The text is an account, in 39 tercets (over 3 sections), of a fictionalised incident in the life of the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger. Young Martin ponders the nature of pictures, their relation to himself and to the world, and the possible truths they might give rise to. In the process he involves his friend, Fred. Through a series of troubling encounters with drawings, over two days, Martin moves through various understandings of what a picture might be, to a happy realisation.
Part 1: Only a Picture
Martin was a clever boy
He liked pretty pictures
And one day he had a strange idea
What if a picture wasn’t pretty?
Did that mean it was bad?
Martin thought and thought
What do pictures do?
They don’t talk
They don’t walk
They don’t make my dinner
But sometimes they look like my dinner
And when they look like my dinner I think about my dinner
And when I think about my dinner I forget about pictures and feel hungry
I see sausages and sauerkraut and apple strudel
A picture must be very clever, thought Martin
Then he thought some more
A picture doesn’t have a brain
But Martin made pictures, and Martin had a brain
Then brains make pictures?
But a picture can be of a brain
That’s interesting, Martin thought
So, Martin got out his crayons and made a picture of his favourite dinner
He showed it to his best friend, Fred
Fred said it was so good that he wanted to eat it
Please don’t eat my picture, Martin shouted!
Why not, said Fred?
Because it's part of me
Fred was confused
How can it be part of you, he said
Because it was my brain that made you want to eat it
Oh, that’s why!
Ok Martin, I won’t eat your picture
Can I have some real food instead?
Martin felt happy
But then he felt sad
His picture wasn’t real
And what if it wasn’t him either?
Don’t be sad, said Fred
It’s only a picture
Part 2: Nearly Real and Really Real
That night, Martin woke suddenly
My picture wasn’t pretty
My picture wasn’t me
But my picture WAS real
I made it myself
I showed it to my best friend, Fred
The next day, he made another picture
Again, he showed it to Fred
Does this look like a sausage, he asked?
No, said Fred
It’s a funny shape
It looks like a…
Stop, said Martin
Do you want to eat it?
No I don’t
It doesn’t look real
It doesn’t look like a sausage
What does it look like?
Well, it looks a bit like a sausage, I suppose
But it’s too big and too bendy
Martin sighed and smiled
If Fred didn’t want to eat his picture of a sausage
Then it was safe
Safe to be a picture
Of a Sausage
And never be eaten
Then Martin felt sad again
For his little picture
Was alone in the world
What would become of it?
Would it be happy?
Why couldn’t it be like other pictures?
Because it wasn’t really real, Martin thought
Which was worse than nearly real
At least Fred wanted to eat yesterday’s picture
How bad, thought Martin, could he make his picture before it became real?
So he set to work
To make the realest picture in the world
Part 3. Something and Not Nothing
Fred, come quick
One last drawing, pleeeeease!
This time he showed Fred a messy smudge on a piece of paper
Where is the sausage, asked Fred?
Not telling, said Martin
So, what is it, asked Martin?
It’s a rubbed out sausage, said Fred
How did you know, asked Martin?
Because I think I can still see it
So, Martin thought, what it is
Is like what it was
I’m hungry said Fred!
This made Martin smile
He had rubbed out his sausage and it didn’t matter
It was a rubbed out sausage?
And it was still real
And it was his
Martin’s invisible sausage made
Fred feel hungry
And Martin felt happy
Martin didn’t need his picture
To be real
To make Fred hungry
But he needed Fred hungry
To make his picture real
And to be really real
The picture must not
Be nearly real
It must be sort of real
Near enough to
To be real enough as
And to be just that
Was to be something
Something and not nothing
Enough like something
To be unlike something else
Pictures were very clever indeed
Tom Palin, 2017