a past left to fill the present with fact and clear the future for what's to come.

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